Mercedes wins Main Race at Budapest
Team-AMG HTP Motorsport’s Dominik Baumann and Maxi Buhk came through from fourth on the grid to win today’s Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Main Race at the Hungaroring. The #84 Mercedes-AMG took the chequered flag 5.4s clear of Laurens Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch’s Audi, which was subsequently handed a 30-second post race penalty for an unsafe pit-stop release.
The sister Belgian Audi Club Team WRT-run R8 driven by Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies was therefore promoted to second, increasing their Sprint Cup drivers’ championship lead in the process, while Will Stevens and Rene Rast also benefitted from the #1 car’s demotion to complete the podium.
The start would be crucial at a circuit notorious for providing so few overtaking opportunities, and that was most definitely the case for Buhk who leapt from the second row to lead by Turn 3. The German was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the bumping ahead when Tristan Vautier’s lunge on pole-sitter Ide resulted in the AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG also clouting Vervisch, who had risen from third to first through the opening two corners. Buhk duly slipped into the lead, taking advantage of the issues behind to establish an early 1.8s gap back to Ide before a Full Course Yellow was required to retrieve the stranded #59 McLaren and #5 Audi. The gap then remained fairly constant once racing resumed despite Vervisch finding a way past Ide soon after the restart. With 33 minutes remaining the leaders pitted together, Buhk handing over to Baumann and Vanthoor replacing Vervisch. WRT’s pit work – including what was subsequently deemed an unsafe release – helped close the gap slightly, but their Belgian driver made the biggest difference by reducing Baumann’s lead to just 0.6s. A grandstand finish looked likely before the Mercedes-AMG’s fresher tyres began to tell. Indeed, Vanthoor was soon checking his mirrors for the rapidly advancing Mies whose Audi had earlier lost ground through the pit-stop cycle. Just 0.6s covered the WRT pair at the finish, #1 leading yesterday’s Qualifying Race-winning #33 home before the post-race penalty was applied. There was another WRT Audi fourth on the road but third in the final classification after Will Stevens resisted pressure from Felix Rosenqvist. Stevens’ co-driver Rene Rast set the tone by picking up three places over the course of his stint before excellent pit work helped the car gain another three during the driver change. Front-row starter Vautier spent all of his stint in the same situation as he had during yesterday’s Qualifying Race – desperately searching for a way past Ide – before he and Rosenqvist dropped down to fifth during the pit-stop cycle. The latter came home just 0.4s behind Stevens but 6.4s clear of Jules Szymkowiak and Bernd Schneider’s HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG that finished where it started in the amended classification. Sainteloc Racing’s Christopher Haase and Mike Parisy were the other crew to be jumped by Rast and Stevens’ Audi during the stops, while Robin Frijns made up ground during the final stint to give himself and WRT co-driver Dries Vanthoor seventh after starting 11th. Vanthoor and Vervisch’s penalty saw them drop to eighth but ahead of the two Bentleys that completed the points-paying positions, Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet producing a particularly noteworthy performance to finish ninth after starting only 16th.
Elsewhere, Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows claimed the Silver Cup spoils by finishing 11th overall in their WRT Audi, while Jean-Philippe Belloc and Christophe Bourret led home an AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG one-two in the PRO-AM class. But there was disappointment for Stephen Earle and David Perel whose AM Cup win was stripped post-race for causing an avoidable collision with Rino Mastronardi and Claudio Sdanewitsch’s #55 AF Corse Ferrari, which inherited victory as a result.
This year’s Blancpain GT Series now rolls on to the Nürburgring in Germany on September 17/18 where its Endurance Cup title will be decided. Meanwhile, Mies and Ide will have to wait until visiting Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on October 1/2 before attempting to seal the Sprint Cup crown.