Stéphane Ortelli and Stéphane Richelmi have won Sunday’s Blancpain Sprint Series Qualifying Race at Nogaro, keeping the No. 77 BMW Team Brasil Z4 of Dirk Mueller and Maxime Martin at bay.
The race got off to a chaotic start, as contact on the opening lap between Markus Winkelhock’s Phoenix Racing Audi and Maxi Buhk’s HTP Bentley resulted in a big pile up, involving several of the top-ten qualifiers.
The No. 83 HTP Bentley, MRS Nissan and Phoenix Racing had to retire, while the No. 84 Bentley was able to continue in last place and others lost time avoiding contact.
The incident was handled with a local yellow and Ortelli was able to immediately open up a decent gap on the Brazilian BMW of Dirk Mueller and the No. 4 WRT Audi of Frank Stippler, the three cars that weren’t hindered by the incident.
A perfect pitstop of the BMW Team Brasil crew and a blistering quick out lap by Maxime Martin meant the gap to the leading No. 3 WRT Audi, now in the hands of Stéphane Richelmi, was reduced to almost nothing.
A safety car intervention 20 minutes from the end, caused by the beached Reiter Lamborghini R-EX of Albert von Thurn und Taxis, brought the field back together.
After the green flag was shown Martin wasn’t able to make a move on Richelmi and had to settle for settle for second (+0.552s).
“Our pitstop was really good, but it was almost impossible to pass on track. Richelmi was quick, didn’t make any mistakes and the Audi is very strong here,” said Martin.
“We’ve made huge progress looking at where we were in FP1. We will try to give the Brazilians their first win tomorrow.”
The third podium spot went to the No. 2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies, the latter making up five positions in the second part of the race.
Rob Bell’s charge towards the front of the field came to an abrupt end when his third placed Attempto Racing McLaren 650S returned to the pits three minutes from the end with electrical troubles.
The bright green Rinaldi Racing Ferrari of Marco Seefried and Norbert Siedler finished a surprise fourth, capitalizing on the high rate of attrition, while the No. 84 HTP Bentley of Abril and Buhk still managed to salvage P8 after the opening lap incident.
Tomorrow’s Main Race gets underway at 1:10 p.m. local time.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race