Blancpain Sprint Series Algarve – main race
It was a sunny day in Algarve in Portugal for the main race of Blancpain Sprint Series event. On Saturday, the day 2 of the event we had three qualifying sessions in which Christopher Mies in an Audi earned himself the pole position for Sunday’s main race. However, on Saturday afternoon a qualifying race was held which was a hour long pre-main event which won by Bentley in hands of Vincent Abril and Maxi Buhk in front of championship leading Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Frijns in an Audi. But Vanthoor and Frijns duo had their revenge on this morning’s warm up session when they were fastest.
The qualifying race was interesting with a battle between Bentley and Audi. There were chances of rain but all drivers had dry tires for the start and when the green flag was shown, everybody charged ahead. Number #Audi managed to get on the first place with Bentley just behind and two more Audis of third and fourth place. After 2 laps, Nissan GT-R GT3 with Craig Dolby started slowing down with mechanical problems. After that, race officials called #2 Audi for a drive trough penalty for not obeying the track limits. The penalty came early in the race but Bentley of Vincent Abril pushed hard to gain ground and eventually won the qualifying race on Saturday after some fantastic attacks by Audi with Robin Frijns behind the wheel.
Sunday 14:05 CET was time for the main race of Blancpain Sprint Algarve event and everybody was waiting for a good battle between Bentley and Audi. Sunday was much hotter than Saturday which caused less speed from the engines. The prediction was that Audi, with a naturally aspirated V10 engine, will have less power in the heat compared to the turbo competition. The rolling start of the race was clean but Maxi Buhk on pole didn’t start good. However, with lots of torque from Bentley’s engine he managed to get to the first place in Turn 1. Audi was on second and Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 on third. There weren’t any start incidents but the other Bentley had a suspension failure and finished the race just after the first lap. After 15 minutes of racing, top standings were unchanged and Buhk was four seconds in front of the Audi and Audi was four seconds in front of the Ferrari on third place. By the look of the first part of it, this was the race which could have been won or lost in pit stops.
Just before the pit stop window opened, safety car went on track but not because of an accident of any sort, but because of track issues. The part of the draining system in one of the curves collapsed, making a big hole on the edge of the track, so safety car went to make some time for the officials to sort the problem. Safety car has given drivers a chance to get behind their opponents and caused problems for teams in pit stop planning. After a few minutes, safety car was off the track and everybody charged forward. However, it was time for pit stops and lots of cars came in for driver and tire change. The leading Bentley waited and gained time while Audi went in the pits with other drivers from the second place. Just before pit window ran out of time, Buhk went into the pits and Abril was in the Continental GT3. Unfortunately, slow pit stop and stalling of the engine cost him valuable time and Bentley was on the track on the fourth place and Audi of Laurens Vanthoor was in the lead. That same standings stood until the end and Laurens Vanthoor in Audi won Algarve sprint event with no problems and safe driving. Click HERE for full results.