Three hours of racing can have a close affair as it was proven at Silverstone this Sunday (14) during the second round of the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, with Grässer Racing having the top step of the podium with its 63 Lamborghini as Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Christian Engelhardt managed to resist all sorts of Mercedes pressure during the event.
With a lot of the 55 cars of the grid not respecting their positions at the start, an extra formation lap was needed. Then green flag was waved and Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 63 GRT Lamborghini outpaced Felix Serralles in the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes for the lead and started opening the gap like he did at Brands Hatch in the Sprint Cup. Things were somehow settled outside some penalties in the back of the field but with 20 minutes of racing the Yellow Flag was called as the Pro-Am Cup favorite No. 11 Kessel Ferrari was beached in the gravel after contact with the No. 2 WRT Audi followed by a spin, and while with a puncture Michal Broniszewski brought the car back to track and limped to the pits. The Yellow Flag continued due to the stopped No. 188 Garage 59 McLaren, stuck in the GP circuit straight, which was followed by a Full Course Yellow.
Serralles' chances for the lead were ruined by a stop and go penalty due to false start, and with ten minutes to end the first hour the No. 44 Strakka McLaren had a big crash at Becketts after losing a wheel which not only destroyed Johnny Kane's McLaren 650S GT3 but also damaged the armco barriers and brought another Full Course Yellow.
With the first hour ended behind the Safety Car most teams did their pit stops earlier and this gave the lead to the No. 90 AKKA-ASP Mercedes while the No. 63 GRT Lamborghini came in second with Andrea Caldarelli taking driving duties. Michael Meadows somehow kept Caldarelli behind him despite intense pressure, with the No. 50 AF Corse Ferrari closing more and more, but Pasin Lathouras lost grip of the lead battle and also the third place to the No. 84 HTP Mercedes. The downfall of the No. 50 continued with the No. 8 M-SPORT Bentley and the No. 72 SMP Ferrari taking fourth and fifth places.
After almost 20 minutes of unsuccessful attacks, Caldarrelli had to deal with Jimmy Eriksson in the No. 84 HTP Mercedes, who almost found a way past the Italian on Lap 43, which gave a bit of a relief to Michael Meadows. With an hour and 19 minutes to go, Eriksson found a gap after another unsuccessful attempt of Caldarelli and conquered second place, going immediately into pursuit of Meadows.
Eriksson was looking to have his way into Meadows with the help of traffic but the more the pressure intensified, more ways to defend the lead appeared to Meadows. Again things got settled for a while until the top-3 come to their scheduled pit stops, with the No. 63 GRT Lamborghini going to Christian Engelhardt, the No. 84 HTP Mercedes in the hands of Maximilian Buhk and the No. 90 AKKA-ASP having Raffaele Marciello as the final driver. Excellent pitwork allied to some help of the traffic gave the first position to the No. 63 again, although the threat was still there.
The backmarkers that helped Engelhardt then bunched up the top-3 with 40 minutes to go while Davide Rigon was bringing the fourth placed No. 72 SMP Ferrari to the fight. With 20 minutes of relative calm, Engelhardt made a mistake, went wide and gave an opportunity to Marciello to attempt an overtake, who failed and opened the door for Buhk in the No. 84 to get second place while the No. 63 disappeared in front.
In the final 10 minutes Buhk started to shorten the gap to Engelhardt, to the point that with two minutes to go the No. 84 HTP Mercedes was right behind the No. 63 GRT Lamborghini, and Engelhardt had another lap to worry as both cars passed at the line with a second to go, but Engelhardt managed to block all points where Buhk would take an opportunity to pass and crossed the finish with only 0.344 seconds. Although out of the victory battle, Raffaele Marciello still had to keep the No. 90 AKKA-ASP Mercedes out of the pressure of Davide Rigon in the No. 72 SMP Ferrari as the last podium spot went to Marciello by 0.071 seconds.
In the Pro-Am Cup the No. 77 Barwell Lamborghini a tight affair with the No. 97 Oman Racing Aston Martin as Patrick Kujala managed to hold off a charging Johnny Adam by 1.078 seconds at the line, with the No. 87 AKKA-ASP Mercedes completing the podium. The Am Cup went to the No. 488 Rinaldi Ferrari in dominant performance with two laps ahead of the No. 888 Kessel Ferrari, with VLN specialists Walkenhorst Motorsport completing the podium with their No. 36 BMW.
As the British trip is over, the next Blancpain GT meeting will be at Zolder, Belgium, valid for the Sprint Cup on June 4th. The Endurance Cup returns on June 24th with the Paul Ricard 1000 km race, the big test for those who participate of the 24 Hours of Spa due to its unusual length into the Blancpain GT calendar and also for being the first endurance race of the calendar with night time racing due to the start being near the sunset until almost midnight.
PHOTO: Lamborghini Squadra Corse