World of Sport: Blanc­pain En­durance; WTCR; F2; GP3; World Ral­ly­cross; NASCAR Cup



The bat­tle for the Blanc­pain GT Se­ries En­durance Cup turned into a straight fight be­tween the Black Fal­con Mercedes trio of Maro En­gel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Bu­ur­man and Auto Sport Pro­mo­tion Mercedes star Raf­faele Mar­ciello at Barcelona last Sun­day. In more ways than one.

First off, En­gel, Stolz and Bu­ur­man pulled level in the cham­pi­onship with Mar­ciello af­ter claim­ing the point for pole po­si­tion. And then in the fi­nal hour a quick­fire se­ries of safety cars turned the event into a Merc-ver­sus-merc sprint to the flag with race vic­tory and ti­tle hon­ours at stake.

Bu­ur­man proved more than equal to the chal­lenge of Tris­tan Vau­tier, who lined up with Mar­ciello and Daniel Jun­cadella at

ASP, through three restarts in the last hour. The last came with just five and a half min­utes left on the clock, but Bu­ur­man got his head down and pulled out a lead of just un­der two sec­onds.

It couldn’t have been much closer, and the in­trigue only con­tin­ued af­ter the race. The Black Fal­con Merc was ex­cluded from the re­sults for a tech­ni­cal in­fringe­ment in an­other case of gaffer tape be­ing used to seal part of the in­duc­tion sys­tem. The team ap­pealed, so the orig­i­nal re­sults re­main pro­vi­sional. Mar­ciello, for the mo­ment at least, has the En­durance Cup ti­tle in his pos­ses­sion along with the over­all BGTS crown he sealed on Sun­day and the Sprint Cup he wrapped up ear­lier in Septem­ber.

The race didn’t look as though it was go­ing to be close early on. Pole ended up giv­ing En­gel a huge ad­van­tage af­ter Nicki Thiim jumped to sec­ond at the start in his R-mo­tor­sport As­ton Martin V12 Van­tage. The As­ton was fast over one lap last week­end, but the na­ture of the Cir­cuit de Catalunya took its toll on its brakes and tyres, mak­ing it a less con­vinc­ing propo­si­tion over a stint. But its straight­line speed also made it dif­fi­cult to pass.

That ex­plained why En­gel had a lead of 20 sec­onds when the first round of pit­stops be­gan as Thiim backed up the rest of the field. Mar­ciello had moved up from sixth on the grid to third be­hind the As­ton, but what hap­pened next proved de­ci­sive in the out­come of events in Cat­alo­nia.

Jun­cadella just failed to get out of the pits in front of the As­ton now driven by Jake Dennis. The DTM driver had a fresh set of Pirelli tyres but, tucked up be­hind the R-mo­tor­sport car, he couldn’t ex­ploit the ad­van­tage they of­fered. Of course, he wasn’t go­ing to chase down the still-grow­ing deficit to the Black Fal­con car now driven by Stolz, but that was ar­ti­fi­cially closed just af­ter half­way with the first safety car of the race. The sec­ond, just af­ter the ASP Merc had got ahead of the As­ton in the fi­nal stops, erad­i­cated it en­tirely.

The prob­lem for ASP was that its ri­val now had the ad­van­tage of new tyres. Bu­ur­man cer­tainly had the edge at each of the restarts, though Vau­tier reck­oned that wasn’t all. “They ap­peared to have a more ag­gres­sive set-up that gave them an ad­van­tage for those first few laps af­ter the green,” ex­plained the French­man. “But it was prob­a­bly more equal af­ter that, so I don’t think that fi­nal safety car ac­tu­ally helped us.”

The As­ton, which Matthieu Vax­iviere took over for the fi­nal stint, was run­ning fourth when a heavy con­tact with Dries Vanthoor’s WRT Audi R8 LMS re­sulted in front-sus­pen­sion dam­age for the Bri­tish car and a driv­ethrough for the Ger­man one.

The in­ci­dent pro­moted the SMP Rac­ing Fer­rari 488 GT3 shared by Da­vide Rigon, Mikhail Aleshin and Miguel Molina to fourth. That be­came third – and then sec­ond af­ter scru­ti­neer­ing – when it got past the Emil Frey Rac­ing Jaguar of Adrian Zaugg, Alex Fon­tana and Mikael Gre­nier.

The Xk-based Jag ended up a pro­vi­sional third and the Sil­ver Cup vic­tor on the day and in the cham­pi­onship. It came from nowhere to score its best ever BGTS re­sult in what was its fi­nal race cour­tesy of a late fi­nal pit­stop that co­in­cided with a yel­low-flag pe­riod.

En­gel leads from Thiim, and Black Fal­con Merc took the flag first…

ASP Mercedes driver Mar­ciello has ti­tle ‘taped’ – for now

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