Bentley Boys resist Series leaders in exciting Qualifying Race

#84 Bentley Team HTP Continental took the win in the Qualifying Race of the Algarve round of the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series

Vincent Abril and Maxi Buhk in the #84 Bentley Team HTP Continental took the win in the Qualifying Race of the Algarve round of the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series. Series leaders Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Frijns briefly led the race after the pitstops, but Buhk muscled his way back into first position.

Even though Frijns kept Buhk more than honest in the end, the German held on to the lead.The #6 Phoenix Racing Audi of Winkelhock and Mayr-Melnhof took their first podium finish of the season, with the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari and the #88 Reiter Engineering completing the top-5.

In Pro-Am a late drive-through penalty for the #70 Mercedes gave the win to the other GT Russian car, the #71 SLS of Marko Asmer and Alexey Vasilyev. Bentley took the win in the Silver Cup as well, with Dutch duo Max Van Splunteren and Jules Szymkowiak crossing the line in eighth overall.

I am not really happy with my personal performances this weekend.

Jules Szymkowiak

Just before the start of the Qualifying Race some raindrops fell on the Autodromo Internacional Algarve, but not enough to warrant rain tyres. At the start, Vincent Abril in the #84 Bentley Team HTP Continental managed to grab the lead from polesitter Christopher Mies, but the German in the #2 Audi Sport Team WRT car retook first position at the exit of turn one. Mies' move was deemed in breach of the rules however, for overtaking while not respecting the track limits, and the Audi driver had to serve a drive-through.

This gave Abril a comfortable lead of over two seconds, with the Audi's of Laurens Vanthoor and Marcus Winkelhock in second and third respectively. Both Audi drivers continued a couple of laps longer in their first stint, which proved to be advantageous for the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT R8. Robin Frijns managed to come out of pitlane in front of the Bentley, now driven by Maxi Buhk, but one lap later the former Blancpain Endurance Series champion used a textbook blocking pass to retake the lead.

Although series leader Frijns did his utmost best to keep up with the Bentley in the remainder of the race, the Dutchman lost too much ground in the final corner to try and overtake Buhk. Frijns remained under the rear wing of the Bentley though, and almost pulled it off after an inspired move in the final lap. However, he could not slow the Audi down in time, and ran wide a couple of corners from the end, which meant that Buhk crossed the line in first.

Both cars had managed to create an impressive lead over the rest of the field. After the pitstop the #6 Phoenix Racing Audi of Niki Mayr-Melnhof had lost contact with the leading pair, but enjoyed a healthy advantage over two cars that started the race down the order: the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari and the #88 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini, which had started from the pitlane after an engine change.

The duel between the GT Russian Mercedes in Pro-Am looked set to end in favour of Christophe Bouchut and Alexey Karachev, but a drive-through (converted to a 30 sec penalty) in the closing stages of the race gave the advantage to their team-mates Marko Asmer and Alexey Vasilyev.

Silver Cup contenders Jules Szymkowiak and Max Van Splunteren focused on moving up the order overall as well, and eventually claimed the eighth place on the starting grid of tomorrow's Main Race.

Quotes

Maxi Buhk (#84 Bentley Team HTP Continental): "I expected the move from Robin Frijns. I felt he was a bit quicker and I guess he was waiting for the last lap to try something. I knew I had to defend everywhere I could to hang on to my position."

Robin Frijns (#1 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi): "I was not waiting for the last lap to try and overtake the Bentley, I was just waiting for a gap that would fit my Audi. There was an opportunity, but unfortunately there was a small contact and I punctured the left front. It was good fun, though."

Niki Mayr-Melnhof (#6 Phoenix Racing Audi): "It feels very good to be on the podium again, it's been a while. It's a shame that we lost some time in the pitstop - we had some trouble to get the car going again - but the speed of the car opens up opportunities for tomorrow's race."

Marko Asmer (#71 GT Russian Team Mercedes, 1st Pro-Am Cup): "It's unfortunate what happened to our team-mates, but the same thing happened to us in Moscow. The rules are the same for everyone, and if they are policed correctly, I have no problem with that. Now we should try and improve our set-up for tomorrow, so we can try and get a top-10 finish overall."

Jules Szymkowiak (#83 Bentley Team HTP Continental, 1st Silver Cup): "I am not really happy with my personal performances this weekend. Vincent and Maxi show that this car has a lot of potential. I am still adapting to the circuit and there is still some room for improvement. Maybe in tomorrow's race."

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Event Portimao
Sub-event Saturday qualifying race
Track Algarve Motor Park
Drivers Marko Asmer , Robin Frijns , Niki Mayr-Melnhof , Maximilian Buhk , Jules Szymkowiak
Teams Team HTP , Phoenix Racing
Article type Qualifying report