Photo: Blancpain GT Series
Maro Engel and Luca Stolz won Race Two and Round Two of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 finishing 11.643 seconds ahead of the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 driven by Andrea Calderelli in the car the team owner shared with Marco Mapelli.
The overall podium positions were completed by the #55 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 crewed by Nick Foster and, driving the second stint, Steijn Schothorst.
Victory in the Silver Cup category went to the #89 Akka ASP Team Mercedes-AMG Gt3 piloted by Race One winners Thomas Neubauer and Nico Bastian, Bastian crossing the line ahead of Dontje Milan in the #56 Attempto Racing Audi he shared with Mattia Drudi.
The Pro-Am class was won in the final seconds of the race by the #519 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini with Hiroshi Hamaguchi at the wheel of the car he shared with Phil Keen. The Japanese driver passed Jean-Luc Beaubelique in the #87 Akka ASP Team Mercedes to win by .025 seconds in a move that, at the race’s conclusion, was under investigation.
After the rain-affected second qualifying session on Saturday May 4, the grid had many of the race favourites out of position, which threatened to cause problems in the opening corners.
Fabian Schiller, at the wheel of the #90 Akka ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 led the field away from pole position but drama was to unfold at Paddock Hill Bend with Markus Winkelhock in the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 going off into the gravel after contact involving Tom Gamble in the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3. Gamble pulled into the pits and retired shortly after.
There were further problems after Phil Keen in the #519 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan had contact with Christian Engelhart in the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. The incident was investigated.
Issues were compounded when Frederic Vervisch, in the #11 Phoenix Racing Audi and advancing on the field, made contact with the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 driven by David Perel at Hawthorns. The resulting contact caused Vervisch to spin and in the chaos that followed, there was significant damage for the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT of Dries Vanthoor, the #52 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GT3 with Andrea Bertolini at the wheel and Rik Breukers in the #10 Audi. All three cars played no further part in proceedings. The race was quickly neutralised with a Full Course Yellow, which then became a Safety Car.
Racing resumed with 41 minutes remaining and Fabian Schiller in the #90 Mercedes held his lead over Nick Foster in the #55 Attempto Racing Audi.
After investigation, the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari driven by David Perel was given a drive-through penalty for causing the collision with Frederic Vervisch. Christian Engelhart in the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini was also given a penalty for causing the earlier collision with Phil Keen.
Silver Cup driver Schiller held his nerve and pulled out a lead of over nearly four seconds over Nick Foster, the #55 Attempto Racing driver coming under increasing pressure from Maro Engel in the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes.
Schiller was to be disappointed after it was announced that he had been awarded a drive-through penalty for speeding behind the Safety Car. Akka ASP Team brought Schiller in for his driver-change before sending the #90 out to serve the penalty with Timor Bogulavskiy. Minutes later, however, it was announced hat the penalty had been suspended, to be investigated post-race.
After the driver changes had cycled through, it was Luca Stolz, driving the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes, who led the field, over four seconds ahead of the #88 Akka ASP Team Mercedes driven by Vincent Abril. Andrea Calderelli held third in the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini.
The winner of Race One, the #89 Akka ASP Team Mercedes driven by Nico Bastian held the lead in the Silver Cup class.
Disappointment, however, was to hit Abril in the #88 Mercedes when, as the race entered the final quarter, the #88 slowed to a stop, promoting Andrea Calderelli in the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini up to second. Abril later reported clutch problems to the point that the ex-Bentley driver had lost all drive.
As the 60-minute race entered the final ten minutes the main on-track battle was for the final podium position with Nico Bastian pressuring Steijn Schothorst in the #5 Attempto Racing Audi. That was until it was announced that Bastian had been awarded a drive-through penalty for overtaking under the Full Course Yellow. Video evidence was conclusive but the Race One winner remained on track. Bastian continued to put pressure on Schothorst now for third.
Bastian finally came in to serve his penalty but retained the lead in the Silver Cup category due to mechanical woes for Timor Bogulavskiy in the #90 Akka ASP Team Mercedes who stopped at the pit-lane entrance with a car that had been smoking throughout the previous lap.
At the chequered flag, Luca Stolz in the #4 car took the win, finishing nearly 12 seconds ahead of Andrea Calderelli in the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini.
#4 BLACK FALCON pilot Maro Engel was quick to give credit to the team for the strong showing on the opening weekend of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season.
“It was a big credit to the team,” said Engel. “ They had worked extremely hard. The level in the championship is extremely high, as we know. We knew the pit-stop challenge was at a whole new level and they (the team) had worked tirelessly to give us good pit stops so a big thanks to the team. The car was great. It was certainly interesting in the first stint. There was a lot going on – going side-by-side with Nick (Foster) into Turn 1 was interesting! I’m very, very pleased for everyone and a big thanks to the team.”
Luca Stolz reflected that it was qualifying that set the team up for solid results in the two races.
“I think we did the basics yesterday with P1 and P3 (in qualifying) and on this track you really can’t overtake,” said Stolz. “The guys did an awesome pit stop and I came out in the lead. It was a lovely stint. We had new tyres so I could pull quite a good gap to the #88 so I’m really happy we finished in P1.”
The Blancpain GT Series grid now moves to Silverstone for Round Two of the Endurance Cup at Silverstone on May 11 – 12.