Last weekend saw the Blancpain GT Series, Super GT, European GT4 Championship and British GT seasons kick-off again. While in Super GT an old familiar team took the win, in Blancpain GT it was first-time winner BMW Team Brasil who was victorious.
Blancpain GT – Nogaro (Sprint)
Running over the Easter weekend, Brazilian BMW team AH Competições took the win in the Blancpain GT season opener. With BMW works drivers Maxime Martin and Dirk Müller substituting for regulars Valdeno Brito and Átila Abreu–both had prior commitments in Stock Car Brasil–BMW Team Brasil took a long awaited win. Absent was reigning champion Laurens Vanthoor, after WRT Audi team mate and GT débutante Robin Frijns crashed the car on Sunday during practice.
Barely missing out on first place in the qualifying race on Sunday afternoon, it was Martin who took the lead away from qualifying race winner Stéphane Richelmi–sharing the WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 with Stéphane Ortelli–in the first lap of the main race on Monday. A small hiccup during the pit stop meant that Dirk Müller had to catch up to the now leading WRT Audi of Enzo Ide, who took the lead thanks to fast laps set by Christopher Mies in his in-lap. Müller managed to overtake the Audi and although Ortelli fought his way back onto the rear bumper of the BMW Z4 GT3, the Monégasque was never able to launch an assault, leaving Müller to bring home the very first victory of the Brazilian team.
Top 5 Qualifying Race:
1 #3 WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 (S. Ortelli/S. Richelmi)
2 #77 BMW Team Brasil BMW Z4 GT3 (M. Martin/D. Müller)
3 #2 WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 (C. Mies/E. Ide)
4 #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 Italia (M. Seefried/N. Siedler)
5 #70 GT Russian Team Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 (B. Schneider/A. Karachev)
Top 5 Main Race:
1 #77 BMW Team Brasil BMW Z4 GT3 (M. Martin/D. Müller)
2 #3 WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 (S. Ortelli/S. Richelmi)
3 #2 WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 (C. Mies/E. Ide)
4 #84 Bentley Team HTP Bentley Continental GT3 (V. Abril/M. Buhk)
5 #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 Italia (M. Seefried/N. Siedler)
Super GT – Okayama GT
It was a wet day at Okayama International Circuit. TOM’S Lexus RC F racer Ryō Hirakawa took the lead with only 11 laps to go, profiting from fast laps set by Andrea Caldarelli earlier in the race. As the rain picked up in the final stage of the 82 lap race, the TOM’S squad denied the Team Kunimitsu duo of Takuya Izawa and Naoki Yamamoto a first win with the brand-new Honda NSX-GT. The NSX Concept-GT’s, powered by a 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an additional electric engine, were one of the stars when the track was drying, even charging to the front and taking the lead. In the end, it turned out, the NSX couldn’t quite yet handle the severe wet conditions in the closing minutes, as several NSX teams dropped down the order.
GT300 class was won by the dominant Toyota Prius driven by Koki Saga and Yuichi Nakayama, easily holding off the competition. The Apr team took the lead early on as the pole sitting Gainer Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 gambled on an increase in rain, only to find the track drying up more and more. Saga and Nakayama were never challenged for the lead and took the win by a comfortable margin of 42 seconds over the ARTA Honda CR-Z.
Top 5 classification:
1 #37 TOM’S Lexus RC F (A. Caldarelli/R. Hirakawa)
2 #100 Team Kunimitsu Honda NSX Concept-GT (N. Yamamoto/T. Izawa)
3 #38 Cerumo Lexus RC F (Y. Tachikawa/H. Ishiura)
4 #8 Autobacs Racing Team Aguri Honda NSX Concept-GT (K. Matsuura/T. Nojiri)
5 #39 SARD Lexus RC F (K. Hirate/H. Kovalainen)
European GT4 – Nogaro
Four Dutch race winners at Nogaro at the first round of the European GT4 Championship. Race 1 was won by Luc Braams and Duncan Huisman in the V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4, while the second V8 Racing Camaro of Jelle Beelen and Marcel Nooren took victory in the second race. In the Am class there were victories for Liesette Braams and André Grammatico.
The Sin R1 GT4, driven by Hendrik Still, started from pole in the first race and kept the lead at the start, ahead of Jörg Viebahn in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and Nooren. Following the pit stops, Nooren’s teammate Beelen took the lead, while Huisman and Viebahn also passed Still. Only a few minutes before the end of the 50 minute race, Still crashed into Viebahn. The Sin R4 spun, eventually finishing as sixth, while the Aston Martin took the final step on the podium. In the penultimate lap, Huisman overtook Braams for the win.
Nooren and Beelen took the win in the second race on Monday, in front of Sunday’s race winners and V8 Racing sister car of Huisman and Braams. The third spot on the podium was secured by Grammatico, who became the best Am driver as well with that result. Biggest incident in the race was a collision between Still and Ricardo van den Ende. The race of Still was over immediately, reigning champion Van den Ende crashed later on in the lap when his brakes failed.
Top 5 Race 1
1 #96 V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4 (L. Braams/D.Huisman)
2 #69 V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4 (J. Beelen/M. Nooren)
3 #10 Mathol Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 GT4 (J. Viebahn)
4 #8 Ekris Motorsport BMW M3 GT4 (H. Severs/S.Knap)
5 #18 PROsport Performance Porsche 981 GT4 (A. Klasen/T.Krebs)
Top 5 Race 2
1 #69 V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4 (J. Beelen/M. Nooren)
2 #96 V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4 (L. Braams/D. Huisman)
3 #9 BMW Espace Bienvenue BMW M3 GT4 (A. Grammatico)
4 #18 PROsport Performance Porsche 981 GT4 (A. Klasen/T.Krebs)
5 #16 ZaWotec Lotus Evora GT4 (D. Uckermann)
British GT – Oulton Park
The first two races of the British GT season at Oulton Park were won by Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher in the #6 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (race 1) and Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in the #7 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (race 2). Class victories in GT4 were claimed by Graham Johnson and Mike Robinson in race 1 and Oz Yusuf and Gavan Kershaw in race 2.
Race one saw the #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Adam Carroll and Gary Eastwood crossing the finish line in first, but the duo was dropped to second after the race. Carroll had blocked Butcher in the Oman Racing Team machine after their mandatory pit stop. Race control deemed the move illegal and punished the Northern Irishman. It handed victory to Butcher and team mate Griffin. Third spot on the podium was taken by Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne in the #888 Triple Eight Racing BMW Z4 GT3, fighting their way up from eleventh position.
The second race of the weekend saw a dominant win for the Beechdean AMR Vantage GT3 of Howard and Adam, despite getting a stop-go penalty because the stationary time in pit lane wasn’t long enough. The #32 Team LNT Ginetta GT3 took second place in the hands of Steve Tandy and Mike Simpson, while reigning champion Marco Attard took the third in the #1 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3, co-piloted by Alexander Sims.
Top 5 Race 1
1 #6 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (L. Griffin/R. Butcher)
2 #18 FF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (A. Carroll/G. Eastwood)
3 #888 Triple Eight Racing BMW Z4 GT3 (L. Mowle/J. Osborne)
4 #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (M. Jackson/P. Dryburgh)
5 #21 Hector Lester/Rosso Verde Ferrari 458 Italia (H. Lester/B. Simonsen)
Top 5 Race 1
1 #7 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (A. Howard/J. Adam)
2 #32 Team LNT Ginetta GT3 (S. Tandy/M. Simpson)
3 #1 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 (M. Attard/A. Sims)
4 #6 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 (L. Griffin/R. Butcher)
5 #888 Triple Eight Racing BMW Z4 GT3 (L. Mowle/J. Osborne)