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FIA GT Series: Baku World Challenge, Qualifying Race Report

Team WRT drivers Rene Rast and Niki Mayr-Melnhof were victorious in the qualifying race of the FIA GT Series finale in Baku. The duo started from pole position and was still first as the chequered flag came out after 32 laps.

The warm-up session was cancelled as the circuit had been ‘washed’ and was wet and greasy when the warm-up was supposed to start. With low temperatures some described the circuit as ‘icy’ and that, in combination with a power generator failure in the TV compound, resulted in yet another delay of an hour and a half.

Early in the race Rast pulled away from the rest of the field and let teammate Laurens Vanthoor battle it out with Dutchman Stef Dusseldorp and Belgian driver Maxime Martin. After the pit stops Rast’s teammate Mayr-Melnhof was still in the lead, but a crash of the Lamborghini of Hari Proczyk and the safety car that followed brought the field back together.

Just minutes after the race was restarted Cesar Campancio went off at turn 5 and a mobile crane was dispatched get the Audi away and to get the tyre barriers back into place. The cars were lined up on the straight, waiting for a restart as the 75%-point had not yet been reached.

Ten minutes later the race was resumed with just over 15 minutes left and again Mayr-Melnhof pulled way from Ortelli. Behind Ortelli Rob Bell had taken third just before the red flag and the Hexis Racing driver successfully defended his position to the finish. In fact Bell tried to attack Ortelli for second, but the Monegasque driver did not give in and finished in second place, behind race winner Mayr-Melnhof. As a result Ortelli and Vanthoor go into the final race of the season with an 7-points advantage over Edward Sandstrom and Frank Stippler, who were classified seventh after Loeb and Parente were given a 30-second penalty for not having wheels fitted on their car in time before the start.

HTP Gravity Charouz drivers Andreas Simonsen and Sergey Afanasiev clinched the Pro-Am class title in their Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. The pair were classified sixth overall after Loeb’s penalty.