Blancpain GT Series, Round 5, Sprint Cup, Zolder – Qualifying Race:
Ben Barnicoat and team-mate Alvaro Parente stormed back from a disappointing qualifying result to score a 10th place finish in the opening Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup encounter at Zolder in Belgium, while Jake Dennis’s hopes of a points finish were scuppered by mechanical gremlins.
Racing Steps Foundation-backed Barnicoat and Strakka Racing partner Parente were forced to start the weekend’s first of two one-hour races from 18th position after traffic during the previous day’s qualifying session prevented Parente from setting a lap time that would enable them to challenge for the top 17 starting spots.
But Parente made an excellent getaway to jump up eight spots before a safety car was called as the #43 Strakka McLaren of Côme Ledogar was pressed towards the pit wall, touching the #63 Lamborghini Huracan of Mirko Bortolotti. The contact speared both into the pit wall.
On the restart, Parente managed to pass the second Strakka McLaren of Lewis Williamson for ninth before pitting at the start of the pit window to hand over to Barnicoat.
There were however contrasting emotions for the Team WRT pairing of Jake Dennis and Pieter Schothorst as an early mechanical issue destroyed their hopes of a points finish.
Starting in seventh position, Schothorst took the opening stint but after only 15 minutes of the contest, he was forced to pit the #3 Audi R8 LMS machine with a loose wheel nut.
With new tyres fitted, Schothorst immediately set the fastest lap in an attempt to make up positions before pitting to switch with Dennis.
Barnicoat re-joined the field in 11th position with Dennis in 29th spot. Both managed to make progress with the #58 McLaren benefiting from a penalty handed out to a car within the top 10, and Dennis picking off cars affected by contact and penalties to grab 24th position by the chequered flag.
“Alvaro made a great start to make up positions at the start just before the safety car,” Barnicoat said. “We didn’t have the best pit stop but I felt good in the car before the tyres began to fade and the balance of the car was quite tricky. I was also having to manage brake temperatures.
“Considering our difficult qualifying, to come home 10th is a positive result. I will start tomorrow’s second race and look to have a clean getaway and score some points.”
Dennis lamented the team’s misfortune but looked forward to making up positions in tomorrow’s second race: “Unfortunately the left rear wheel came loose due to a problem with a loose wheel nut. By that time we were out of contention, and for my stint I managed to fight back to 24th.
“But the damage was already done which was a shame as I was the fastest WRT Audi. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day.”
The fellow Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Stuart Leonard and Robin Frijns scored their maiden Blancpain GT Series victory, ahead of the Akka ASP-run Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Michael Meadows and Raffaele Marciello. The second Team WRT Audi of Will Stevens and Markus Winkelhock took the final podium spot.
|Zolder (4.011km / 2.492 miles): Qualifying Race Result (Top 10)|
|Pos||Driver||Team||Car||Time / Gap|
|1||Leonard / Frijns||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||1h 00m 40.964s|
|2||Meadows / Marciello||Akka ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+0.798s|
|3||Winkelhock / Stevens||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+1.375s|
|4||Schmid / Salaquarda||ISR||Audi R8 LMS||+1.746s|
|5||Serralles / Juncadella||Akka ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+2.749s|
|6||Ide / Mies||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+6.996s|
|7||Perez Companc / Siedler||GRT||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||+7.501s|
|8||Baumann / Eriksson||HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+8.474s|
|9||Venturini / Mapelli||Attempto Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||+14.354s|
|10||Barnicoat / Parente||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||+20.007s|
|24||Schothorst / Dennis||Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+1m 05.075s|
Free practice 1: Barnicoat/Parente 29th, 1m 32.813s, +2.749s; Schothorst/Dennis 1st, 1m 30.064s. Free practice 2: Barnicoat/Parente 10th, 1m 30.740s, +0.368s; Schothorst/Dennis 1st, 1m 30.372s. Qualifying (qualifying race grid): Barnicoat/Parente P18, 1m 30.095s, +1.070s; Schothorst/Dennis P7, 1m 29.420s, +0.395s. Qualifying Race: Barnicoat/Parente 10th from P18; Schothorst/Dennis 24th from P7.
Photo: Gary Parravani. Copyright-free Racing Steps Foundation images are available from the RSF Image Bank at www.jakobebrey.com/rsf