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Bortolotti and Engelhart claim opening Blancpain GT honours

Sunday, May 07 2017

Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart converted pole position into a win in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Qualifying Race at Brands Hatch today (Sunday), making the GRT Lamborghini paring favourites for today's Main Race.

At the start, Mirko Bortolotti made the perfect getaway to lead into Paddock Hill from the fast-starting BMW of Jesse Krohn, but Christopher Haase's Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 spun at the first corner. Thankfully everyone avoided the car, which rejoined further down the field.

In the opening laps Christopher Mies picked up a puncture and last year's main race winner toured into the pits for new rubber. This promoted Norbert Siedler's Lamborghini to third place, heading Marco Mapelli's Huracan, Daniel Juncadella's Mercedes and Philipp Eng's BMW.

The polesitter worked hard in the early laps to build a lead over the chasing BMW, and by one-quarter distance he had a 4.6-second buffer over his main rival. The main battle was over fourth place, with Mapelli fending off the chasing cars of Juncadella and Eng.

First to pit was Eng in the Rowe BMW, with Antonio Felix da Costa jumping into the driving seat. Also in was Franck Perera's HTP Mercedes, where Maxi Buhk was hoping to move up from the lower reaches of the top ten.

The leader stopped at mid-distance, with Engelhart taking over, and Juncadella swapped for Felix Serralles in the Akka ASP Mercedes. This left Krohn in the lead and just a couple of laps to try and claw back the deficit to the Lamborghini, as Seidler made way in the other GRT Huracan for Ezequiel Perez Companc, and Mapelli handed the Attempto Huracan to Giovanni Venturini.

Krohn then pitted and Markus Palttala brought the BMW back to the race behind the GRT Lamborghini, and with a similar deficit to before. Third was other GRT Huracan of Perez Companc, with Serralles, Buhk and da Costa in fourth, fifth and sixth places once the post-pitstop order had been settled.

With a quarter of the race remaining, Christophe Bourret's Mercedes was knocked into a spin approaching Paddock Hill by Andy Soucek's Bentley, and Marcel Fässler's WRT Audi was forced into the gravel to avoid the stricken car. This brought out the safety car, closing up the field for the finish.

The race resumed with just over ten minutes remaining, with Serralles putting Perez Companc under a lot of pressure for the final podium position. Further back, however, Ben Barnicoat's Strakka McLaren took sixth place from Stuart Leonard's Audi R8 with a finely-executed move out of Paddock Hill. This set the final top ten order, with Bortolotti and Engelhart converting pole position into a win in the opening race.

After the race, Bortolotti said: "The track position is really important, so I managed to turn pole into a lead from the start and that was important. It was a very good stint for me, I managed to open up a gap from the pitstop. I'm really happy."

Engelhart added "When the safety car comes out at the end of the race you're worried. I had zero traffic, so at the restart I thought I need to build up the gap. After two laps I had some space, so I'm happy with that. The main race is where the big points are awarded and we've been working hard to have a good car." 

The main race will take place at 4.15pm.

Blancpain GT Series Qualifying Race
1, Mirko Bortolotti/Christian Engelhart, GRT, Lamborghini Huracan, 40 Laps
2, Jesse Krohn/Markus Palttala, Rowe, BMW M6, +3.752s
3, Norbert Siedler/Ezequiel Perez Companc, GRT, Lamborghini Huracan, +4.744s
4, Daniel Juncadella/Felix Serralles, Akka ASP, Mercedes-AMG GT, +5.113s
5, Philipp Eng/ Antonio Felix da Costa, Rowe, BMW M6, +5.859s
6, Alvaro Parente/Ben Barnicoat, Strakka, McLaren 650S, +6.865s
7, Robin Frijns/Stuart Leonard, Team WRT, Audi R8, +9.221s
8, Raffaele Marciello/Michael Meadows, Akka ASP, Mercedes-AMG GT, +9.465s
9, Marco Mapelli/Giovanni Venturini, Attempt, Lamborghini Huracan, +10.669s
10, Frank Stippler/Kevin Ceccon, ISR, Audi R8, +11.189s

Raceday tickets for the Blancpain GT Series at Brands Hatch are available on the gate for £28, with free entry for under-13s. For more information, please call 0843 453 9000 or click   here.