Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz stole the show in the Main Race at Zolder in the #84 HTP Mercedes, taking a win that puts Götz one step closer to taking the Sprint Series title. The German now has a 27 point championship lead going into the final round at Baku.
Unlike the Qualifying Race, the opening lap was anything but clean. Dominik Baumann in the Schubert BMW went off at turn 1, forcing him to pit and retire. And the safety car was deployed, as seconds later Enzo Ide spun at turn 2 and hit the inside wall, forcing him to retire the #2 Audi. Not a good outing for him and René Rast – who’s title chance is now over.
Peter Kox managed to grab the lead on the first lap round the outside of pole sitter César Ramos in the #1 WRT Audi, meanwhile Hari Proczyk in the #28 Grasser Lambo dived up the inside of the R8 at turn 1 also, making it a Gallardo 1-2 at the front for the first lap. Kox immediately started to pull away but with the safety car joining the action, it was all nullified.
“I was trying to keep Proczyk behind me, but he managed to dive up the inside anyway. The Lamborghinis have so much power at the start of races that there really wasn’t much I could do to hold the lead,” admitted Ramos.
When the race restarted Kox paced the field once again as the following pack tussled for positions, but it wouldn’t be long before the safety car was deployed for a second time, after a huge incident at turn 6.
Alex Zanardi in his ROAL BMW and Alexi Vasilyev’s GT Russia Team SLS were battling in the middle of the pack. As Vasilyev moved over to take the racing line into the chicane, he caught the front bumper of Zanardi sending him spearing into the outside barrier – which he would straddle before being thrown into the gravel trap. The Mercedes was heavily damaged and retired on the spot, thankfully nobody was hurt.
The race went green just as the pit window opened, prompting Hari Procyzk to pit straight away to hand over to Bleekemolen. One lap later Kox came in from the lead Ramos followed him, but it would spell disaster for the NSC team, as during the stop the air hose failed, and the mechanics couldn’t put all the tyres on. They were forced to retire the car in the end, a dampener to what was such an impressive Sprint Series debut for the team.
“We’ve practiced pit-stops hundreds of times, just when we need it most, the air hose breaks,” expressed a disappointed Nicky Catsburg.
The main beneficiaries from the cycle though would be the HTP team, as Buhk stayed out an extra two laps to get some clean air. A perfect stop and a great in lap meant the #84 SLS went from fourth to first after the stops, returning to the track just in front of Bleekemolen.
“We need clean air with our car, so we stayed out longer and came out ahead. Max (Buhk) was a star and so were the team during pit-stops. It was great to end up ahead of Jeroen (Bleekemolen),” said Götz.
After that Götz was able to manage the lead, gradually pulling away from Bleekemolen who spent his whole stint looking at Laurens Vanthoor in his mirrors. A comfortable margin of almost three seconds separated the HTP Merc from the rest of the field by the race end, a satisfying and crucial win for the team who seemed to struggle for pace throughout Friday and Saturday.
“I didn’t expect them to win, I expected the #1 Audi to be the main challenger,” said Bleekemolen. “They were very quick, and had more pace after the stops, it was very close. Not good for the championship, but we finished well.
“I just won’t think about the championship going into Baku, there’s good prize money there so I’m going to think about that.”
Alessandro Latif and Marc Basseng in the #5 Phoenix Audi won the depleted Pro-Am class once again, securing the title, while Vincent Abril and Mateusz Lisowski won the Silver Cup for WRT; they only need four points to secure the title.
The final round is in two weeks time at Baku in Azerbaijan, we expect a capacity grid and an enthralling end to the season as Max Götz looks to beat out Bleekemolen and Prozyck for the Drivers Championship crown.