Vincent Abril and Maxi Buhk took a hard-fought Blancpain Sprint Qualifying Race win at Portimao, beating championship rivals Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Frijns by 1.980s after a frantic final lap.
Abril’s No. 84 Bentley Team HTP Continental GT3 got off to a good start and immediately took the lead from pole sitter Christopher Mies in the No. 2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra.
Mies then retook the lead in the first corner, passing the Bentley outside the track limits, but was later handed a drive through penalty for gaining an advantage.
Abril was also investigated for jumping the start, but no further action was taken.
A trio of Audis, led by the No. 1 WRT R8 of Laurens Vanthoor, then chased the leading HTP Bentley, but Abril managed to build up a gap of two seconds before handing over his car over to Maxi Buhk.
Vanthoor, who was being pressured by Markus Winkelhock in the Phoenix Racing Audi, followed a couple of laps later, and a quick stop by the WRT crew brought the No. 1 Audi out in front of the Bentley again, with centimeters to spare.
It only took one lap for Buhk to retake the lead in Turn 1, the German selling Frijns a dummy in the braking zone.
Frijns kept the pressure on the HTP Bentley and launched an all-or-nothing attack in the final lap, which resulted in a small contact and the Dutchman outbraking himself.
The No. 1 WRT Audi got a puncture out of the incident and finished two seconds adrift.
Their win moves Abril and Buhk two points closer to Vanthoor and Frijns in the standing, closing down the gap to only 13 points.
Markus Winkelhock and Nikki Mayr-Melnhof finished a distant third (+12.974s) in the Phoenix Audi, followed by the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Marco Seefried and Norbert Siedler in fourth (+15.106s).
Following a late engine change, the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX had to start from the pitlane.
A strong stint by Nick Catsburg moved the car back up to sixth only ten seconds off the lead, while Albert von Thurn und Taxis brought the car home in fifth following a retirement for the No. 3 WRT Audi.
Sunday’s Main Race gets underway at 2:05 p.m. local time.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race