Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen took their first Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup win for Grasser Racing Team at Nürburgring, as Rob Bell, Shane van Gisbergen, Come Ledogar claimed the drivers’ title with the No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3 despite scoring no points at all.
Bortolotti started the No. 16 GRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 from fifth on the grid and took the lead from Luca Stolz’s sister No. 19 entry early in the race.
From there on the green Lamborghini remained at the front of the field, with Ineichen putting in a strong middle stint to keep the No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Dries Vanthoor behind.
A long safety car intervention at the beginning of the final hour brought the field back together, with Laurens Vanthoor’s No.1 WRT Audi putting Christian Engelhart’s GRT Lamborghini under serious pressure right up until the finish.
“I’m really happy with my first stint, I couldn’t have done more,” said Bortolotti. “From then on we did everything right. We had a good strategy and Christian did a great job defending from Laurens.”
“I tried everything,” said Laurens Vanthoor on the battle for the win. “There was no way past him without causing an incident. I tried two times but we touched lightly.
“He defended well and I didn’t have the confidence in the brakes to launch a long dive.”
The gap at the finish was a mere 0.351s, while Nissan delivered its strongest performance of the year by claiming its first podium with the No. 23 RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 of Lucas Ordonez, Mitsunori Takaboshi and Alex Buncombe.
The Nissan played an important role in the outcome of the championship, as it kept the No. 84 AMG Team HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 off the podium, leaving them one point short to grab the drivers’ title.
The crown thus went Garage 59 drivers Van Gisbergen, Bell and Ledogar, who experienced a race from hell finishing 30th and scoring no points at all.
Bell qualified the McLaren 21st in this morning’s shortened and chaotic qualifying session and made contact with two competitors during his opening stint, one of which resulted in a drive-through penalty for the No. 58 McLaren, dropping it out of contention for points.
“I still can’t believe it, just because of how today went,” Bell said. “I’m happy with my start going through the field, but I made a small error and got a drive through.”
“At that point I thought this was it, but sometimes you have to win ugly and that’s what we did today.”
Although Van Gisbergen was absent due to his Australian Supercar commitments, the Kiwi still shares the title with his co-drivers, as they didn’t gain any additional points today.
Garage 59 also claimed the teams’ title with the same number of points as WRT and M-Sport Bentley.
Another title contender to have a race to forget was the No. 8 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Maxime Soulet, Andy Soucek and Wolfgang Reip.
Soulet brought the car up to seventh from 12th on the grid, which was as high as the No. 8 Bentley would manage to climb up the order.
Reip struggled for pace in the second hour because the team only managed to change three tires during the first pitstop. He dropped back through the field and even had to give way to the sister No. 7 entry that started from the pit lane but still finished 9th.
And it didn’t stop there, as Soucek made contact with the No. 99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 near the end and got a 30-second time penalty for that.
The Black Pearl by Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Daniel Kielwitz and Alexander Mattschull had a dominating showing in the Pro-Am Cup, finishing fifth overall and mixing it up with the factory cars at the head of the field.
Michal Broniszewski and Alessandro Bonacini was 14th overall and second in Pro-Am with the No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, comfortably taking the Pro-Am Cup drivers’ and teams’ title.
While Maurice Ricci, Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Gilles Vannelet (AKKA ASP Mercedes) won the Am Cup class today, it wasn’t enough to close the gap to Liam Talbot, Marco Zanuttini, Vadim Gitlin (Kessel Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) in the Am Cup standings.