While strategy dictated the Qualifying Race at Misano, domination was king in the Main Race of the first round of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup, with Laurens Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch guiding the No. 1 WRT Audi R8 LMS to victory practically for the whole 1 hour race.
The Main Race was on and soon Maxime Soulet saw his Bentley in an uncomfortable situation as the ROWE Racing BMW passed quickly and two WRT Audis were in the pressure. Unfortunately the Bentley quest was interrupted due to a contact that sent Soulet’s car to a spin.
While the pursuit game between Philipp Eng and Vervisch longed a bit, the other WRT Audi, the No. 4 one with Dries Vanthoor in the drive, received a drive-through penalty for causing a collision, putting the No. 84 HTP Mercedes as the official outsider of the lead battle. With 15 minutes of racing, Vervisch got tired of playing catch-up and started to attack as he was slightly quicker than the BMW ahead of him. Eventually Vervisch got the room to force his way into Eng, overtake and bring along Dominik Baumann and his HTP Mercedes.
What was worrying for the ROWE Racing camp was that the lead BMW was way slower that its opponents, but the AKKA-ASP Mercedes with Tristan Vautier didn’t make any moves. The first of the frontrunners to go to its pit stop was the HTP Mercedes, as Maximilian Buhk received the car to try to change the fortunes of the team in the race. Then a lap later it was the time for WRT to work in the No. 1 car, as well for AKKA-ASP and the No. 88 Mercedes. Laurens Vanthoor and Felix Rosenqvist received their cars with full service complete and rejoined the track.
After the pit window closed, Laurens Vanthoor had the control of the race, but a charging Maximilian Buhk was only 5 seconds behind the Belgian. While Buhk was trying to reach and almost impossible goal at that moment, the battle for third place was still up and running with the No. 99 ROWE BMW holding tightly its position against a charging Felix Rosenqvist in the AKKA-ASP Mercedes. Worth note was Bernd Schneider in the other HTP Mercedes, wse car started last and was sitting in 10th place with 10 minutes to go.
After being left in the outside of the track a lot of times, Rosenqvist finally got room to overtake Alexander Sims and reach the podium, but with two minutes to go fortunes changed sides again as Rosenqvist stopped due mechanical problems in his car, promoting Sims to the podium again.
In the lead pack, Buhk pushed in 20 minutes non-stop to reduce the gap to Vanthoor, just to see that the progress wasn’t enough to reach the WRT car, as the No. 1 Audi crossed the finish line with 1.7 seconds ahead of the HTP Mercedes.
The Blancpain GT Series will continue its Italian tour, now going to Monza where the Endurance Cup will start in two weeks, on April 24th. The Sprint Cup takes a month of pause, return at Brands Hatch on May 8th.
PHOTO: Blancpain GT Series