Laurens Vanthoor and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT secured the Blancpain Endurance Series drivers’ and teams’ titles with a comfortable victory in a rain soaked iRacing.com Nürburgring 1000.
Vanthoor already saw two of his rivals eliminate each other in the first green flag lap, as contact between the No. 26 Sainteloc Audi and the No. 98 ART Grand Prix McLaren resulted in damage for both cars, ruling them out for the title.
Christopher Mies battled for the lead with Kevin Estre’s No. 99 ART GP McLaren in the opening hour, but as Cesar Ramos took over the wheel the No. 1 Audi fell outside the top three, though without losing too much time to the leaders.
The only remaining threat to Vanthoor’s title hopes then seemed to come from Nico Verdonck, who got his HTP Motorsport Mercedes into the lead before handing over the Bernd Schneider, who kept the car in contention.
It was only after Harold Primat beached the Mercedes in the gravel trap at the last corner, that he and Verdonck had to yield their title ambitions.
Right before the halfway mark the safety car picked up the wrong car, giving the No. 19 Black Falcon Mercedes an advantage and the lead at the restart, it took Mies more than an hour to hunt down the Hubert Haupt’s Mercedes and pass him.
From then on it was clear sailing for Laurens Vanthoor, building up a 57 second lead as the track dried out in the final quarter of the race.
“It takes a bit of time for emotions to come up,” said Vanthoor. “It was the most difficult stint of my life, because it seemed to go on for ever. I was scared to make a mistake, I’m pretty tired from all the stress.”
“Now we’re going to do everything to also win the overall Blancpain GT Series title.”
Stef Dusseldorp put in a strong last stint, as he recovered the time the No. 85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes lost with a slow pitstop and after mistakenly being picked up as the leader by the safety car.
The Dutchman passed the No. 19 Black Falcon Mercedes for third with 30 minutes on the clock and went on to close the gap to Vanthoor.
Vanthoor took the Pro Cup drivers’ title with a 36 point margin on Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick in the No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3, finishing in eight position after six hours.
The Bentley Boys on the No. 7 car had difficulties keeping up with the leaders in the wet, and then got penalized with two drive-through penalties for speeding in the pitlane and a pitstop infringement, while the No. 8 car recovered to P13 after sustaining damage at the start.
The victory in the season finale also means WRT scores it’s third Blancpain Endurance Series teams’ title in four years, with HTP Motorsport narrowly edging out M-Sport Bentley for second with only one point.
Pro-Am Honors went to Henry Hassid and Nick Catsburg in the No. 12 TDS Racing BMW Z4, who came in fourth overall after an impressive middle stint of the latter. The drivers’ and teams’ title, however, went to Stefano Gai and Andrea Rizzoli and the Scuderia Villorba Corse that finished thrid in class.
Francesco Castellacci, who switched to AF Corse for the Nürburgring 1000, saw his former teammates drive to the title, as his Ferrari got trapped in a gravel trap after making contact with the No. 7 Bentley.
Peter Mann and Francisco Guedes claimed the Gentleman Trophy title, while No. 22 Team Parker Racing Audi of Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood won the race.
RESULTS: Nürburgring 1000 Race