Victory in Race One of the final weekend of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup has gone to the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS, piloted by Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies, after a post-race drive-through penalty of 30 seconds was handed to the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team driver pairing of Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart, winners on-track.
The penalty means that Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will finish 1-2 with the sister #2 Audi of Will Stevens and Dries Vanthoor moving up to second place, Vanthoor finishing 2.943 seconds behind Mies.
Completing the overall podium positions after the penalty will be the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3, driven by Ezequiel Perez Companc and Andrea Caldarelli.
The Silver category was won the #6 BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Hubert Haupt and Luca Stolz, ahead of the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of Adrien De Leener and Ricardo Feller.
The win in the Pro-Am class went to #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi of Nyls Stievenart and Markus Winkelhock.
Mirko Bortolotti, at the wheel of the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, led the field from pole position and pulled out a lead of just under two seconds from Alex Riberas in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry, Riberas passing Albert Costa in the #14 Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus RC F GT3 early in the race. Despite sustaining damage in the second qualifying session and with doubts that the #1 car would be ready in time for the race, Riberas’ car was on the pace from the start.
The race was interrupted with 47 minutes remaining after Rinat Salikhov, driving the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari F488 GT3, made contact with the rear of the #39 TP 12, Kessel Racing Ferrari, piloted by Piti Bhirombhakdi, resulting in the #39 car having to be recovered and the #333 entry limping back to the garage and into retirement. A Full Course yellow preceded a Safety Car, allowing Riberas to close up to just over half a second behind Bortolotti.
Green racing resumed just ahead of the pit window opening with the #1 car pitting first from the leading trio.
After the driver changes had cycled through, Engelhart, now at the wheel of the #63 car, had a lead of 1.339 seconds ahead of Christopher Mies in the #1 entry with Andrea Calderelli, driving the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini he shares with Ezequiel Perez Companc, in third place.
With just over ten minutes remaining, Dries Vanthoor, at the wheel of the #2 Audi, made an aggressive move on Calderelli for third place, a position which the German driver held to the chequered flag.
There was drama after the race, however, when GRT Grasser Racing Team released a statement saying that the #63 car had been handed a 30-second post-race drive-through penalty. The team’s statement read:
“Following the stewards decision and a breach of article 120, which clarifies the following: A driver’s safety harness must be securely fastened before the car leaves the team’s working area but, on exiting the pits, the driver may further tighten the belts or adjust them.
As a result of this incident, car #63 has now been placed P13 in Race 1.”
If the adjusted provisional results are confirmed, it would mean that Riberas and Mies will lead the drivers standings on 90.5 points with Marciello and Meadows second in the standings on 81.5 points. A thirteenth-place finish for the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team crew will mean that Bortolotti and Engelhart will remain on 57.5 points and out of contention for the championship.
Following the race, the crew of the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi were grateful for the team’s effort to get their car on the grid for the race.
“My main emotion was to be extremely grateful because the guys did a phenomenal job,” said Alex Riberas. “Team WRT, I think, is the only team in the paddock that could have done what they did this morning, repairing the car completely. I went out on the first lap and I found the car was good so after that the race was quite solid and I just wanted to keep it in P2 for Chris and see if we could get the win.”
“I had two or three laps where I was actually quicker than Engelhart but then he pulled way so I did not want to take any risks,” said teammate Christopher Mies. “I knew Marciello was in P5 so I knew we just had to finish in front to score more points than him for the championship and I think we did the perfect job today.”
The lights go out for the final race of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup at the Nürburgring at 16:00 local time on Sunday September 16.
Pics courtesy & copyright SRO/Dirk Boegaerts Photography