Bentley shines in the night of Misano

Strategy was part of the first Blancpain GT win of the 2016 season, as Bentley M-SPORT played the right tactics to receive victory in the end of the Qualifying Race of the Sprint Cup at Misano with Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet.

Green flag was waved and Laurens Vanthoor acted quickly to keep his dominant position while Alvaro Parente kept looking for opportunities. The Audi R8 was a particularly strong machine in the Italian track, as Robin Frijns and Markus Winkelhock made their moves to climb up the table.

With 5 minutes of racing Frijns saw the chance to go to second place, but he went too wide to defend himself and Parente recovered briefly, to be pressed by a group of cars a little later on. Frijns successfully went to second then, and Norbert Siedler was also quick to get third place in the mess, leaving Maximilian Buhk as the guy to make Parente worried. Eventually the Portuguese driver lost more position, being relegated to seventh.

Norbert Siedler eventually got confident to attack Frijns, but after failing to overtake, the No. 333 Ferrari 488 GT3 saw the No. 84 Mercedes of Buhk blast past him. Buhk tried a move into Frijns in the same point as Siedler did, failed, and started to see the big Ferrari front end in his mirrors. For Buhk it was a question of attacking the No. 4 Audi and defend from the No. 333 Ferrari. Buhk passed Frijns in the last corner and so did Siedler, but the Dutch WRT Audi driver kept the combat on, taking back his third position.

Frijns was still cornered by Siedler, to the point that on lap 13 with 23 minutes of racing, the No. 4 Audi couldn’t resist the pressure and Siedler went to third place.

The track was now favorable for a set of slick tires, so some cars went to the pits early to just put new rubber. The leader No. 1 Audi entered a lap later, and while that HTP Motorsport worked in the No. 84 car, returning to track almost in the same time.

Surprise then came out from Bentley and BMW, as Andy Soucek managed to get the lead and deliver it to Maxime Soulet in the No. 8 M-SPORT Bentley machine, while Alexander Sims did the same to Philipp Eng in the No. 99 ROWE Racing BMW, with a debris yellow flag coming as a help. To the once leader No. 1 Audi now was in third, almost 30 seconds behind with Frederic Vervisch needing to fight back.

Near the end of the third quarter of racing, Soulet was in a messy situation trying to lap the Attempto Racing Lamborghini with Eng fancy of an overtake, but then the second yellow flag came after a contact between Alex Buncombe and Stuart Leonard, with the No. 2 Audi hitting the wall hard and Leonard having to retire.

11 and a half minutes remaining to the finish and the green flag was waved again with Soulet being pressed by Eng, but Soulet’s problem was that the Attempto Lamborghini was still ahead of him. After some negotiations, the front pack passed him and the fight continued. Eng was flashing his lights against Soulet while slight mistakes happened in the Bentley side. But it was Eng’s woes with the backmarkers that decided the race in favor of Soucek, with Eng in second and Vervisch in third. The No. 19 GRT Lamborghini won in the Silver Cup category while the No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari took Pro-Am honors.