Mercedes dominates the Barcelona finale
Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman took a lights-to-flag victory with in the season-closing Blancpain GT Series race at Barcelona to clinch the Endurance Cup, while Raffaele Marciello overall champions with team AKKA ASP Mercedes. Engel, Stolz and Buurman secured a double success, as Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon could also celebrate its first Endurance Cup teams’ championship.
After making a strong start, Engel opened up a significant advantage during the first stint, which Stolz was able to gradually build upon when he took the Mercedes-AMG’s controls for the second hour. Buurman faced the only significant challenge when a safety car period dropped him to second on the road, but the Dutchman was able to quickly regain the lead. He remained under pressure from Tristan Vautier in the Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP car until the end, particularly as the safety car again closed the pack during the final 30 minutes.
The tension was significant, as a successful move by Vautier would have secured crewmate Marciello a sweep of Blancpain GT Series titles. Despite this, experienced GT ace Buurman remained cool to win both the race and the Endurance Cup championship. That race result may have denied Marciello the Endurance crown, but he still had plenty of reason to celebrate as his car’s run to second on the road clinched the overall Blancpain GT Series titles for the Italian star and the AKKA ASP squad.
Marciello was impressive in the opening stint, moving from sixth to third during the first hour with a series of decisive moves. But he also has his AKKA ASP crewmates, Daniel Juncadella and Vautier, to thank for his title. Both made progress, with Juncadella running third for much of his stint and Vautier then climbing to second. With a second-place finish AKKA ASP can also celebrate winning the overall Blancpain GT Series teams’ title, a remarkable achievement for an outfit that won its first Endurance Cup race at the same circuit 12 months ago.
The overall podium was completed by the SMP Racing Ferrari 488 of Mikhail Aleshin, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina, a result that rewarded the pace the #72 machine has demonstrated throughout the 2018 campaign.
Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg and Mikael Grenier took a season-best fifth overall, claiming the Silver Cup title and race victory. The Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini Huracán GT3 shared by Fabrizio Crestani – who rapidly moved into the class lead during the opening stint – Miguel Ramos and Giuseppe Cipriani clinched its first win of the season in the Pro-Am. Nick Leventis, Chris Buncombe and Lewis Williamson have been impressively consistent throughout 2018 and, while they did not enjoy their best result at Barcelona, earned their title over the course of the championship.
Despite missing the drivers’ title there was still silverware for the AF Corse squad, which took the Pro-Am teams’ championship for the Endurance Cup. The overall titles had already been decided, with the Sainteloc Racing squad and its drivers, Markus Winkelhock and Nyls Stievenart, clinching the respective honours.
The Am Cup class was won by the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán of Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski and Richard Abra, which clinched the overall and Endurance class title for the British squad and secured the same set of drivers’ honours for Amstutz and Machitski. The Barwell crew dominated this season’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, setting the crew up perfectly for the title-deciding event. They qualified 47th overall for the Barcelona race, but moved through the field to hit the class lead during the final hour. Abra brought the car home 29th overall, securing the race win and titles for his team and crewmates.
With the season complete the celebrations can begin as drivers and teams reflect on the events of the 2018 season. With five overall winners from as many Endurance Cup rounds – all representing different brands – it has been a championship to savour from the first lap until the last.