Leonard and Vervisch lead Audi 1-2-3 at Brands Hatch
WRT’s Stuart Leonard and Frederic Vervisch converted pole into Blancpain GT Series Cup victory at Brands Hatch in their Audi R8 LMS, the fourth different winner in as many races.
Despite him missing the first two races at Zolder, there was no rust for Vervisch to shake-off as he survived an attempted undercut during the pit window from WRT teammates Alex Riberas and Christoper Mies.
Leonard rejoined the track narrowly in front of Mies but looked vulnerable to the #2 Audi driver, who had three laps to settle into his stint.
He managed to survive a challenge into Druids to hold onto first by an eventual 0.5 seconds, with Attempto Racing duo Kelvin van der Linde and Steijn Schothorst third for an Audi 1-2-3.
As the race kicked off, Vervisch had made a flying start and led into Paddock Hill Bend, his getaway flattered by the sluggish progress of AKKA–ASP’s Rafaele Marciello who was caught napping by the Audi R8 LMS of Mies.
The WRT driver relegated the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for second into Turn 1 before Marciello then slid wide onto the gravel which allowed Kelvin van der Linde an easy ride into third.
But Marciello was given respite when the safety car was deployed for a first-lap crash that forced both Team Parker Bentley Continental GT3s into retirement. When Jack Manchester used his Mercedes to spin British GT driver Callum Macleod, teammate Aron Taylor Smith was left with nowhere to go.
An awful weekend for Alexey Korneev – a crash in practice, last in qualifying and a spin in race one – was completed as his Mercedes was collected also.
When Vervisch made a strong restart as the safety car pulled into the pits, the lead WRT car looked comfortable for victory.
In an effort to challenge for first, Mies dived for the pits as soon as the window opened and handed over to Riberas, with van der Linde following suit. But a momentary delay as Riberas struggled to restart his R8’s engine maintained the order as they emerged.
By contrast, Marciello ran deep into his stint as he attempted to undo the first-lap damage. But he carried far too much speed into the pits and glanced the barrier.
He was able to continue and allow Michael Meadows to take over, rejoining back in a distant and eventual fourth.
Mirko Bortolotti, who won the race last season, brought the Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 shared with Christian Engelhart home fifth ahead of AKKA-ASP duo Felix Seralles and Nicolas Jamin.
Ex-Formula 1 driver Will Stevens, who sealed a win for WRT in the earlier race courtesy of stout defending after taking over from teammate Dries Vanthoor, retired with rear-wheel issues at the driver change.
Van der Linde, Schothorst triumph in Zolder season opener
Mies, Riberas take Misano Blancpain win for Audi