Maxi Buhk and Franck Perera took the win in the Sprint Cup Qualifying Race at the Nürburgring, at the wheel of the #84 Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport car, after a thrilling conclusion.
After a relatively quiet first half, the Qualifying Race at the Nürburgring totally came alive after the pitstops. Marcel Fässler, in the #5 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS, had lost the lead after a less-than-perfect driver change with Dries Vanthoor. The Swiss driver was chasing new leader Ezequiel Perez-Companc, who had taken over from Andrea Caldarelli in the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini.
It was the first time the Argentine driver was in the lead of a Blancpain GT Series sprint race, but Perez-Companc did a great job in holding on to first position. The leading duo quickly became a quartet, when first Franck Perera (#84 Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport) and then Maxime Soulet (#8 Bentley Team M-Sport) joined the scrap.
Soulet fought his way up to second, but in the fight with Perez-Companc both had to cut the chicane. The Lamborghini driver held on to the lead, while Soulet dropped back to fourth a couple of hundred metres down the road. Even though during the last few laps all four drivers were at it hammer and tongs, positions did not change. Perez-Companc crossed the line in first, only to receive a one second penalty for cutting the chicane.
That meant that Maxi Buhk and Franck Perera received the eight points for the win in the Qualifying Race, extending their lead in the drivers’ standings to seven points, as Marcel Fässler crossed the line in third.
“It was quite nice to be able to race like this,” Perera said. “When I had closed the gap to the leading duo, I tried to gain some more positions, but considering our top speed is not that high, it was not easy. When the Bentley closed the gap, I first tried to block him. Then I noticed he was really fast, so I let him past, to try and follow him in passing the others. After the contact in the chicane between the Lamborghini and the Bentley I moved up to second and I was quite happy with that result. But I’ll take first as well.”
Other title contenders lost more ground: starting from 18th Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart (#63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini) crossed the line in 19th, which means they are now 11 points behind the leaders in the standings. Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard (#17 Team WRT Audi, sixth) have the same 11-point deficit, Markus Winkelhock and Will Stevens (#2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS) are one point further down. With 25 points up for grabs in tomorrow’s Main Race anything is still possible.
In the Pro-Am Cup Daniel Keilwitz took an excellent start at the wheel of the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, passing the first corner in second position overall. He held on to a top-3 position for all of his stint, but a speed infraction in pitlane meant that co-driver Alexander Mattschull was penalised with a drive-through. The duo eventually finished in 18th overall, but still won the Pro-Am Cup category, considerably increasing their title chances in the process.
In the Silver Cup the newly crowned champions Jules Szymkowiak and Fabian Schiller (HTP Motorsport) produced an impressive comeback, starting from 31st overall and finishing in 9th, claiming an emphatic win in the Silver Cup. The Am Cup went to the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Am Cup Sprint champions Stephen Earle and David Perel.
Sunday’s Sprint Cup decider starts tomorrow at 15.30 CEST.