‘HTP Merc held off WRT Audi to take vic­tory’

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - BY JAMES NEWBOLD

Stel­lar pit­work and im­pres­sive fuel con­ser­va­tion from the num­ber 1 WRT Audi crew of Lau­rens Vanthoor, Frederic Vervisch and Dries Vanthoor was not enough to deny the HTP Mer­cedes of Max­i­m­il­ian Buhk, Do­minik Bau­mann and Jaze­man Jaa­far a first vic­tory of the year in the Blanc­pain En­durance Cup at Sil­ver­stone.

Run­ning a low key sev­enth in the open­ing stint af­ter qual­i­fy­ing out­side the top 10 for the first time this sea­son, the Audi truly came into con­tention af­ter some clas­sic WRT strate­gis­ing.

New-for-2016 pit reg­u­la­tions in­tro­duced to im­prove safety and nul­lify spending on fast-flow­ing fuel rigs spec­ify that all cars must com­plete their stops within two time brack­ets – less than 70 sec­onds or over 90 sec­onds – leav­ing teams with the choice of short-fuelling and sav­ing 20 sec­onds against their ri­vals, or fill­ing their tanks to the brim and run­ning flat to the fin­ish. WRT rolled the dice and it paid spec­tac­u­lar div­i­dends, with Dries Vanthoor re­turn­ing to the track in sec­ond af­ter spending just 69.3s in the pits.

That put the teenager into bat­tle with the pole sit­ting Grasser Lamborghini, which Rolf Ine­ichen had taken over from Mirko Bor­tolotti, ben­e­fit­ing from a 20kg weight break af­ter a tough week­end at Brands Hatch.

Af­ter a few laps siz­ing him up, Vanthoor made the move stick into the Loop, but didn’t hold the lead for long. Jaa­far had quickly fol­lowed the Audi past Ine­ichen and took ad­van­tage of Vanthoor’s hes­i­ta­tion in traf­fic with a ro­bust move on the exit of Club.

Af­ter­wards, Vanthoor fo­cused on sav­ing fuel be­fore hand­ing over to his older brother for a fi­nal-stint show­down with Buhk that promised much, but ul­ti­mately de­liv­ered lit­tle. The pair traded fastest times for a while, but the Audi proved sim­ply un­able to live with the pace of the Mer­cedes over a long run. A safety car pe­riod to re­cover Nyls Stieve­nart’s stranded Fer­rari af­forded Vanthoor some hope, but hav­ing lost out to the Garage 59 Mclaren by just 0.3s at Monza, Buhk wasn’t go­ing to set­tle for sec­ond again and made sure Vanthoor never got close enough to at­tempt a move.

“I think we were good in the first cou­ple of laps on new tyres, but we’ve seen this sea­son that over a long run they are re­ally con­sis­tent and can carry on with their pace where we drop a bit, so that’s some­thing that we need to work on,” Lau­rens Vanthoor said. “But if you had asked us yes­ter­day to be P2 we would have signed im­me­di­ately, now we’re back on the right track.”

For Malaysia’s Jaa­far, it was a first win since mak­ing the per­ma­nent switch to GTS and a mem­o­rable one at that, which sees the HTP team take over the lead in the En­durance point stand­ings.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing to win in only my fifth GT race,” he said. “I’m still learn­ing this form of rac­ing be­cause ev­ery­thing is judged by traf­fic and how you plan things ahead. I saw an op­por­tu­nity as soon as Dries was stuck be­hind the Lambo and I went for it. It was a very risky move and there was slight con­tact, but we man­aged to pull a gap from there.”

Jeroen Bleeke­molen took over the Lamborghini in the fi­nal stint to score a first podium of the year ahead of the bat­tle for fourth be­tween Philipp Eng’s ROWE BMW and the sec­ond HTP Mer­cedes of Indy Don­tje, who were sep­a­rated by 0.12 sec­onds at the line.

A Mer­cedes also took the hon­ours in Pro-am, as Maro En­gel passed the ISR Audi that had led the class from the start and Jonny Adam’s Mo­tor­base As­ton Martin in the fi­nal two laps.

HTP Mer­cedes squad beat the WRT Audi

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