Laurens Vanthoor and Cesar Ramos claimed victory in Sunday’s Blancpain Sprint Series Qualifying Race at Nogaro, as Audi dominated the 60-minute sprint race by claiming all three podium positions.
Vanthoor started his No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi on the front row, next to the Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Gallardo of pole sitter Jeroen Bleekemolen, and immediately took over the lead in the second corner.
The Belgian managed to build up a gap of 15 seconds during his stint before handing over to his teammate Ramos, the Brazilian finishing the job by cruising to victory with a 17 second margin.
“The start was very good, I had a chance to pass Jeroen Bleekemolen and I went for it,” said Vanthoor who has shown great pace at the French track over the past few years.
“It was very good for us because we immediately had a clear track and the car was just brilliant. After Cesar got in the car we just finished in a perfect way.”
The No. 2 WRT Audi of René Rast and Enzo Ide finished second after a controversial duel with the pole-sitting No. 28 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. While Rast passed Bleekemolen at the start, the Dutchman managed to regain P2 a couple of laps in the race.
Their respective teammates, Hari Proczyk and Enzo Ide, continued the fight after the pit stops, but Proczyk eventually ended up in the gravel trap after Ide bumped him off the track during an optimistic overtaking maneuver.
“Unfortunately I had contact with the Lamborghini. I didn’t do it on purpose,” said the Belgian afterwards.
“I was behind him for three or four laps and I was a lot quicker. I had the chance to go on the inside of him and he closed the door on me. Unfortunately this is racing.”
The incident was under investigation, but the stewards eventually decided not to take any further action. As a result of the contact, the No. 28 GRT Lamborghini finished one lap down on the leaders in P18.
The No. 6 Phoenix Racing Audi of Markus Winkelhock and Niki Mayer-Melnhof completed the podium, only two seconds behind No. 2 WRT Audi.
The car started fifth and saw both the No. 28 GRT and No. 24 Blancpain Racing Lamborghinis falling back through the field, with the latter facing gearbox issues near the end of the race, finishing in 13th.
BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil continued to show strong pace, as the No. BMW 0 Z4 GT3 of Sergio Jiminez and Caca Bueno chased the No. 6 Phoenix Racing Audi the entire race to end up fourth. The sister No. 21 car had a flat tire early on and came in last.
Stéphane Ortelli and Gregory Guilvert steadily moved trough the field in their No. 3 G-Drive Racing by WRT Audi and will start tomorrow’s Main Race from fifth, right in front of both HTP Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s.
Mateusz Lisowski and Vicent Abril became the first winners in the new Silver Cup, finishing eighth overall in their No. 4 WRT Audi.
After sliding off the track in the opening lap, Alessandro Zanardi managed P15 on his return to racing. The Italian showed encouraging pace tough, as his fastest lap of the race was only three tenths shy of the race winning No. 1 Audi.
– UPDATE –
The No. 2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT was disqualified after the race, as stewards found the position of the rear wing was not conform the technical regulations. The car will start tomorrow’s Main Race from the back of the grid. WRT will not appeal the decision.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race