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Schneider and Szymkowiak claim Blancpain GT Qualifying race win

Sunday, May 08 2016

Jules Szymkowiak and Bernd Schneider took a strong victory in the Blancpain GT Series Qualifying Race at Brands Hatch today (Sunday), their HTP Mercedes-AMG GT3 resoundingly beating the Audi R8s of polesitters Marlon Stockinger and Franck Perera.

Szymkowiak's Mercedes-AMG got off to a flyer at the start and established a fine lead over Franck Perera, who was driving a wide Audi R8 on the opening lap to keep the other 35 cars at bay. As the race settled into an early rhythm, Christopher Mies maintained a close watch on the second-placed car in the first minutes, and the two Audis lapped a few seconds ahead of Jazeman Jaafar's Mercedes-AMG. Behind him, Alvaro Parente's McLaren headed a huge queue of cars looking to pass the Malaysian.

With bigger points on offer in the second of today's races, the teams played a conservative strategy in the opening half-hour, and there was a great deal of anticipation as the clock ticked down to the mid-distance pitstop window. Parente was the first driver to stop, handing over to Rob Bell in an attempt to get the jump on the fourth-placed HTP Mercedes. Philipp Eng handed the Rowe BMW over to Alexander Sims, but the Briton slowed to cruising pace within moments of his stop.

The leader waited until the latter part of the pit window to make his stop, handing over to Bernd Schneider as Mies assumed the head of the field until making his visit to the pitlane at the end of the lap. With all teams having completed their mandatory stops, Schneider held the lead from Marlon Stockinger in the polesitting car, and Enzo Ide holding third in the top-placed WRT Audi.

With Jaafar's team-mate Clemens Schmid holding fourth place, the big winner from the pitstop sequence was the number one WRT R8, with Frederic Vervisch fifth and in the points, ahead of Nicolas Pohler's GRT Lamborghini. However Pohler struggled to pass traffic at Druids, allowing the younger Vanthoor through into sixth place behind his brother.

With ten minutes left to run, Schneider had extended his lead to over ten seconds, because Stockinger had his mirrors full of Ide's R8 and Schmid's Mercedes-AMG. Another close battle could be found for seventh place, where Pohler was trying to hold off Dominik Baumann's Mercedes-AMG, which had rather robustly passed Bell's McLaren heading into Graham Hill bend. This led to a drive-through penalty for Baumann.

Schneider kept up the pace until the chequered flag, his eventual margin of victory a dominant 21 seconds, and Perera managed to keep both Ide and Schmid at bay for second place and a front-row slot for the main race, which will take place at 4:20pm.

Jules said: "I wasn't expecting a start like that, as we started to accelerate quite early at the last corner. I went for it and it worked out."

Bernd explained why he pushed so hard at the end: "[It was]Practice for the main race to see how fast I could go! I didn't know how big the gap was. The start [for the main race] is important, so many things can happen. Jules made a really good start, it's hard to be leading in the first corner without risking so much. We're looking forward to this afternoon."

Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Qualifying Race
1, Jules Szymkowiak/Bernd Schneider, HTP Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3, 42 Laps
2, Marlon Stockinger/Franck Perera, ISR, Audi R8 LMS, +21.002s
3, Enzo Ide/Christopher Mies, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, Audi R8 LMS, +22.775s
4, Clemens Schmid/Jazeman Jaafar, HTP Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3, +23.052s
5, Frederic Vervisch/Laurens Vanthoor, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, Audi R8 LMS, +26.678s
6, Dries Vanthoor/Robin Frijns, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, Audi R8 LMS, +32.944s
7, Mirko Bortolotti/Nicolas Pohler, GRT Grasser Racing Team, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, +37.765s
8, Rob Bell/AlvaroParente, Garage 59, McLaren 650 S, +39.338s
9, Tristan Vautier/Felix Rosenqvist, AKKA ASP, Mercedes-AMG GT3, +39.713s
10, Maxime Soulet/Andy Soucek, Bentley Team M-Sport, Bentley Continental, +40.636s

Raceday tickets for the Blancpain GT Series are available on the gate for £26, with free entry for under-13s. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.