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Blancpain Sprint: Misano, Main Race, #1 WRT Audi Scores First Win Of 2016

The #1 WRT Audi of Laurens Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch drove from third on the grid to first and dominated the second half of the Sprint Cup Main Race in Misano.

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“It was a very good day,” said Vanthoor in summary after the race. “As I said in the press conference after Qualifying, there’s a lot of high-quality of teams and drivers. It’s a good start to the year. I wasn’t causing at the end either, Buhk had a bit more pace, I had to concentrate.

“It wasn’t easy. My heart rate went up in the back-markers, but it was ok.”

Vervisch started the race, and was clearly motivated to nab the win when the lights went green. Philipp Eng in the #99 Rowe Racing BMW M6 took the lead off Maxime Soulet’s #8 M-Sport Bentley into Turn 1. Vervisch followed Eng, and snatched second off the Continental on the first lap, before switching his attention to the leader.

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Soulet’s time in third spot didn’t last either, as Dries Vanthoor, who was later penalised, clouted him towards the end of the lap, forcing him to let the entire field drive past facing the other way.

To finish what was an eventful opening lap up front, Dominik Baumann in the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes got by Dries Vanthoor to take the final podium spot.

After that the battle for the lead was on, with Philipp Eng being pressured by Vervisch’s #1 WRT Audi, and almost pushed along at times. Eng’s effort was mighty, but after 15 minutes of defending, Vervisch took the lead of the race at Turn 4, running side-by-side with Eng until Turn 6.

Baumann – who had caught up by then – then took the chance to follow the Audi through and take second at Turn 7.

Eng was then slipping into the clutches of Tristain Vautier’s #88 AKKA AMG GT3, who he would fend off until the pit stops. A handful of seconds behind them, Rob Bell – in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren – had made his way up to fifth after a great start to the race saw him move to sixth before inheriting the top five spot after Dries Vanthoor’s penalty.

At the stops, a motivated Laurens Vanthoor climbed aboard the #1 WRT Audi with a 5.5 second lead over Max Buhk who took the reins in the #84 HTP Mercedes. Buhk had the speed to maintain the gap, but ultimately couldn’t catch the Belgian up front, even through traffic.

Vanthoor took the checkered flag to score himself and Vervisch’s first win of 2016.

It was the battle for third that highlighted the second half of the race. Alex Sims in the #99 Rowe BMW and Felix Rosenqvist in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes were glued together after the pitting. The pair diced for much of the closing stages of the race, before Rosenqvist dived up the inside at Turn 8, muscling the BMW out wide to shut the door with seven minutes remaining.

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Rosenqvist’s efforts were eventually all for nothing however, as he would pull off the circuit with mechanical issues with just a single minute left on the clock.

Sims crossed the line third, with Alvaro Parente’s #58 Garage 59 McLaren fourth.

The #75 ISR Audi of Frank Stippler and Filip Salaquada managed to finish up fifth after a tough battle with the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 for much of the race. And had the race up front not been so hotly contested, the seventh-place finishing HTP Mercedes of Bernd Schneider and Jules Szymkowiak may have been the story of the race.

The duo started the race in 37th spot, and without being aided by yellow flags managed to finish seventh, with 51-year-old Schneider pulling off some spectacular moves in the closing stages of the race to secure points.

Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini in the Kessel Racing 488 came home 13th and first in Pro-Am, the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi won the Silver Cup and Jean-Luc Beaubelique, Morgan Moullin-Traffort took home the Am-Cup winners trophy for AKKA ASP.

MAIN RACE RESULT >>

The next round of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup is at Brands Hatch on the 7th and 8th of May.

Stephen Kilbey