Kevin Estre, Rob Bell and Shane van Gisbergen took a surprise win for McLaren in the Nürburgring iRacing.com GT500 Blancpain finale, but Nissan claimed the drivers’ title with Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip and Katsumasa Chiyo.
The No. 23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R Nismo GT3 and No. 7 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane battled it out for the driver’s title and for second on track, while the No. 58 Von Ryan McLaren cruised to victory in the final hour following a well-timed pit call.
Kane lit the timing screens in the final hour and put Buncombe under immense pressure for over 40 minutes before he was able to pass the Nissan, a maneuver he had to execute twice because his first attempt was deemed not fair by race control.
Buncombe then got Laurens Vanthoor’s No. 1 WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra behind him, which he barely managed to hold off, securing the title for Chiyo, Reip and himself by a three-point margin on the Bentley Boys.
“It was a tough stint, probably the hardest of my career,” said Buncombe. “I tried to push as hard as I could the first ten laps, but the GT-R is not the kindest for its rubber so I really struggled towards the end.
“Steven’s first pass was probably fair, there was a little touch but at the end of the day it didn’t matter as I was focussed on keeping Vanthoor behind me.”
If the Belgian WRT driver had passed the Nissan, it would have been a dead heat in the points’ standings with the Bentley, but the Nissan drivers would have won as they scored a win at Paul Ricard.
WRT’s Stéphane Ortelli and Frank Stippler, who headed into the weekend with an eight-point lead, were never in contention and lost every chance when the No. 173 Always Evolving Nissan made contact resulting in a spin for the No. 2 WRT Audi.
Laurens Vanthoor brought the No. 1 WRT Audi he shares with Robin Frijns and Jean-Karl Vernay home in third and thereby secured the teams’ title for Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
The No. 58 Von Ryan Racing was having a quiet race at the bottom end of the top ten, when it moved into the lead by coming into the pits at exactly the right time and benefiting from the chaos on the track caused by the safety car.
The safety car picked up the second-placed Lamborghini at the time, and when leader Reip finally caught up it gave the Nissan driver the instruction to pass.
When realizing the mistake, the safety car took another half a lap to overtake the Nissan, only then the majority of the leaders headed into the pits, while the McLaren recuperated the time lost by coming in early.
Estre finished the job and controlled the gap to the battling Nissan and Bentley, crossing the line with a 14-second margin, claiming the second win of the season for the No. 58 Von Ryan McLaren 650S GT3.
Emil Frey Racing took it’s first-ever Pro Am Cup victory with its privately developed Jaguar G3 , finishing seventeenth overall, keeping the hard charging No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari 458 of Adrien De Leener and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli a mere 0.341s behind.
The No. 16 AKKA-ASP Ferrari 458 of Anthony Pons and Fabien Barthez took the AM Cup win, while Team Parker Racing (Audi) drivers Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood took the title with a one-point margin on the No. 56 Attempto Racing.
RESULTS: BES Nürburgring iRacing.com GT500