Raffaele Marciello and, bringing the car home at a rain-soaked Hungaroring, Michael Meadows took their first win of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series season and the first Sprint Cup victory for Mercedes when the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 took the chequered flag 1.139 seconds ahead of the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS with Simon Gachet at the wheel of the car he shared with Christopher Haase.
Taking the final podium position was the #66 Attempto Racing Audi of Kelvin van der Linde and, taking the second stint, Steijn Schothorst.
AKKA ASP Team finished 1-2 in the Silver category with the #87 Mercedes of Nicolas Jamin and Denis Bulatov taking the win, followed by the sister #90 entry of Nico Bastian and Jack Manchester.
The Pro-Am category was won by the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS of Nyls Stievenart and Markus Winkelhock.
The one-hour race started behind the safety car for three laps following another storm and torrential downpour at the 4.381 kms circuit. Raffaele Marciello, at the wheel of the #88 AKKA ASP Team entry, led the field from pole position and gradually pulled out a gap approaching five seconds over Luca Stolz in the #6 BLACK FALCON Mercedes.
After the driver changes, Michael Meadows, now driving the #88 car, maintained the lead over Hubert Haupt in the #6 car and had pulled out a gap of some seventeen seconds. There was drama, however, when, with just over fifteen minutes remaining, Piti Bhirombhakdi, driving the #39 TP 12, Kessel Racing Ferrari F488 GT3, spun at the chicane and became stuck in the gravel.
What started as a Full Course Yellow quickly became a Safety Car, allowing Alex Riberas in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi, now in second place, to close up to Meadows in the leading #88 car, losing Meadows his considerable lead before the race was neutralised.
When racing resumed with eight minutes remaining, Meadows clung on to a less than one second lead. Simon Gachet in the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi, meanwhile, had started to put pressure on Riberas, allowing the #88 car the opportunity to pull out an additional two car-length advantage.
With rain starting to fall heavily in the closing minutes, Gachet passed Riberas for second place on the final lap, allowing Steijn Schothorst in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi the opportunity to also pass Riberas to move into third.
Marciello and Meadows were delighted to take their first win of the season.
“We hadn’t won this year and I think it was important to show everyone that we can win’” said Marciello. “The car was fantastic and Michael did a perfect job. I had a good start so I’m really happy. It was a perfect day.”
“I was pacing myself and looking after my tyres in case it rained harder and obviously the Safety Car undid that,” said Michael Meadows, commenting on the frustration of seeing his lead taken away. “I didn’t know my limit as I had just been cruising so the first couple of corners (after the restart) were difficult but I just tried to not make any mistakes. As long as I touched every apex, it was going to be difficult for them to pass. The car was great. it’s been a long time coming this year. We’ve always been there or thereabouts but winning in the rain was tricky but it was good fun!”
Taking the win in the Silver category, Nicolas Jamin, who, along with teammate Denis Bulatov, piloted the #87 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes, was pleased with his performance in the rain.
“This was one of the most enjoyable stints of my career,” said Jamin. “I came from the back and in the wet there were good passing opportunities. There are a few bumps and scratches on the car now but it was very fun for me to bring it home eighth overall and first in Silver Cup. I’m very happy for the AKKA Team to also get the overall win.”
The #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of Stuart Leonard and Robin Frijns received a 30-second post-race penalty for contact with the #2 car at Turn 13, pushing the #17 car down from a fifth place finish on track to sixteenth.
The win for Meadows and Marciello means that the #88 AKKA ASP teammates now tie on 74 points at the top of the Sprint Cup drivers standings with Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies. Marciello also leads the Blancpain GT Series Drivers standings on 122 points, 11 points clear of Riberas and Mies.
Round Nine of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series, and the fifth weekend of the Sprint Cup takes place at the Nürburgring on September 14/16.