Luck can also be a part of motorsport, even though teams, drivers, media and fans try to deny it. Garage 59 can say they have all the luck of the World on their side, as their worst 3 hours of the Blancpain GT Series season didn’t affect their Endurance Cup title celebration while Grässer Racing Team took victory this Sunday (18).
Green flag was on and Luca Stolz kept the lead in the Grässer Racing camp, being followed by the Mirko Bortolotti, who passed Will Stevens right at the start. Too many cars on track meant trouble and crashes as always, with Ahmad Al Harthy spinning and crashing his Oman Racing Aston Martin and Andrew Watson leaving Garage 59 with only one McLaren 650S on track, bringing an immediate Safety Car period.
After 5 minutes of neutralization the green flag was waved again and Dominik Baumann in the No. 84 HTP Mercedes gave room to not be caught in the 3rd place battle between the Nos. 1 & 28 Audis from WRT, with Stevens defending himself from Frederic Vervisch, with the effort coming to nothing when the No. 1 finally made the overtake with 15 minutes of racing.
like the WRT duo, the Grässer 1-2 exchanged places with Bortolotti taking the top, but Luca Stolz was also unable to defend the third spot from the hard charge of Vervisch, becoming the target for Lucas Ordoñez in the No. 23 RJN Nissan.
The pit stops in the first hour helped to shake things a bit in the top-5 after almost 30 minutes of no position changes, with Mitsunori Takaboshi taking control of the No. 23 RJN Nissan and the third place from the No. 19 Grässer Racing Lamborghini, with Michele Beretta behind the wheel. Beretta was also victim of the No. 84 HTP Mercedes, with the car going down from first to fifth in about an hour.
A series of problems made it a troubled race for the championship leading No. 58 Garage 59 McLaren, but even though they were in 34th position, the 4th position of the No. 84 HTP Mercedes would keep the McLaren side with the title, and if the situation on track was bad, the pit exit without a single position change for the better left the No. 84 HTP Mercedes and Maximilian Buhk in a tough situation for the last hour of racing. What would change things a bit for them was the full course yellow period with 55 minutes to go, when Louis Machiels sent the No. 100 Attempto Racing Lamborghini to a straight trip to the barrier.
After more than 20 minutes to switch the damaged barriers for new ones, the race resumed with Maximilian Buhk in his toughest mission of the season, even though the objective was to only get a podium. Alex Buncombe was his target, but the British ace left the backmarkers in the dust fo the No. 84 HTP Mercedes to deal with, charging with incredible pace to the lead battle between Grässer and WRT, something that eventually killed HTP’s hopes as time passed.
About the top battle, Laurens Vanthoor had 30 minutes to try everything he could do with his Audi R8 LMS to overtake Christian Engelhardt in the No. 16 Grässer Racing Lamborghini, but the German kept a solid drive like he would do in a Porsche, to win by only 0.351 seconds, with Buncombe coming in third 1.646 seconds behind. The No. 66 Black Pearl Ferrari took Pro-Am honors while the No. 87 AKKA-ASP Mercedes won in the Am Cup.
The Blancpain GT Endurance Cup ends with Rob Bell, Côme Ledogar and V8 Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen as overall championship winners with 68 points against the 67 of Jazeman Jaafar, Dominik Baumann and Maximilian Buhk. Garage 59 also won the Teams championship, scoring 71 points like Bentley Team M-Sport and WRT.
Michal Broniszewski, Alessandro Bonacini and Andrea Rizzoli became Pro-Am Cup champions with 102 points against the 89 points of Philippe Giauque, Henry Hassid and Franck Perera. The Am Cup champions were Australian Liam Talbot, Russian Vadim Gitlin and Italian Marco Zanuttini with 94 points, with AKKA-ASP trio with Jean-Luc Beaubelique , Maurice Ricci and Gilles Vannelet coming right behind with 92 points. The Pro-Am and Am Cup titles go to Switzerland as both crews are part of Kessel Racing, and the Pro-Am title is the first Blancpain GT one of the Ferrari 488 GT3.
Two weeks is what separates us from the last round of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup at Barcelona on October 2nd, which will also settle the overall Blancpain GT Series class champions of 2016.
PHOTOS: Grässer Racing Team, Garage 59, Blancpain GT Series