The #25 Audi R8 LMS was a class above the rest in Sunday’s contest by starting from pole position and never looking under serious threat to take that lead from them.
Both drivers played an important role in the win with Haase excelling during the first stint and Gachet completing the job in style during the second half-hour. Having captured pole for the second run, Haase delivered one of the most impressive performances of the season to build a gap of some 12 seconds by the time the pit window opened. The German driver was relentless at the wheel of his #25 R8 LMS, edging further away from the similar machine of Dries Vanthoor (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) with each passing lap.
Vanthoor, one of the fastest drivers in the series, could not keep pace with Haase. leaving the young Belgian to defend from the championship-leading #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG driven by Maro Engel, which remained in his mirrors throughout the opening half-hour.
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Haase’s stellar stint put Gachet in a strong position once the driver change had been made, but the Frenchman still had work to do. In particular, he faced the prospect of Mirko Bortolotti chasing him down in the #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini which had vaulted to second place during the pit stops. The Lamborghini had run fifth during the opening stint with Christian Engelhart at the wheel and the German stayed close to the pack before letting the Grasser mechanics do their work. A 41-second stop was enough to promote the car to second spot, beating the equally accomplished pit crews of WRT and Black Falcon.
However, any chance of taking the win soon ebbed away as Gachet maintained an excellent pace throughout the second stint, matching Bortolotti all the way and maintaining a gap of around 10 seconds for the full 30 minutes. It meant Gachet was able to cross the line 9.9 seconds clear of the Grasser Lamborghini to seal his maiden Blancpain GT Series win and with it a first overall triumph for the French-based Sainteloc squad since it took victory at the 2017 Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Bortolotti took a comfortable second place, though the result will remain provisional as the #63 Lamborghini raced under protest. The car was disqualified from yesterday’s second qualifying session after its data logger was found to not be working, a decision that the team has challenged. The #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry completed the podium after Ezequiel Perez Companc fought off Luca Stolz in the #4 Mercedes-AMG throughout the second stint. This represented a perfect comeback result for the Argentine driver, who missed the previous round at Misano following his crash in the early stages of the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms.
The Black Falcon car continued to show metronomic consistency by taking its sixth successive top-four finish in Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe. The result edges the #4 crew further away at the head of the championship ahead of a seven-week break for the sprint-format series. Charles Weerts completed the top-five in the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine he shares with Christopher Mies, while yesterday’s winning #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG was sixth after fending off the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini during the second stint.
A new title contender has emerged in the Silver Cup class, where the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin of Hugo de Sadeleer and Aaro Vainio completed a Zandvoort double by winning for the second race in succession. The class was led for the first stint by the impressive Mattia Drudi (#56 Attempto Racing Audi), who was able to keep pace with the overall leaders. The Aston Martin then came to the fore during the second stint, with Vainio taking the lead from Milan Dontje in the #56 Audi and building a comfortable gap. While the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG continues to lead the class championship, the R-Motorsport squad signalled its intent with two wins in the Netherlands.
Pro-Am honours went to the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari as Rinat Salikhov and David Perel bagged a second class win of the campaign to renew their title charge. The #333 crew suffered disappointment in Saturday’s race when the car shed a wheel costing them a potential victory, but there was to be no repeat on Sunday. Jim Pla led the opening stint in his #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG and, like Silver Cup ace Drudi, impressed by running with the overall leaders.
But the Rinaldi car remained in contention thanks to Perel, and Salikhov delivering an impeccable stint to finish 15th overall, well clear of the #52 AF Corse Ferrari. The lone Am Cup machine – the #444 HB Racing Ferrari – came home 23rd overall in the hands of Florian Scholze and Wolfgang Triller.
The Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season has now passed its halfway mark, with two doubleheader rounds left to run at Nürburgring (30 August to 1 September) and Hungaroring (6 to 8 September). While the #4 Black Falcon duo of Engel and Stolz lead the way, several crews remain in contention for the series title heading into those two deciding events.
Attention now moves away from sprint racing as the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa takes centre stage from 25 to 28 July. The season’s marquee event will feature the majority of the teams and drivers that competed at Zandvoort. And by securing victory in the Netherlands, Sainteloc Racing will take some valuable added momentum in to the event as it seeks its second Spa win in three years.
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