Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente steered Garage 59 to its first victory of 2016 Sprint Cup season driving the #58 McLaren 650S GT3. The result sees Rob Bell continue to pull away in the lead of the overall Blancpain GT Drivers Championship, now with a 44-point advantage at the top.
“It’s a great feeling the team have done great job,” said Bell after the race. “We changed the car’s set up overnight and the rain helped us before the start. It was one of the best starts I’ve ever done, I was in the right rev range, it went green and I took the lead into Turn 1. It was great.”
And a great start it was, as Bell managed to blast by Enzo Ide’s #33 WRT Audi down the pit straight at the rolling start before the braking point into Turn 1. He would then pull away, giving himself and the Garage 59 crew a healthy margin to deal with at the pit stops.
Behind though, there was a lot of action in the first half of the race. The ISR Audi of Marlon Stockinger and Frank Perera which finished fourth in the Qualifying Race and the #8 Bentley were the only casualties of the opening laps, after the pair collided on the exit of Turn 1, causing both to tumble down the order and out of contention. A very disappointing end to a promising weekend for the ISR crew.
Enzo Ide was then in the spotlight during the opening minutes, after such a great defensive drive in Saturday’s race. The Belgian tried all he could to keep the pressure on Bell but couldn’t sustain his pace, and was forced to let the #28 sister WRT Audi of Will Stevens by to take second.
Ide then had to concede third shortly after, with Jules Szymkowiak in the #86 HTP Bentley charging up the order. By that time, the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari of Norbert Siedler was on a tear, and moved up into fifth. It was an impressive drive from Sielder in his stint, after starting 11th.
After the first lap, he managed to pull of daring moves against Dominik Baumann for 7th spot through the first complex, then take sixth a lap later around the outside of Turn 1 to get by Alex Sims’ #99 ROWE BMW in what was a thrilling four-way scrap.
After a few blazing laps in clear air, Siedler then made a move on Nico Muller’s #4 WRT Audi for fifth just after Szymkowiak got by, before replicating his earlier move on Sims at Turn 1 on Ide to snatch fourth.
Unfortunately the round of stops set the 488 back a bit, as it emerged from the pits in fifth with Marco Seefried at the wheel, where the car would finish after a lengthy battle with Max Buhk’s #84 AMG GT3.
The second half of the race saw the field spread out and settle into a rhythm. René Rast in the #28 Audi tried to reel in Parente after starting the stint two seconds behind, but couldn’t quite catch up enough to mount a challenge.
“Stevens did a great job, it was not an easy start, as it was tricky in the wet conditions. I tried to push Alvaro but he was too quick,” admitted Rast. “This was the maximum we could hope for today, I’m happy with second.”
In third Bernd Scheider held station in the #84 HTP Mercedes, with Chris Mies too far back in the #33 Audi to nab a podium.
Taking the Silver Cup win was Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta in the #19 Grasser Lamborghini Huracan after a late scare which saw the team receive a drive through – that was later cancelled – for track limits violations.
Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini in the #11 Kessel Ferrari won Pro-Am and Claudio Sdanewitsch, Stephane Lemeret’s AF Corse Ferrari won Am, both completing the sweep of the weekend in their classes.
The next round of the Sprint Cup sees the teams and drivers travel to the Hungaroring GP circuit for the first time on the 26-28th of August.