Jules Szymkowiak and Bernd Schneider dominated Sunday’s Qualifying Race for the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup round at Brands Hatch.
In a relatively straightforward race with little overtaking, there was no stopping the No. 86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Szymkowiak went from second to first at the start, passing the No. 74 ISR Audi R8 LMS of polesitter Franck Perera on the outside at Paddock Hill Bend..
The 20-year-old Dutch driver immediately opened up a gap on the rest of the field and handed over his Mercedes to Schneider near the end of the pitwindow with a five-second margin on Perera.
Schneider finished the job and extended the lead on the pole sitting No. 74 ISR Audi, piloted by Marlon Stockinger in the second part of the race, to 21 seconds.
“I pushed hard and I didn’t know how large the gap was because the radio wasn’t good,” said Schneider.
“I also wanted to find out how the car works over a race distance. Congrats to Jules, he made a great start.”
Stockinger’s lesser pace meant that Enzo Ide’s No. 33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi and Clemens Schmid’s No. 85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes could close in, but a battle between those cars gave Stockinger the breathing room to secure second.
The No. 33 Audi and No. 85 Mercedes switched positions at the start, and despite Schmid pressuring Ide in the dying minutes, the Belgian was able to take the final podium position.
A strong start by Laurens Vanthoor and an excellent pitstop by the WRT crew, meant the championship leading (Sprint Cup) No. 1 Audi moved up from ninth to fifth in the one-hour race.
The No. 84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of overall Blancpain GT points’ leaders Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann was on course for an eighth place finish, but in the end Baumann got a drive through penalty for giving the No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 a nudge when trying to overtake.
Baumann and Buhk will start the Main Race from 18th on the grid later today.
Following a late pass on the No. 63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti, Dries Vanthoor brought the No. 4 WRT Audi he shares with Robin Frijns home in sixth.
The No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren ran as high as fifth in the first half of the race, but lost some ground with a slow pitstop and crossed the line in P8.
The No. 88 AKKA ASP Mercedes and No. 8 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 rounded out the top-ten.
Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows (No.2 WRT Audi) claimed victory in the Silver Cup, while Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Morgan Moullin-Traffort (No. 87 AKKA-ASP Mercedes) came in first in Pro-Am.
Today’s Main Race gets underway at 4:20 p.m. local time.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race