Marvin Kirchhöfer and, driving the second stint, Ricky Collard in the #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 won Race Two of the penultimate round of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, Collard finishing 1.655 seconds ahead of Simon Gachet in the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 he shared with Christopher Haase.
Completing the podium positions was the drivers standings-leading #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, driven by Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli.
The #10 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of Rik Breukers and Oscar Tunjo took class honours in the Silver Cup class and the Pro-Am Cup category saw the win go to Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GT3.
Dries Vanthoor, driving the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, led the field away from the start with Maro Engel in the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 who, with Luca Stolz, lost the lead in the drivers standings to Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli after Race One, fighting to remain in third and keep the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT back in fifth.
Early contact at Turn 2 on the opening lap involved David Perel in the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 and Raffaele Marciello in the #88 AKKA ASP team Mercedes. Marciello spun and sustained damage, returning to the garage at the end of the lap and retirement.
Vanthoor started to pull out a gap to Christoper Mies in the sister #2 car and after two laps was over two seconds ahead of his teammate.
After fighting hard for the win in Race One. Andrea Caldarelli in the #563 Lamborghini was in no mood to sit and wait in his opening stint and, after seven laps, was putting pressure on Christopher Haase in the #25 Sainteloc racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 for fourth place.
As the pit window approached, the top four continued running in the same order, Vanthoor extending his lead to Christopher Mies to over four seconds with Maro Engel less than a second further back.
Both Engel and Caldarelli headed for the pit lane as soon as the window opened with Vanthoor in the leading #1 Audi electing to stay out the longest of the front-running cars. A lengthy stop for the #4 Mercedes meant that Marco Mapelli, now at the wheel of the #563 Lamborghini, had track position, a move that proved to be crucial at the chequered flag.
Stolz, however, was determined to get the place back and put Mapelli under immense pressure as the race entered the final 25 minutes.
After the driver changes had cycled through, the #1 Audi, now with Ezequiel Peréz Companc at the wheel, led Charles Weerts in the sister #2 Audi by just under three seconds. Ricky Collard in the #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin AMR Vantage sat in third, 2.731 seconds further back. Collard started hunting down the Audis and put in the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit.
Meanwhile, in the Silver Cup class, Rik Breukers in the #10 team WRT Audi led the category with a gap of over 15 seconds to Fabian Schiller in the #90 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes.
Lapping quicker than the leader, Weerts puled the gap back to Peréz Companc to less than half a second but there was disaster for the two Team WRT cars when contact occurred at Turn One at the start of Lap 24, the confusion allowing Ricky Collard in the #76 Aston Martin to take the lead. Damage to Peréz Companc’s Audi meant that the #1 car was unable to continue and the Argentinian driver pulled off into retirement. Weerts dragged his damaged #2 car back to the pits but was also unable to continue. The incident was to be investigated post-race.
With Collard in the lead, Simon Gachet in the #25 Audi moved into second and, crucially for the Championship, Marco Mapelli in the #563 Lamborghini took over the final podium position.
At the chequered flag, Collard’s gap back to Gachet was 1.655 and Marco Mapelli came home in third to crucially extend the lead of the #563 crew over the BLACK FALCON duo in the drivers standings.
Marvin Kirchhöfer was quick to remember the sad events at Spa the previous day and the tragic passing of Anthoine Hubert.
“Yesterday was a very sad day for motorsport and I think this really in our hearts right now and this is why we carry (Anthoine Hubert’s name) on the side of our car,” said Kirchhöfer. “This win we dedicate to him. We’ve been pushing so many times and now we’ve made it to the top step I’m very happy.”
“I’m speechless!” said Ricky Collard. “I can’t thank everyone enough! It’s my first year with then team and with Aston Martin. Did I think we’d be up on the top step? No way – I was hoping for a podium but if I get a sniff of a win, you dig a bit deeper to get it. No one expected this and what the team have done behind the scenes is fantastic!”
The final round of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season takes place at the Hungaroring on September 7 – 8.