After Grasser Racing took the spoils in the first race of the season yesterday, Attempto Racing won Race 2 at Zolder this afternoon, in what turned out to be a dramatic affair featuring multiple lead changes and costly penalties.
It was a significant milestone for the team and its race-winning crew in this one, the #66 of Steijn Schothorst and Kelvin van der Linde scoring the team its maiden Blancpain GT win, and on its first weekend racing as an Audi Sport customer.
Initially the result had looked set to be a repeat of Saturday’s opening race. Starting from pole position, Mirko Bortolotti held the lead in GRT’s #63 Huracan into Turn 1 and went on to deliver a faultless first stint.
There was plenty of action behind the reigning overall champion, as the #66 Attempto car of Van der Linde swept past the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine of Will Stevens and into second spot around the first corner.
The South African ace could do nothing about Bortolotti, however, with the #63 Lamborghini building an advantage of almost 8 seconds as the pitstops approached.
“Kelvin did a great job at the start by getting ahead of Will for P2 and then drove a very strong stint,” said Schothorst. “There was not much in front of me or behind me during my stint, so I was able to focus on my own race and bring it home for the win. It’s a great way to start the season, I couldn’t have wished for much more!”
But it was all change during the pit cycle, Grasser’s chances of winning ending due to a problem with the car’s seat belts. As a result, Christian Engelhart lost a huge chunk of time as he began his stint.
The #66 Attempto car was unimpeded during its stop, though the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine was turned around quicker as Dries Vanthoor took over from Stevens. That handed the #2 Audi the net lead with Schothorst second in the #66.
But WRT’s lead wouldn’t last, as Vanthoor was handed a drive-through penalty for leaving the pits in an inappropriate manner. When the young Belgian took his penalty it promoted the #66 Attempto-Audi into the lead, and ended his chances of a home win.
From this point onwards Schothorst displayed admirable coolness as he remained in control for the remainder of the race. The Dutchman came home almost 7 seconds clear of the field to secure a superb first Blancpain GT Series win for Attempto.
Meanwhile the #63 Grasser Lamborghini finished eighth (scoring points despite receiving a drive-through late in the race for a pit infringement), the #2 WRT Audi after serving a second penalty for Vanthoor running the #25 Sainteloc Audi off the circuit at Turn 1, crossing the line further back in 12th.
Second spot went to the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG shared by Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows. The Italian made quick progress at the start and looked capable of overhauling the #2 during his stint, then handed over to Meadows for the second half of the race, who was unable to reel in and overtake the eventual winners towards the end.
The British driver couldn’t challenge Schothorst for the win, but the runner-up position represented a strong conclusion to the Zolder weekend for the #88 pairing.
The podium was completed by the #19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Andrea Caldarelli and Ezequiel Perez Companc. They had started the event in ninth, but a strong start by Caldarelli saw the Italian climb to sixth, then dispossess the #39 TP 12-Kessel Racing Ferrari of Carlo van Dam for fifth spot.
Perez Companc took over and was able to move up to P3 thanks to the problems for the sister Grasser-Lamborghini and the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. The Argentine driver did well to manage a tyre problem during his stint and bring the car home in third.
Nico Jamin and Felix Serralles secured fourth place in the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, beating the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car of reigning Sprint Cup champions Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard.
Silver Cup victory went to the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry of youngsters Gilles Magnus and Alessio Picariello, who completed a class sweep for the weekend with another mature drive to sixth overall.
The #39 TP 12-Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 also swept its class for the weekend. Van Dam ran with the front-runners during the early stages before handing over to Piti Bhirombhakdi. The Thai driver once again delivered a strong performance to finish well clear of his nearest Pro-Am challenger.
The Blancpain GT Series now moves on to Monza, where the opening Endurance Cup race of the 2018 season will take place on 20-22 April.
Featured image courtesy of Blancpain GT