Franck Perera and Maxi Buhk have held onto their championship lead in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup after winning the Qualifying Race at Nürburgring on Saturday afternoon.
The Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport pairing finished second on track behind Ezequiel Perez Companc but a one-second time penalty awarded to the Grasser Racing Team driver reversed the top two positions before the end of the cool-down lap.
Buhk started the race from eighth position after a disappointing result in qualifying but made up two positions by the end of the first lap before steadily moving up the field during the remainder of the 60-minute race.
Perez Companc and Andrea Caldarelli finished in second position having missed out on the Argentinian driver’s first series win and Caldarelli’s third win of the overall season.
The Grasser drivers expressed their disappointment at the stewards’ decision in post-race interviews.
Dries Vanthoor led the field from pole position in his No. 5 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS and stayed out front for the rest of his stint while Caldarelli moved up into second position.
A quick stop for the No. 19 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 allowed Perez Companc to exit the pit lane ahead of Marcel Fassler, now in the No. 5 Audi, although his slower pace meant that Perera was able to close the gap between second and third.
A close battle for the top four positions ensued, with Maxime Soulet catching up in his No. 8 Bentley Team M-Sport entry and Perera, Fassler and Soulet all swapped positions several times during the final 20 minutes.
Fassler eventually dropped back from second when he was forced to slow down to allow Soulet through at the final corner but this move was later reversed when the Bentley went wide at the chicane.
Although Perera was unable to catch Perez Companc on track, a one-second penalty was given to the Lamborghini for cutting the chicane, moving the Mercedes into the top position before the cars had made it to Parc Ferme.
As a result, Perera and Buhk will start Sunday’s Main Race from pole position and have extended their championship lead to seven points over Vanthoor and Fassler.
Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart still lead the overall Blancpain GT standings despite a poor race that saw them finish 19th after spinning on the opening lap.
Fabian Schiller and Jules Szymkowiak won the Silver Cup battle while Daniel Keilwitz and Alexander Matschull were victorious in the Pro-Am Cup.
The final race of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup season gets underway at 3:30 p.m. local time on Sunday.
RESULTS: Qualifying Race