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Vanthoor and Stevens edge tense Blancpain GT opener at Brands

Sunday, May 06 2018

Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens claimed victory in the opening Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup race of the day on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, after withstanding late pressure from the chasing pack on a radiant day at the Kent circuit in their Belgian Audi Club WRT Audi R8. 

Belgium's Vanthoor led the opening stint of the race from pole position from Steijn Schothorst in the Attempto Racing R8 he shares with Kelvin van der Linde.

The race was neutralised before the first lap was even completed, following an incident involving the SMP Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG of Vladimir Atoev, which became beached in the gravel trap at Druids.

Racing resumed on lap four, with Vanthoor at the head of the pack, with Schothorst in second position, and Alex Riberas completing the top three in a second WRT Audi, a car co-driven with Christopher Mies.

The leading Audis were fairly evenly matched in the opening part of the race, maintaining relative status quo until the mid-race pit window.

Following the pit-stops, Stevens retained the lead of the race but he was caught by van der Linde at a decent pace to create a tense battle for the lead. South African van der Linde was all over the Englishman's rear for a number of laps, but was unable to find an opening.

With 29 laps completed, Mies joined the lead queue as the front pair held each other up, and it wasn't long before Raffaele Marciello joined the battle too in his Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG, which was driven by Michael Meadows in the opening stages. As the race entered its final ten minutes, the leading four were separated by just over a second!

At this point, the race entered a tense phase as the top-four circulated in close proximity, but unable to find opportunities to pass each other. This allowed another WRT Audi, that of Stuart Leonard and Frederic Vervisch, with the latter behind the wheel, to enter the fray too in fifth position.

Mies was the catalyst for change as he made a move on van der Linde for second place at the start of the final lap, with Marciello and Vervisch pouncing upon the opportunity to follow him through. This action gave Stevens the breathing space to cruise home in first place, with Mies second and Marciello third.

The unfortunate van der Linde eventually crossed the line in eighth after suffering damage when Marciello muscled past him.

Result

1, Vanthoor/Stevens, Belgian Audi Club WRT, Audi R8, 40 laps
2, Riberas/Mies, Belgian Audi Club WRT, Audi R8, +1.195s
3, Meadows/Marciello, AKKA ASP Team, Mercedes-AMG, +1.751s
4, Leonard/Vervisch, Belgian Audi Club WRT, Audi R8, +2.502s
5, Jamin/Serralles, AKKA ASP Team, Mercedes-AMG, +19.861s
6, Schothorst/Kaffer, Attempto Racing, Audi R8, +19.879s
7, Gachet/Haase, Sainteloc Racing, Audi R8, +22.632s
8, Schothorst/van der Linde, Attempto Racing, Audi R8, +23.568s
9, Siedler/Ortelli, Emil Frey Racing, Lexus RC F, +29.482s
10, Engelhart/Bortolotti, GRT Grasser Racing Team, Lamborghini Huracan, +33.561s