Alon Day and Maximilian Buhk took a maiden FIA GT Series victory today in an exciting race at Circuit Park Zandvoort in Holland. The HTP Gravity Charouz drivers led home championship leaders Stéphane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor’s Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra after taking the lead at the start of the race, winning by just over six seconds. The victory was an important moment for Israeli motorsport, as Day's victory is the first for an Israeli driver in International racing scene. In the Pro-Am Cup there was a similarly dominant victory for Hari Proczyk and Dominik Baumann's GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini LP560-4, ahead of Nissan GT Academy Team RJN's Alex Buncombe and Lucas Ordonez. The Gentlemen Trophy honours again went to the HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS of Petr Charouz and Jan Stovicek, who continued their excellent winning streak in the class for less experienced drivers.
Despite a good getaway, Ortelli found himself under attack from reigning FIA GT3 Champion Buhk in the run down to infamous first corner, Tarzan, with the Mercedes driver completing a move on the reigning Blancpain Endurance Series champion before the braking zone. From here Buhk quickly pulled out a lead of over two seconds, before his lead was rendered inconsequential by a big impact under braking for Cesar Campanico in the Novadriver Audi R8 LMS ultra, which caused a red flag and a temporary suspension of the race.
A fascinating race saw lots of battles occur throughout the field, and in the first half of the race along with Loeb's McLaren it was Lucas Ordonez in the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 and Proczyk in the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini that were making up the most places. At the front Buhk stretched his lead
After the mandatory driver changes were completed, Day exited the pits just ahead of the ever-present threat of the #11 Audi, now with Vanthoor at the helm. Try as the Belgian might, he was unable to close the gap to the Mercedes driver, and Day held on for an impressive victory for Israeli driver, Day and his co-driver Buhk. At the end of the race Vanthoor had to defend hard from team-mate, Frank Stippler, the German's WRT Audi visibly had more grip and was able to close to within three tenths of a second of the #11 Audi at the flag. The third WRT Audi of Mayr-Melnhof and Rene Rast failed to make the finish, after the mandatory pit stop, Rast exited the pits and appeared to have lost all drive, a spokesperson for the team later advised it was a rare transmission related fault on the Audi.
Taking an impressive fourth overall was Karun Chandhok and Jan Seyffarth in the SMS Seyffarth Motorsport Mercedes AMG SLS GT3. Chandhok quickly made up two places at the race start and a dogged performance by the Indian driver saw him defend sixth place for almost ten laps. A solid pit stop by the German team ensured Chandhok's team-mate, Seyffarth didn't lose time in the pits and the German attacked those ahead, making up six places en-route to the finish and holding off a steely attack from Alvaro Parente's Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren.
It was a race to forget for the customer McLaren squad. Despite starting from the last row, the nine times World Rally Champion picked off the Pro-Am Cup entrants ahead of him, with Loeb receiving contact on more than one occasion as he made his way through the field. Team-mate Alvaro Parente continued Loeb's charge through the field, but in the final minutes of the race was robbed of a top-ten finish by a mechanical issue. Fellow Sebastien Loeb Racing driver, Andreas Zuber was squeezed at the first corner and the contact he received saw the Austrian slip down the field, after the mandatory pit stop, team-mate Mike Parisy struggled with an ill-handling car and failed to take the flag. Similarly, Phoenix Racing left Holland empty-handed after a gearbox issue hit the Audi R8 LMS ultra of Anthony Kumpen after the restart, preventing compatriot Enzo Ide from even completing a lap.
Procyzk was masterful in the Lamborghini and left it late to complete his driver changeover, pitting from the overall lead of the race in the process. Team-mate Baumann was presented with the lead of the Pro-Am Cup and a car seemingly well suited to the fast and medium speed corners that comprise the thirteen-turn Zandvoort circuit. Baumann didn't sit back, he attacked, never looking back and held a comfortable lead over nearest rival, Buncombe, for the remainder of the race. Interestingly, both the Pro Cup and Pro-Am victories today were taken by members of the 2013 FIA GT3 European Championship, Buhl and Baumann.
Buncombe battled hard from the outset of his stint, keeping a pacey Allam Khodair at bay for an impressive sixteen laps, until on lap 31, the Brazilian made a gutsy move around the outside of the Nissan driver at the Esses, trading paint as he did so. Buncombe was smart, knowing Khodair was quicker and not a threat to his Pro-Cup points, the Brit gave his rival room to complete the manoeuvre on the exit of the technical sequence of turns that lead into the Arie Luyendijk corner.
Local driver, Melroy Heemskerk finished third in the Pro-Am Cup, 3.6 seconds behind Buncombe, giving the vast Dutch crowd plenty to cheer. Heemskerk's BMW Sports Trophy Team India entered BMW Z4 GT3 was a revelation after the restart in the hands of talented Indian driver Armaan Ebrahim. The pair finished ninth overall, providing the both Ebrahim and the team with vital points after the retirement at the last round in Zolder, Belgium.
Behind Ebrahim and Heemskerk was the ACL by Rodrive Lamborghini of Patrick Cunha and Matheus Dall' Agnol Stumpf. The ACL by Rodrive team changed machinery before the weekend and despite their relative lack of setup information and track time with the LP560-4, the Portuguese team produced a strong performance to finish fourth in class, tenth overall. Fifth in class was the second Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R of Mark Shulzhitskiy and Wolfgang Reip, the Russian progressing steadily through the field, and Reip, the Belgian GT Academy winner picking up eleventh place three laps before the end, following the demise of the #9 Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren.
For the second FIA GT Series weekend in succession the Gentlemen Trophy class honours went to Petr Charouz and Jan Stovicek who took home maximum points in their HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT did have a reason to celebrate today, despite missing out on the race victory. The #13 Audi crew took the Pit Stop challenge honours once more, the mechanics gladly taking home a cheque for 2000Euros after they took just 1:22.55s for their combined pit stops in both the Qualifying and Main races; the result means the #13 WRT crew leave Holland 25 points ahead of the sister #11 entry in the Pit Stop challenge.
Attention now turns to round four of the 2013 FIA GT Series which takes place at the highly demanding Slovakia Ring, located 40km east of Bratislava, Slovakia on the weekend of the 17-18 August.
Alon Day, Pro Cup N°1 HTP Gravity Charouz - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 “Max did the hardest job. At the start of my stint, Laurens (Vanthoor) started to catch up a bit and it was kind of a hard time for me, but then I realized that the gap was going bigger and bigger with him so I had time to settle down, look after my tyres…It was a pretty good race.”
Maximilian Buhk, Pro Cup N°1 HTP Gravity Charouz - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 “After a long period waiting in the car during the red flag, I just tried to stay focused and tried to have a good restart in order to take a gap. After that, I just tried to find my rhythm, drive my race, and pushed as much as I could. The car was great today, I think we can really be proud of it this weekend because it was our first pole position and it is good for the championship.”
Stéphane Ortelli, Pro-Cup #11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS “It was all about the start and the restart. When we restarted I saw how quick Max (Buhk) was…there was no way I could catch him! I did no mistake, I tried to follow him as much as I could but I did not manage to catch him. I really had a good time today; I like driving on this track, especially with the Audi because it is a challenging car. We just were a bit too slow to follow the Mercedes car.”
Franck Stippler, Pro-Cup #13 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS “I think we did a good job all together with the Main race this weekend, and the guys did a tremendous work during the pit stop again. I think we deserve the podium. It was a good WRT weekend and at least we scored some points.”
Hari Proczyk, Pro-Am N°25 GRT Grasser Racing Team – Lamborghini LP 560-4 “The start was really busy, the pace was good, and the fights were good. I know that each fight was not in our class but it does not matter. Our pit stop today was much more better than the last and Dominik did a great job.”
Lucas Ordonez, Pro-Am N°35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN – Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 “We had a good stint, even if we struggled a bit with the rear of the car. I had Chandhok on the Mercedes in front of me; I tried to overtake him as he was slowing down a bit. Then we had the pit stop and we really saw that we are improving race after race. The guys of the team did a great job.”
Melroy Heemskerk, Pro-Am N°6 BMW Sports Trophy Team India – BMW E89 Z4 “It was a really good race for us. Armaan went first and pushed like hell, so he did a great job. When he came in, we lost some time on the driver change because of the belt, so when I went out I just pushed like hell with the new tyres. I am very happy to be on the podium on my home ground today.”
Armaan Ebrahim, Pro-Am N°6 BMW Sports Trophy Team India – BMW E89 Z4 “We had a good weekend, we improved gradually through Friday and Saturday. Today we had a very good first stint, and the car was really good too. Unfortunately, we had this problem during the pit stop but Melroy did a fantastic job, going faster and faster through the laps...”
Jan Stovicek, #3 HTP Gravity Charouz - Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 “This was a good race for us. We pushed hard and we came away with another finish, which means we can go to Slovakia, at a circuit we know well, in a strong position to continue our challenge to win Gentlemen Trophy title. I'd like to dedicate this victory to a friend of mine who lost his life last weekend racing, Andrea Mame. This is win is for him.”
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