Scenes from Blancpain Endurance race at Silverstone
The nr40 Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4 of Bas Leinders, Markus Palttala and Maxime Martin was the strongest car in the 3-hour race at Silverstone, with Martin taking the checkered flag to claim the second win of the season. The victory gave Markus Palttala enough point to claim the Vice Champions position behind Greg Franchi as 5th place for the nr33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 was enough to confirm the Belgian driver as the 2011 Blancpain Endurance Series Pro Cup Champion.
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The nr40 BMW finished 28 seconds ahead of the nr32 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8, with Stephane Ortelli claiming the second step on the podium for himself, Bert Longin and Filipe Albuquerque with a last lap move at Abbey on the nr29 Vita4One Ferrari 458 of Giacomo Petrobelli.
The Pro-AM Cup was claimed by Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels when Michael Bartels took the checkered flag in 8th overall and win the Pro-Am class, finishing ahead of the nr90 Team Preci Spark Mercedes of David and Godfrey Jones and the nr24 Blancpain Reiter Lamborghini of Marc A Hayek and Peter Kox. The win also confirmed Vita4One as the GT3 Pro-Am Cup Team Champions.
The GT3 Gentlemen Trophy win went to the nr22 Sport Garage Ferrari 430 Scuderia of Lionel Comole, Chris Dymond and Robert Hissom, with second place for George Cabannes confirming the Frenchman as GT3 Gentlemen Trophy Champion in the Ruffier Racing Lamborghini, also confirming the Team trophy for the French team. Third in the Gentlemen Trophy Class went to the GT3 Cup Champion Sergio Negroni, who was racing the De Lorenzi Racing Porsche with Luigi Emiliani and Marco Cassera.
The GT4 Cup victory went to the Lotus Sport Italia Lotus of Greg Mansell, Edoardo Piscopo and Leo Mansell, but second place for the RJN Motorsport Nissan 370Z of Chris Ward, Jordan Tresson and Alex Buncombe gave the drivers and the teams enough points to be confirmed as the 2011 GT4 Cup Champions.
A slightly delayed race start due to the over running of the earlier support races saw the nr41 Alpina B6 of Niki Meyr-Melnhof take advantage of his pole position to lead into the first corner as the lights went to green to start the final race of the 2011 season. The nr50 AF Corse Ferrari of Marco Cioci made a good start to exit Copse in 2nd place before dropping back behind the nr40 BMW of Bas Leinders and the nr60 McLaren of Phil Quaife before the end of the opening lap.
The top 3 cars moved ahead of the rest of the field with the Alpina opening up a four second lead by the tenth lap. Frank Kechele in the nr1 Vita4One Ferrari started to move up and was 4th as the clock counted off the first 30-minutes of the race.
In GT4 the RJN Motorsport Nissan headed to the pits with a loss of engine power, but the mechanics found the problem and returned Alex Buncombe to the track four laps behind the GT4 leaders but still in the race. The nr100 BMW's lead was short lived as the car stopped on track at T1 with smoke coming from the engine bay.
On lap 19 Kechele caught and passed the nr60 McLaren of Phil Quaife and then caught the second placed BMW. However Leinders responded to the challenge and opened up a small gap to the Ferrari as he started to catch the leading ALpina. As the pitstops Leinders got a run on Meyr-Melholf and swept into the lead. The Alpina then headed to the pits. The pitstop took longer than anticipated and Dylan Derdaele returned to the track in 4th place. However it was even worse in the Vita4One pits as the nr1 failed to restart for Matteo Bobbi and the Italian was left stranded in the pits as the mechanics rushed to find the problem.
Leinders pitted from the lead to hand over to Markus Palttala and the Finn returned to track with a 10 second lead over new challenger Carlos Iaconelli in the nr29 Vita4One Ferrari. The Brazilian started to close the gap to the leading BMW but Palttala soon responded and opened the gap again before the Ferrari could get within striking distance.
In the Pro-Am class Peter Kox had taken over the driving duties from Marc Hayek in the nr24 Blancpain-Reiter Lamborghini and was slicing through the field. He was soon on terms with the class leader Godfrey Jones in the Team Preci Spark Mercedes and took the class lead on lap 49.
The nr22 Sport Garage Ferrari 430 was leading the Gentlemen Trophy Class thanks to a great drive from Chris Dymond from the back of the grid and Robert Hissom continued to move the car up the top 20 standings as the second pitstops approached.
The two Team WRT Audis were starting to move up the field with the nr32 car of Filipe Albuquerque moving up to 3rd after challenging and passing the nr9 AutOrlando Porsche of Paolo Ruberti. The nr33 Audi of Andrea Piccini had also made progress up the top 10 and as the second hour came to an end the Italian was in 5th.
The great start for the nr60 McLaren came to a grinding halt on lap 47 when Klaas Hummel spun at Luffield and got stuck in the gravel trap, bringing out the waved yellows and the snatch vehicle for several laps.
The nr41 Alpina was down in 10th place after Derdaele pitted early to hand the car over to Dino Lunardi, who immediately set the fastest lap of the race as he pushed on to get on terms with the leaders. Markus Palttala also pitted to hand over to Maxime Martin, who regained the track in the lead of the race after the pitstops had shaken out.
It was now a straight run to the checkered flag over the final 60-minutes and Lunardi was making great strides as he picked off the cars ahead of him. Then disaster struck on lap 62 when a puncture to the front left tire left the French driver limping back to the pits fro new rubber.
Peter Kox pitted from 2nd place to hand over to Marc Hayek for the remainder of the race while Michael Bartels had taken over the driving duties in the nr2 Vita4One Ferrari. The 2010 FIA GT1 World Champion soon caught and passed the Mercedes of David Jones and then reeled in Hayek's Lamborghini to take the lead in the Pro-Am Class on lap 74 after the Swiss driver held off Bartels challenge for the previous two laps.
Maxime Martin held a comfortable 30 seconds over the nr29 Vita4One Ferrari of Giacomo Petrobelli while Stephane Ortelli was closing the 15-second gap to the second placed car in the nr32 Belgian Audi Club Audi by 1-second a lap.
On lap 77 the Gentlemen Trophy leader Lionel Comole brought the nr22 Sport Garage Ferrari in fro a quick splash and dash and was able to regain the track still ahead of the nr31 Ruffier Racing Lamborghini of Gilles Vannelet. In GT4 the nr70 Lotus Sport Italia Evora of Greg Mansell held a comfortable three lap lead over Chris Ward in the nr63 RJN Nissan but Ward knew he only had to finish the race to secure the GT4 Driver and Team titles.
Just as it looked like it was going to be a cruise to the finish line mother nature decided to spice things up as a rain shower hit Silverstone with 12-minutes of the race remaining. Stephane Ortelli nearly got caught out by the conditions as he pushed the Audi hard in an attempt to get on terms with the second placed Ferrari before the end of the race. The Le Mans 24-Hour winner collected the car and closed the gap with just two laps of the race remaining. Ortelli made his move on the last lap to wrest the second place finish from Petrobelli at Luffield.
The checkered flag came out at the end of the 85th lap and Maxime Martin crossed the line to take the second win in a row for the Marc VDS team and secure the Vice Champions position for Markus Palttala in the Drivers Championship and also in the Team Championship.
The AutOrlando Sport Porsche was 4th, ahead of Christopher Mies in the nr33 Team WRT Audi, which secured the Pro Cup title for co-driver Greg Franchi.
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