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HTP Mercedes Wins in Slovakia

Andreas Simonsen, Sergei Afanasiev take Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to victory…

Photo: Eric Fabre/FIA GT Series

Photo: Eric Fabre/FIA GT Series

HTP Gravity Charouz celebrated a second consecutive main race win in the 2013 FIA GT Series at Slovakia Ring this afternoon, but this time it was the Pro-Am entry of Andreas Simonsen (SWE) and Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) which took a shock but richly deserved overall victory.

In temperatures approaching 90° Fahrenheit the Slovakia Ring basked in not only bright sunshine but also pulsating GT3 action today. A first corner incident, intense on-track battles and a variety of iconic racing brands fought for positions tooth-and-nail on the challenging 5.9kms track, presenting a thrilling spectacle.

Andreas Simonsen escaped a first corner incident involving several cars to place second in the early running and when Stéphane Ortelli (MCO) was adjudged to have jumped the rolling start from his front row position, Simonsen took over at the front and quickly found some very impressive pace to take a comfortable lead.

Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) took over from his team mate just before the pit window closed and the young Russian completed a solid final 25-minute stint to take the chequered flag with a 4.148s advantage, impressively holding off a late race charge by René Rast (DEU) in the Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra.

Rast had taken over from team mate Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT) who had placed 5th before the pit stops and after fighting his way up to second place, the rapid German mounted a serious charge for overall victory. It was however too late as Afanasiev dug deep to defend the hard-won lead and Rast had to be satisfied with second place overall and a precious 25-point maximum score for the Pro Cup class victory.

Following Rast across the line was Laurens Vanthoor (BEL), who clawed back most of a 20-second deficit from the earlier drive-through penalty given to Ortelli. The young Belgian immediately set some scintillating lap times and overtook team mate and series title rival – Frank Stippler on the last lap to take away three, possibly crucial points, from the German. It was certainly a day to celebrate for the team as they rounded out a famous 1-2-3 Pro Cup result.

Frank Stippler, sharing with Sweden’s Edward Sandström had himself threatened to hunt for the Pro Cup class win after pressuring Rast intensely. The German eventually had to settle for the final rung of the podium in the #12 Audi R8 LMS ultra after a close shave in traffic put him at the mercy of Vanthoor.

A frantic first lap of the main race saw incident aplenty with pole sitter Sebastien Loeb (FRA) caught up in a first corner contretemps with Peter Kox (NDL) – Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter and Alon Day (ISR) – HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes. All three were forced to retired before the end of the first lap, with Day in the gravel, Kox with accident damage and Loeb with a puncture that ignited his front left bodywork causing him to pull of the circuit and scramble the safety car. The genesis of this incident started even before the race had begun when Stephane Ortelli jumped the start and the subsequent first corner melee shook up the order, allowing many cars to make up positions.

In another showing of immense promise the BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil took more points with a 5th placed finish for the #21 BMW Z4 of Ricardo Zonta (BRA) and Sergio Jimenez (BRA). The team were not just impressive on the track weekend as their mechanics scooped 2000€ for their quick work in the pits to scoop the FIA GT Series Pit-Stop Challenge.

Completing the podium in the Pro-Am class were GRT Grasser Lamborghini and Nissan GT Academy Team RJN. The former of these challengers ran in 6th place overall in the early stages with Hari Proczyk (AUT) recovering from slight contact with Sandström’s Audi to set up team mate Dominik Baumann (DEU) to consolidate a clear second place. Although losing their series points lead the Austrian team were satisfied to keep within striking distance of the Afanasiev/Simonsen pairing in the Pro-Am standings.

The Nissan GT Academy Team RJN duo of Wolfgang Reip (BEL) and Alex Buncombe (GBR) rounded out the podium after a competitive showing. Reip, using his ‘gamer to racer’ skills to the full, made up several positions at the start of the race and handed over the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 to Buncombe in a solid Pro Am 4th place. Buncombe then hunted down the AF Corse Ferrari of Fabio Onidi (ITA) to steal the final podium position in typically assertive style.

The Gentlemen’s Trophy class once again fell to the #50 AF Corse of Claudio Sdanewitsch (DEU) and Michele Rugolo (ITA). The pair sealed an impressive double victory after their qualifying race success to finish off an ultra-successful debut weekend in the FIA GT Series.

Taking second behind the Ferrari 458 Italia was the SMS Seyffarth Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of former DTM racer Hubert Haupt (DEU) and ‘Yenci Michael’ (DEU), both of whom made their series debuts. In 3rd place and accumulating more points toward their inevitable title success was the HTP Gravity Charouz pairing of Jan Stovicek (CZE) and Petr Charouz (CZE).

The penultimate round of the 2013 FIA GT Series will take place over the weekend of 28-29 September at Navarra, Spain before the big finale at the Baku World Challenge Powered by Aztexnika on 18-20 October.

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