It was joy for the Dutch fans as local favourite Renger van der Zande and championship leader Jules Gounon in the Callaway Competition Corvette C7 won the seventh round of the 2017 ADAC GT Masters at Zandvoort to kick off the weekend. With his second victory of the season, Gounon secured the unofficial title of ‘half-time champion’.
Also making their first podium appearance of the year were Aust Motorsport Audi drivers Markus Pommer and the HTP Mercedes AMG duo of Indy Dontje and Marvin Kirchhöfer. “The win feels like I’ve won a world championship,” said a jubilant van der Zande after claiming a maiden series victory. “Winning here on my home circuit of Zandvoort is just incredible.”
While pole-sitter Jules Gounon was successful in defending Pole at the start, ZAKSPEED Mercedes man Luca Stolz managed to get past Markus Pommer, who had shared the front row, to take second place. Over subsequent laps, Gounon, Stolz, and Pommer gradually pulled away from the rest of the field. It remained that way until the mandatory round of pit stops, with only a second separating the three of them. Van der Zande, stepping in for regular driver Daniel Keilwitz due to injury, then brought the #77 Corvette safely home for its second win of the campaign. For the local favourite, it was a maiden win in the Super Sports Car League, while for Gounon, it was victory number two, the first having come at the Red Bull Ring.
The result further consolidated Gounon’s lead in the championship and secured him the unofficial title of half-time champion.
The next two positions behind the Aust Audi and HTP Mercedes went to cars also sporting the Mercedes star on their grille. Sebastian Asch and Stefan Mücke for BWT Mücke Motorsport took the chequered flag in fourth place ahead of ZAKSPEED’s Luca Stolz and Luca Ludwig. The latter might well have featured in the podium party if they had not been handed a drive-through penalty for cutting their pit stop short.
BMW Team Schnitzer’s Nicky Catsburg and Philipp Eng in the team’s M6 were sixth, followed by Trophy winners Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart in the Grasser in a Lamborghini Huracán. Mathieu Jaminet and Michael Ammermüller in the KÜS Team75 Bernhard Porsche were the best placed of the Porsche 911 contingent in eighth.
“I am very satisfied. So far, it’s been a perfect weekend,” winner Jules Gounon said. “The only downside is that Daniel unfortunately can’t be here for it. Being ‘half-time champion’ doesn’t actually mean a lot. What matters is being ahead right at the end. Until then, we’ll take each race as it comes. It wasn’t easy today. The Mercedes-AMG with Luca Stolz put us under a lot of pressure and ultimately set the fastest race lap when Luca Ludwig took over. We may not have been the quickest out there today, but we at least managed to keep the others behind us.”
In Race 2, it was the first win of the season for reigning champions De Phillippi and Mies at Zandvoort. Schmidt and Haase driving the other Montaplast by Land-Motorsprot Audi R8 came home second to make it a 1-2 finish for the N24-winning team.
The weather was atrocious for the race, but it played into the hands of the Audi runners. Defending champions Connor De Phillippi and Christopher Mies taking the win in a tumultuous race. Third place went to HB Racing’s Florian Spengler and Christopher Zanella. “That was hard day’s work,” said winner Mies. “It’s a success that’s been a long time coming.”
It became clear to spectators as the rain set in just before the start of the eighth race of the 2017 ADAC GT Masters that they were about to witness a spectacular encounter. After the retirement of Grasser Racing Pole-sitter Mirko Bortolotti with a technical issue on Lap 4 while in the lead, the first stint of the race was dominated by HTP Mercedes AMG driver Maximilian Götz, who was able to pull out a lead of more than 17 seconds at times. Positions behind him were changing constantly on the rain-soaked track.
The first of four safety car deployments came about when Lamborghini driver Grasser driver Christian Engelhart and Aust Motorsport’s Kelvin van der Linde collided while scrapping for P3. The ensuing mandatory round of pit stops mixed the field up once again. After Götz’s partner, Patrick Assenheimer skidded off track when lying in fifth place, Audi man Jeffrey Schmidt took the lead and defended P1 until the third-to-last lap. His team-mate Connor De Phillippi in the second Audi entered by Team Montaplast by Land-Motorsport overtook him and secured the first win of the season for himself and partner, Christopher Mies, who had handed the car over in sixth place. Schmidt took second and a victory in the Junior standings.
“The car was really fantastic in the final stages,” De Phillippi said. “We increased the air pressure during the pit stop, which paid off. The Audi was then very strong, especially when braking, which allowed me to gain some positions. I am very happy for the team. Our race engineer has a birthday today, and this win is the perfect gift.”
Florian Spengler and Christopher Zanella took P3 behind the two white-and-green Audis to finish on the podium for the first time this season. They were followed home by Robert Renauer and Sven Müller driving their Precote Herberth Motorsport Porsche in P4 in the best-placed Porsche 911. Truly remarkable is that the Lamborghini and the Porsche had started the race from P17 and P18 respectively. Porsche drivers Mathieu Jaminet and Michael Ammermüller (31, DEU, both KÜS Team75 Bernhard) also lined up outside the Top Ten on the grid but still managed to finish fifth.
Current championship leader Jules Gounon and Renger van der Zande standing in for his regular co-driver, finished the rain-affected race in sixth place. It was a good points haul for the duo in their Callaway Corvette, but a far cry from their Race 1 victory.