Raffaele Marciello Michael Meadows (who took the chequered flag), won the final race of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup in the #88 Akka ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 and in doing so, lifted the Drivers Championship title.
The win sealed the title with a seven and a half point-margin ahead of fellow championship contenders Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies.
Finishing second, half a second behind the #88 car and winning in the Silver category, was the #6 BLACK FALCON Mercedes of Luca Stolz and Hubert Haupt.
The #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS driven by Christopher Haase and Simon Gachet completed the overall podium positions, finishing 4.780 seconds behind Haupt in the #6 car. Victory in the Pro-Am class went to the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 of Rinat Salikhov and David Perel.
There was drama before the race when it was announced that the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, driven by Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti, winners on track in Race 1 but subsequently handed a penalty which demoted them to thirteenth, had been disqualified from the meeting for issues with the Onboard Safety Camera.
With the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT pairing of Mies and Riberas entering the final round nine points ahead of Akka ASP Team’s Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows, a victory for the #88 crew meant that Mies and Riberas had to finish in fourth place to take the title. With the #88 car starting second on the grid and the #1 car back in fourteenth place, Mies had his work cut out on the opening laps and had moved up to fifth place as the pit window approached.
Meadows, in the #88 car, took the lead during the driver changes whilst Alex Riberas in the #1 entry emerged from the pits in fifth position behind Steijn Schothorst in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi. Riberas pushed Schothorst hard but the Dutch driver was not going to make life easy for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT pilot, despite discussions behind the scenes in the garages.
Riberas made his move going in to Turn 1 on Lap 30 but Schothorst fought back at Turn 3 and the #1 and #66 cars raced wheel-to-wheel down to the Dunlop Hairpin, allowing Ezequiel Perez Companc in the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to close up on the pair.
The battle took its toll, however, on the #1 car with Riberas going off at Turn 7 with a puncture and limping back to the garage into retirement.
Michael Meadows was delighted at winning the title but was quick to praise his team.
“It wasn’t a great qualifying from myself but we kept out heads,” said Meadows. “We’ve been really consistent all year. I’ve got to thank the team. They’ve done a fantastic job and we’ve improved every race so that’s all you can ask. Raffaele has done an unbelievable job. He’s so fast and we have a really good rapport and everything seemed to flow nicely.
“It was a little bit tense (during the race). I didn’t know what was going on with the #1 car, to be honest. I didn’t know where they were. The radio silence was intriguing at best!”
Teammate Raffaele Marciello was happy to remain behind the #6 car during the first half of the race as he trusted that Akka ASP would produce a good pit stop.
“Luca had a good start but I was able to keep in touch which was important,” said Marciello. “I tried to stay as close as possible to Luca because I knew we would have a good pit stop then it was just waiting to see where the #1 car was going to finish today. Winning the Sprint Championship with Michael, with Akka ASP and with Mercedes and good points overall – I’m super happy!”
The final round of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup takes place at Barcelona on September 30.
Full race report to follow…
Photo courtesy of Blancpain GT Series