Belgian Audi Club Team WRT wrapped up an almost perfect weekend at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli with a 1 -2 finish in Race 2 of Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup’s trip to Italy.
Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies took their second victory of the weekend in the #1 Team WRT Audi RB LMS with the sister #2 entry, piloted by Dries Vanthoor and, taking the second stint, Will Stevens, crossing the line just over 10 seconds behind to finish in second.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi driven by Christopher Haase and Simon Gachet.
Victory in the Silver Cup category went to the #87 Akka ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Nicolas Jamin and, making his Sprint Cup debut, Denis Bulatov, who finished over 13 seconds ahead of the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Stuart Leonard and Sheldon van der Linde.
The Pro-Am category was won by Nyls Stievenart and Markus Winkelhock in the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi, competing their second class victory of the weekend.
Raffaele Marciello, at the wheel of the #88 Akka ASP Team Mercedes, led the field away from pole position but was soon under pressure from Christopher Mies in the #1 car who had taken second place from Franck Perera in the #82 car at the start.
There was drama at the beginning of the second lap when Aron Taylor-Smith, driving the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3, went wide at Turn 16 and, coming back across the start-finish straight, made contact with the pit-wall. Taylor-Smith was able to limp the car round the circuit and back to the garage but the car was unable to continue and was retired.
Raffaele Marciello held on to the lead during the first 20 minutes but was unable to pull out a gap of much more than 1.5 seconds and was being cautious about track limits after being shown the black-and-white flag. Disaster then struck for the Italian at Turn 15 when, after taking too much kerb, significant damage was caused to the front-left corner of the Mercedes.
Mies quickly took advantage to move into the lead, just as the pit-window opened while Franck Perera in the #82 Lamborghini found himself with a front-right puncture after attempting to pass a slowing Marciello.
When the driver changes had cycled through, the #1 Belgium Audi Club Team WRT Audi, now with Alex Riberas at the wheel, led the 60-minute race with the sister #2 entry, now driven by Will Stevens, in second place with a gap of over eight seconds which had increased to over ten seconds when the cars took the chequered flag.
Christopher Mies was delighted with the win and emphasized the team’s focus on the pit-stop and driver-change rather than just capitalising on Marciello’s error.
“You don’t hope for this because you want to race clean and fair but obviously he (Marciello) took too much kerb and ripped off the splitter,” said Mies. “I didn’t know if my car was damaged as well but I could see he was struggling with under-steer and it was quite obvious why. I made a good move going into Turn Eight and pulled a gap before the pit stops. We did a really good pit-stop after which Alex had to bring it home. He didn’t make any mistakes and we are on the top spot again.”
“Marciello was getting away a little at the start so I had to catch him and the pressure was probably why he made the mistake,” explained Mies. “It’s always the key to not give up, to put pressure on the guy in front and hope he makes a mistake.”
Alex Riberas also thought that the driver-change was key to the #1 car’s win.
“It was a tough race,” said Riberas. “I had to defend the whole time, blocking the door. Thank you to Christopher for the amazing first stint. We were struggling this season with the driver-change and we knew that today that would be the deciding factor. I think we had the fastest pit-stop and the driver-change was finally perfect. I think this championship is all about maximising your opportunities and that is what we did this weekend.”
Will Stevens, driver of the sister #2 Audi, felt that second place was the best he and Dries Vanthoor could achieve in Race Two.
“It was better today for sure,” said Stevens. “We always knew we would fight our way through to a good position. Obviously some cars in front had a problem in the first stint so we had to capitalise on that but we did a great pit-stop and I think that second was the maximum we could get today.”
Victory in Race Two means that Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies consolidate their lead in the Drivers Standings by moving to 103.5 points while Dries Vanthoor overtakes Raffaele Marciello for second place with 89.5 points.
The Blancpain GT Series now moves to its blue riband event, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Round 7, on July 26 – 29.
Image courtesy of Blancpain GT