Laurens Vanthoor has won the FIA GT World Cup at Macau following a bizarre race on Sunday which ended with the Belgian driver’s Audi R8 LMS on its roof.
The incident occurred on the restart of the race, and just after Earl Bamber passed Vanthoor for the lead into Mandarin.
Less than five laps were completed in a period of almost 90 minutes, and the field was coming out of a 45-minute red flag period when the crash happened.
The race had been halted to recover Ricky Capo’s Modena Engineering BMW Z4 GT3. The Australian driver hit the barrier at Fisherman’s at the start, bringing out the safety car, until the race was suspended after four of 18 scheduled laps.
Despite Vanthoor’s crash, the Audi Sport Team WRT driver was still listed as the race winner and FIA GT World Cup champion, as the results reverted to the previous completed lap prior to the red.
“Physically, I am okay. Everything is fine,” Vanthoor said post-race. “It is just one of the nastiest corners to have a crash and then doing the whole straight on the roof and seeing the other cars coming is not really describable.
“A scary memory in my mind, but as I said, everything is okay. I think if you go back two laps before the crash, I would have deserved the win. I am not saying that I was going to win, but I had the potential for it.
“Now, officially, I have won it, but the way it happened is very strange and I don’t really know if I have deserved in a way.
“I crashed and I have made a mistake, but I am still the winner. That is very awkward. It would have been a better show without the crash for everybody. It is a victory, but I don’t know where to put it in my head.”
Bamber was second on track, but a five-second time penalty awarded to the Kiwi for contact with Engel at the start dropped him back to fourth in the final results.
Bamber’s Manthey Racing teammate, Estre, was classified as second in the No. 912 Porsche 911 GT3 R, while 2015 champion Engel was third in the No. 1 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
At the start of the race, the order at the front of the field remained fairly constant throughout the opening lap, with the top five of Vanthoor, Bamber, Kevin Estre, Maro Engel and Adderly Fong after the first lap the same as the starting positions.
The main beneficiary at the start was Renger van der Zande, in the No. 2 Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy car, who gained two positions to reach sixth.
Teammate Engel recovered from the contact with Bamber, and moved past Fong’s Absolute Racing Bentley Continental GT3 into Lisboa to re-take fourth.
Owing to the short time under green flag throughout the race, the frontrunners’ finishing order on track was the same as at the end of the first lap, with the results only differing because of Bamber’s penalty.
Edoardo Mortara came into the weekend as a favorite for the win, but a crash early on in Saturday’s qualifying race, followed by a subsequent grid penalty for the main race as a result of colliding with Darryl O’Young, dropped him down the order.
The best that the three-time winner could manage on his final appearance in an Audi was 13th.
It is the first Macau Grand Prix win for Vanthoor, and the first for Audi since Mortara’s run of success from 2011 to 2013.
RESULTS: FIA GT World Cup
Rene de Boer contributed to this report