Audi delivered a dominant display during Saturday’s Qualifying Race of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup in Budapest, as Dries Vanthoor and Marcel Fässler steered the #5 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine to victory.
The duo’s performance capped another perfect day for them at the Hungaroring, which plays host to the fourth and penultimate round of the Sprint Cup, after the #5 R8 LMS claimed pole position, having also topped both practice sessions on Friday.
The #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Daniel Keilwitz and Alexander Mattschull claimed the Pro-Am honours after the latter overtook the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the second half of the hour-long Qualifying Race.
The Silver Cup victory went to Fabian Schiller and Jules Szymkowiak, who picked up an important class win to extend their points lead aboard the #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG-GT3. David Perel and Stephen Earle’s back-to-back Budapest victory ensured the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 took the Am Cup title with one round to spare.
Lining up on Pole, Vanthoor enjoyed a strong getaway and led the 30-car field into the first corner as the lights turned green at the Hungarian Grand Prix venue. His WRT team-mate Jake Dennis, who had started from fourth in the #3 Audi, immediately moved up into the top three after edging past Maxi Buhk’s #84 Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport car. The German even slipped down to fifth behind a charging Robin Frijns in the #17 Team WRT Audi.
“The car was great and every lap a pleasure to drive,” commented Vanthoor. “I hope we can keep the momentum going for Sunday. That said, every start is different and anything can happen. We are not fighting for the championship so we won’t ruin anybody’s race.”
Right behind, Pro-Am Pole sitter Jules Gounon in the #87 Mercedes was under tremendous pressure from Christopher Mies’ #1 WRT-entered Audi. The 2017 Total 24 Hours of Spa winner had to defend hard, which resulted in a loss of momentum for Mies who fell prey to an opportunistic Andy Soucek in the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3.
Race leader Vanthoor kept pounding and managed to open a comfortable gap of over four seconds ahead of the mandatory pit stop window. As soon as it opened, fifth-placed Buhk came in and handed over the wheel to team-mate Franck Perera, while other front-running cars elected to stay out longer.
HTP’s strategy paid off, as the #84 climbed back to fourth, with Perera soon hounding Pieter Schothorst in the #3 Audi ahead of him.
Elsewhere, there was a titanic scrap for the Pro-Am bragging rights, as Rinaldi Racing’s Alexander Mattschull closed in on Gounon’s crew-mate Jean-Luc Beaubelique. The Frenchman held his German rival off for a couple of laps until the #333 Ferrari muscled its way past at Turn 3.
Up front, quick service on the #63 Lamborghini from the GRT Grasser Racing Team crew enabled Christian Engelhart to head back on track just over two seconds behind Marcel Fässler and the #5 Audi. The Swiss ace held his ground all the way to the chequered flag to collect his and Vanthoor’s maiden win of the season. Schothorst showed the same resilience against Perera to make it two WRT cars on the podium at the Hungaroring.
Having launched their efforts from 21st on the grid, HTP Motorsport’s Fabian Schiller and Jules Szymkowiak steadily worked their way up through the field to secure another Silver Cup win with the #85 Mercedes.
In the Am Cup, David Perel and Blancpain GT Sports Club Iron Cup title contender Stephen Earle drove a strong, mistake-free race aboard the #888 Ferrari 458 Italia to clinch the Sprint Cup title in their category.
Vanthoor and Fässler’s Qualifying Race win means the #5 Audi will line up on Pole Position for Sunday’s main contest.