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Blancpain GT Sports Club - Final round - Barcelona

1st - 2nd October 2016

Event report & photos Raymond Bonnello

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Qualify race

Cedric Leimer won on his Blancpain GT Sports Club debut at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya earlier today thanks to a controlled performance in the Qualifying Race.

Meanwhile, Martin Lanting took advantage of Iron Cup rival Stephen Earle’s puncture to move a step closer to defending his class title.

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Pole-sitter Nicolas Vandierendonck headed the 26-car field into Turn 1 at the start of the 25-minute encounter but had dropped to fourth by the end of lap three after losing out to Leimer, who started alongside the Corvette, and Michal Broniszewski in the space of five corners.

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That set up the tantalising prospect of this year’s Overall champion chasing down the series newcomer, but the battle never materialised.

Instead, Leimer’s X Bionic Lamborghini Huracan slowly edged clear of the chasing Kessel-run Ferrari before eventually taking the chequered flag 4.4s ahead.

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Mario Cordoni claimed the final step on the podium after passing Vandierendonck early in proceedings before holding off the Selleslagh Racing driver’s renewed efforts in the closing stages. 

The pair finished just six tenths apart, with Eric Cayrolle – who is also making his Blancpain GT Sports Club debut this weekend – another four seconds further back aboard his CMR-run Ferrari.

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Maurice Ricci (AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3) and Patrick Van Glabeke (AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3) both enjoyed trouble-free runs to sixth and seventh, respectively, while Christoph Ulrich won a race-long seven-car battle for eighth in his AF Corse 458 GT3.

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Iron Cup championship contender Stephen Earle had been heading that battle for much of the race but saw his chances literally deflate when a rear puncture pitched his Ferrari sideways and into a spin exiting Turn 2 with just six minutes left on the clock.

That allowed reigning class champion Martin Lanting to claim a fifth victory of the year and extend his points advantage to 16 after Earle recovered to finish fourth in class. But, with just 25 points still up for grabs in this afternoon’s final Main Race of the season, the Monegasque can afford to play it safe.

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Main race

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Cedric Leimer made it two Blancpain GT Sports Club victories in as many outings at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this Sunday afternoon thanks to another dominant performance in the championship’s final Main Race of the year. Meanwhile, Martin Lanting retained the Iron Cup title for drivers aged 60 and over by a single point from Stephen Earle, who won his second Main Race of the season.

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Leimer lined up on pole position alongside Michal Broniszewski after winning the day’s opening race, but it was fast-starting Nicolas Vandierendonck who shot from fourth to first at Turn 1 with a brave move down the inside.

The Corvette’s lead was short-lived, though, as a result of Leimer’s X Bionic Lamborghini Huracan cutting back underneath before Broniszewski also re-claimed second three corners later.

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However, the race was neutralised just one lap after it had started as a result of Jean-Michel Baert’s accident.

Having run wide exiting the final corner, his Audi skipped across the gravel trap and speared back across the circuit head-first into the pitwall.

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Just 23 of the race’s scheduled 40 minutes remained when the Safety Car was finally withdrawn. Leimer’s accomplished re-start immediately helped him break the tow to Broniszewski and, as was the case earlier in the day, he steadily pulled clear thereafter to eventually complete his perfect debut 6.2 seconds ahead of the Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 GT3.

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Vandierendonck came home third, albeit almost four seconds adrift of Broniszewski.

But there was plenty of action further back thanks to debutant Eric Cayrolle who hustled his Ferrari back ahead of Maurice Ricci’s fast-starting AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG just after racing resumed.

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Ricci also dropped back behind Cordoni at one point but took the chequered flag fifth after re-passing the Italian with just one minute remaining.

Jaime Font Casas finished less than three tenths further back after an inspired drive from 21st on the grid, while the top-eight was completed by Christoph Ulrich.

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With just five Iron Cup-entered drivers taking the start, points leader Martin Lanting knew that merely finishing would be enough to give him the title regardless of what his sole rival Stephen Earle could muster after the American’s Qualifying Race puncture resulted in him losing further ground in the championship.

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Earle was in fine form though and had soon passed Lanting for the class lead once racing resumed.

After that he was reliant on the Monegasque failing to finish, which almost came to pass when his Ferrari spun as a result of contact with Daniel Vogt’s Mercedes.

Both time and positions were lost while recovering but fifth in class was still enough to give him the Iron Cup title by just one point.

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(Based on Blancpain GT Series press release)

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