The #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 driven by Alex Riberas and, for the second stint, Christopher Mies took the victory in the first of two one-hour Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup races at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli on Saturday June 23, crossing the line just .642 seconds ahead of the #88 Akka ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Michael Meadows and Raffaele Marciello.
Taking the final overall podium position was the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3, piloted by Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti.
Victory in the Silver category went to the #90 Akka ASP Team Mercedes with the driver line-up of Nico Bastian and Jack Manchester, who finished just under a second ahead of the #54 Emil Frey Jaguar Racing G3 Jaguar driven by Alex Fontana and Mikael Grenier.
The Pro-Am class was won by the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi piloted by Nyls Stievenart and Markus Winkelhock.
Nicolas Jamin, at the wheel of the #87 Akka ASP Team Mercedes led the field from pole at the start and was starting to build a gap to Alex Riberas in the #1 Team WRT Audi before disaster struck after ten minutes when the #87 car ground to halt on the start/finish line, causing the race to be neutralized under a Full Course Yellow for two minutes.
The #2 Team WRT Audi, driven by Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens had to make an unscheduled stop while Stevens was at the wheel to fix a loose wheel nut and, as a result, dropped out of contention.
Contact between the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley and the #21 Audi Sport Slovakia Audi R8 LMS, new to the championship for this round, resulted in a spin for the #31 car and a drive-through penalty for the #21 entry.
Riberas in the #1 car was in the lead at the re-start following the Full Course Yellow caused by the retirement of the #87 entry but made a mistake, allowing Nico Bastian in the #90 Audi to move to the front of the field. Bastian held the lead through to the driver changes and was one of the last cars to make a stop, at which time Christopher Mies, at the wheel of the #1 Team WRT Audi took the lead ahead of Raffaele Marciello in the #88 Akka ASP Team Mercedes.
Jack Manchester, now driving the sister #90 entry found himself in third place overall but leading the Silver class and was happy to let the Pro field pass him while he concentrated on his own class battle.
Marciello, meanwhile, pushed hard in the #88 Mercedes as the race entered its final twenty minutes and closed the gap to Mies in the #1 car to less than half a second with ten minutes remaining but struggled to find a way past and had to settle for second place.
Christopher Mies was delighted with the win but admitted that his stint had not been easy.
“It was really hard with the pressure from Marciello,” said Mies. “He’s a really good guy who should be in Formula One but his team are lucky that he’s here in this championship. My stint looked easy but I can tell you that it wasn’t. With the pressure from behind, not to make a mistake was pretty hard. Alex (Riberas) did a good job and the pit stop was fantastic. We lost a bit of time because Alex forgot to plug the belt in so I had to do it myself so we probably lost two or three seconds there but anyway we came out P1 and that is all that matters!”
Mies was conscious that he was losing rear-end grip as his stint progressed.
“The car was good at the beginning of my stint but then it dropped after five or six laps and I had a lot of slide in the rear. It was hard to manage but we had a plan for that and we used that plan and got the job done.”
“It was a very good day for us in the championship,” said teammate Alex Riberas. “Some of our opponents had retirements. Therefore I’m very happy with our job. Chris drove an amazing race. He’s done a very good job and I’m really happy to be with him. The start was solid. I made a small mistake at the re-start but overall I’m quite happy.”
Race 2 of the weekend for the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup gets underway at 14:00 local time on Sunday June 24.
Photo courtesy of Blancpain