Sprint title race hotting up in Hungary
A grid of 36 GT3 cars comprising eight different manufacturers takes to the Hungaroring next weekend (August 26-28) for the penultimate round of 2016’s Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup.
The championship’s one-hour Qualifying and Main Races, staged at Hungary’s 14-turn, 4.381km Formula 1 venue for the first time, could be crucial to deciding not only who scoops the various drivers’ and teams’ Sprint Cup titles but also the overall Blancpain GT Series crown, which tallies the results of all 10 Sprint and Endurance Cup meetings. Last month’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, the Blancpain GT Series’ blue riband event, did not count towards the Sprint Cup points. However, it most certainly gave its winners a timely confidence boost heading into the summer break.
Alexander Sims and Philipp Eng had only scored one podium finish this year before triumphing in the Ardennes, but they will be hoping that victory acts as a springboard this weekend when the Rowe Racing BMW pair look to improve on their current seventh place in the Sprint Cup standings.
The men they and everyone else are chasing remain Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente whose consistency and victory at the previous Sprint Cup round in Germany aboard the Garage 59 McLaren 650S helped them to establish a slender three-point lead over WRT Audi duo Christopher Mies and Enzo Ide. Bell will also have one eye on the overall Blancpain GT Series standings this weekend; the Briton currently enjoys a comfortable 35-point advantage over nearest rivals Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann. However, a good result for the HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG crew at the Hungaroring would also help them cut their 22-point deficit to Bell in the Sprint Cup title race.
Elsewhere, Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini’s five class wins from six starts has helped the Kessel Racing pair to establish a 26-point lead over Morgan Moullin Traffort and Jean-Luc Beaubelique in the Sprint Cup’s PRO-AM category. But with a maximum of 34 on offer this weekend – one for pole, eight for winning the Qualifying Race and another 25 for the Main Race – the chasing AKKA ASP crew remains very much in contention.
Things are a little more clear cut in the AM Cup where Claudio Sdanewitsch and Stéphane Lemeret can wrap up the Sprint Cup class title this weekend thanks to their 53-point lead over Christian Hook and Steve Parrow.
This weekend’s 36-strong entry features several changes to that of July’s Sprint Cup round in Germany. Stephen Earle and David Perel make their first short-format appearance of the season in their AM Cup-entered Kessel Racing Ferrari 488, while last season’s Blancpain Endurance Series championship-winning #23 Nissan GT-R will be driven by Lucas Ordonez and Mitsunori Takaboshi.