Maxi Buhk and Franck Perera got their Blancpain GT Series campaign off to a strong start by winning Saturday evening’s Qualifying Race at Misano, which was marred by a big crash on the opening lap.
A multi-car crash in turn six did not impact the front of the grid, but brought out the red flag after just a single lap.
Buhk inherited the lead in the No. 84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 after the restart, as the pole sitting No. 66 Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Marco Mapelli came straight into pitlane for a yet unknown reason.
The German held off Mirko Bortolotti’s No. 63 GRT Lamborghini in the opening laps, but went on to open a gap of four seconds before the start of the pit window.
Teammate Perera retained the lead following the pitstops and controlled a five-second gap to the sister No. 85 HTP Mercedes in the hands of Fabian Schiller.
“The beginning was a bit of a mess with the crash and it took the rhythm away,” said Buhk. “The team gave of a really good car and Franck did an amazing job.
“It was a bit of a shame that Attempto Lamborghini fell back, I would have loved to have fought with them.”
Schiller was one of the revelations his first Blancpain GT race, with the 19-year-old German matching Perera’s pace in the second halve of the race.
His 21-year-old teammate Jules Szymkowiak started the HTP Mercedes in tenth and had already moved it up to fifth place ahead of the pit window. The duo also took the Silver Cup honors.
Mercedes-AMG took up all spots on the podium, with the Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows crossing the line in third in their the No. 90 AKKA ASP entry.
Marciello tipped the No. 86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Dominik Baumann into a spin to take P2 early on and held the lead for a moment during the pitstops.
The rest of the top five was reshuffled following an incident, involving a backmarker, in the penultimate lap.
While Christian Engelhart’s No. 63 GRT Lamborghini and Andrew Watson’s No. 59 Strakka Racing McLaren 650S GT3 were battling for P4, the lapped Reiter Young Stars Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX of Caitlin Wood bunched all three cars together.
Despite the damage, Engelhart still managed to bring his car home in eight, while Watson could only salvage P18 in his McLaren.
Vince Abril took advantage and inherited P4 in the No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3 he shares with Steven Kane, with the No. 88 AKKA ASP Mercedes of Felix Serrales and Daniel Juncadella completing the top five.
Following a strong opening stint from Christopher Mies and a quick pitstop from the WRT crew, reigning Sprint Cup champion Enzo Ide finished the race in sixth after qualifying only eighteenth.
At least seven cars where involved in the incident in the opening lap, of which the cause is still unknown. 28 cars out of the 34 starters were able to continue the race.
All drivers were declared OK, although there was significant damage to the No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3, No. 8 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3, No. 2 WRT Audi R8 LMS and the No. 19 GRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race