Second Win Of 2018 For Bortolotti And Engelhart At Hungaroring.
The #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3, piloted by Christian Engelhart and, taking the car to the chequered flag, Mirko Bortolotti, took its second victory of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series season, finishing 4.743 seconds ahead of the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Michael Meadows and Raffaele Marciello in the first Sprint Cup race of the weekend.
Completing the podium positions, and missing out on second place with a spin in the closing minutes of the one-hour race, was the #87 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes of Nicolas Jamin and Denis Bulatov, who were also the winners of the Silver category, Bulatov crossing the line 4.920 seconds behind Marciello.
Taking the win in the Pro-Am class was the #751 Sun Energy 1 by AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3, driven by Kenny Habul and Tristan Vautier.
A torrential downpour just ahead of the 13:40 start time meant that the 4.381 kms circuit was wet but drying rapidly as the grid headed out for its formation lap. At the start Christian Engelhart, at the wheel of the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, found grip that eluded the rest of the field and led in to the first corner, up from fifth in qualifying.
Andrew Watson, driving the #37 3Y Technology BMW M6 GT3, had chosen to start on wet tyres, the decision working massively to his advantage on the opening laps with Watson working his way up the field from an eleventh place start to run as high as second. However, the drying track took its toll on his tyre choice and, after fifteen minutes, the #37 started to fall back down the order.
There was disaster for the championship-leading #1 Belgian Audi Club team WRT Audi R8 LMs after Alex Riberas appeared to make slight contact with Andrew Watson in the #37 BMW as Riberas passed him on the start-finish straight. Riberas ran wide and into a spin that resulted in contact with the pit-wall. A brief Full Course Yellow period followed to allow the #1 Audi to be driven round the circuit and into retirement with damage to the left rear suspension.
After the driver changes had cycled though, Mirko Bortolotti, now at the wheel of the #63 Lamborghini, continued to hold the lead, maintaining a gap of over 6 seconds ahead of Denis Bulatov in the #87 Mercedes. Bulatov was pushing hard, however, and had closed the gap down to just over three seconds before his spin with less than two minutes to go cost him second place.
Christian Engelhart was delighted to take his second win of the season but recognized that the changing track conditions had played their part.
“I think the weather was the key today because even with a good start it would have been difficult in the dry,” said Engelhart. “The Mercedes have been really fast all weekend and the same was true for the race in dry conditions but, in drying conditions, we were quite fast and could pull a gap. I think that was the key.”
“The second stint was about staying in front,” continued Engelhart. “I’m really happy about the start and the result, especially after some tough times during the season. I’m glad for the whole team that we’re back on top.”
Nicolas Jamin, who started second on the grid in the #87 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes, thought that Christian Engelhart must have also chosen wet tyres, given how easily the German driver passed him at the start.
“We’ve had good pace since the beginning of the weekend’” said Jamin. “Denis and I are both here for the first time and it well. Christian had a very good start but I managed to keep P2 by getting past Nico Bastian. Christian’s pace in the wet was super impressive and I thought he must be on wet tyres! When it started to dry up I could get back at him, then Denis did his maximum and we took a very good result for the team.”
The second race of Round Eight of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series double-header, the fourth Sprint Cup weekend of the season, gets underway at the Hungaroring at 15:30 local time on Sunday September 2.