Stuart Leonard defended from Michael Meadows to score Audi’s first Blancpain GT Series win of the season in the Qualifying Race at Zolder on Saturday afternoon.
The No. 17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS led most of the race with Robin Frijns starting from pole position, and Leonard survived a close battle for the top five positions in the closing stages.
He finished ahead of former co-driver Meadows who was unable to get past in the No. 90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3.
While Meadows did initially look set to close on the leader, a pair of hard-charging Audis behind him forced the AKKA ASP driver to focus his attention on defending his position.
The positions remained static for the final few laps, with Leonard taking his first series win by 0.798 seconds.
“This is definitely one of the nicest wins of my career,” he said.
“I was constantly aware that there were cars behind me, but I knew that if I did not make any mistakes and got the exits of the corners right, it would be difficult for the guys behind me to pass me.”
Markus Winkelhock and Clemens Schmid completed the top four behind Meadows, in the No. 2 WRT and No. 75 ISR Audis.
Felix Serralles finished fifth in the No. 88 AKKA ASP Mercedes, meanwhile.
Misano winner Franck Perera was running third and pressuring Meadows until he was given a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement.
This took the No. 84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes out of contention and dropped it to 16th by the checkered flag.
The race had a hectic start as Frank Stippler sent Come Ledogar’s McLaren 650S GT3 into a spin on the run down to the first corner.
The Frenchman collided with championship leader Mirko Bortolotti who had started fifth in his Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Both cars were taken out of the race, while Stippler, and front-row-starter Andrew Watson, each had to serve drive-through penalties for being out of position at the start.
Perera’s penalty prevented he and Maxi Buhk from taking much advantage of the Grasser car’s retirement, although the Mercedes drivers do still have a five-point lead in the Sprint Cup standings.
Gustavo Yacaman was another driver forced to serve a drive-through penalty, after the Colombian collided with Markus Palttala, sending the Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 into a spin.
Tomorrow’s Main Race will start at 3:30 p.m. with Frijns and Leonard on pole and will be streamed live on the series’ website and GT World YouTube channel.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race