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Thrilling finish to Blancpain Sprint opener ahead of Brands round

Tuesday, April 22 2014

HTP Motorsport drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz won the opening sprint race in the Blancpain GT Series after a thrilling finish at the French Nogaro circuit, and the championship heads to Brands Hatch next month (17/18 May).

The winners' Mercedes AMG SLS crossed the line just two seconds ahead of the G-Drive Racing Audi, driven by local favourites Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert. A dramatic start saw the BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil car take the lead, but reigning Blancpain Endurance Series champion Buhk asserted his authority on the race with a superb move on lap four, building up a nine second gap by the time Guilvert was able to claim second place. A quick pitstop and a storming effort from Ortelli left the result in doubt right up to the flag during a tense second half of the race.

Belgian Laurens Vanthoor and Brazilian Cesar Ramos dominated the earlier qualifying race after an entertaining tussle in the opening laps. Polesitter Jeroen Bleekemolen, driving the Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, was caught out in the damp conditions, as were several other drivers, including BMW's Paralympic Gold Medallist Alex Zanardi, competing in his first motorsport event for several years.

However the Italian was able to continue and started the main race in 14th place. He ran in the top ten for much of the distance until an issue with his specially-adapted clutch dropped him to 13th.

"I am taking a very philosophical view, because racing is racing and something like this can happen," admitted Zanardi. "In my heart I know we had a strong finish to the weekend, and in the race our BMW Z4 GT3 was probably better than many other cars, so this gives me hope for the next races. Unfortunately we had this problem, which has nothing to do with BMW, but it was the clutch which we installed for me. It compromised my race even in the first half. After the pit stop, I managed to somehow start without the clutch, but then the car became very difficult to drive and basically I was driving the whole third sector in fourth gear to avoid problems. At the hairpin I tried to shift down but nothing was happening, then all of a sudden the gears were there. But this is racing. Now I am looking forward to the next round."

The Blancpain GT Series heads to Brands Hatch next, on 17/18 May, and the event will feature two sprint races, in addition to action from the BRDC Formula 4 Championship, GT Cup and the Radical European Masters.

Tickets for the Blancpain GT Series at Brands Hatch on 17/18 May are available from £21 with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.