After a solid performance in the season finale at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and the GRT Grasser Racing Team were crowned the new 2017 Blancpain GT Series champions. Together with Andrea Caldarelli they also took the Endurance Cup for drivers, while Bentley Team M-Sport claimed the Endurance Cup teams’ title. The race win in Barcelona went to the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG of Felix Serralles, Tristan Vautier and Dani Juncadella, narrowly beating the #17 Team WRT Audi.
Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart started the final race of the season with a healthy lead in the overall driver rankings, but in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup they were trailing Bentley trio Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet and Vincent Abril. In order to have a clean sweep of titles the Lamborghini duo, again sharing the #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini with Andrea Caldarelli, needed to make up eight points.
A less than perfect qualifying for the Bentley trio set them on the back foot, even though Vincent Abril managed to gain a dozen positions in the opening stint. Andy Soucek edged the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental into the top-10 but an intense three-way fight with a BMW and a Jaguar would cause heartbreak for the Spaniard. Halfway through the race the gearbox of the Bentley was damaged and Soucek had to park the car. The Bentley’s retirement meant that Bortolotti and Engelhart were certain of the overall drivers’ title, and by finishing third in the final round of the season the drivers of the #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini put the cherry on the cake by claiming the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup for drivers. Bentley Team M-Sport found some consolation in winning the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup for teams.
Far in front of the title contenders two cars were at it hammer and tongs in the fight for the race win. Dani Juncadella had taken the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG up to first position by the end of the opening stint, Puerto Rican driver Felix Serralles consolidated that position, and just like in last year’s sprint race in Barcelona Tristan Vautier brought the car home. That may sound easy, but it certainly wasn’t. In the #17 Team WRT Audi Stuart Leonard, Jake Dennis and Robin Frijns were chasing the red Mercedes-AMG all the way, Frijns even coming alongside in the final chicane of the final lap. However, the Dutchman slid wide, and had to settle for second.
In the Pro-Am Cup the crew of the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini took a third win of the season. With Hunter Abbott standing in for the injured Adrian Amstutz, Martin Kodric and Patrick Kujala drove another perfect race, just like in Silverstone and Le Castellet. They eventually finished in 16th overall, some 25 seconds clear of the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari of Rinat Salikhov, Daniel Keilwitz and Alexander Mattschull. Even before the start the latter was sure of becoming Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am Cup winner, and by claiming second in Barcelona Rinaldi Racing takes the teams’ title as well. After the #15 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG slid into the gravel trap some four minutes from the end of the race, the final Pro-Am Cup podium position went to the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG.
In the Am Cup the Barcelona race was all about the duel for the endurance title. The crew of the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari only had to finish to take both the driver and team crowns, but when the car ended up in the gravel trap, that suddenly looked very difficult. However, Jacques Duyver managed to free the car, and Marco Zanuttini and David Perel brought it home. For the Italian driver it was the second endurance Am Cup win, with Perel adding the title to the 2017 overall Am Cup win. Rino Mastronardi and Pierre Ehret, the only drivers who, before the start could keep the Kessel Racing trio from the endurance Am Cup title, found consolation in taking the Am Cup win in the final round of the season, at the wheel of their #488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari.
Before enjoying a well-deserved winter break, all champions will be honoured during an exceptional SRO Prize Giving Ceremony, taking place within the context of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the company, on November 24th in Paris.
Mirko Bortolotti (2017 Blancpain GT Series champion): “In one way or another you are always thoughtful at the beginning of a race and today was the one of two titles. When I went in the car, the Bentley retired and we already won the overall title but I there was still the Endurance title. I wanted us to race the best as we could and I think that it happened.”
Christian Engelhart (2017 Blancpain GT Series champion): “The beginning of the race did not happen as planned. I lost a lot of positions during the first lap, because of the lack of grip and this is something that we should be working on for the next race. But now, I just want to focus on the fact that we achieved everything that we wanted to and I am really thankful for this.”
Andrea Caldarelli (2017 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup winner): “A bit before I entered the car, I thought about the points of the championship and I knew that I had a small chance to overtake and to attack at that moment. When the team told I was P3 and that the two first positions were quite far, I just tried to keep my position.”
Alexander Mattschull (Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am Cup winner): “It was important to me to win the team title as well, as it is a great achievement. On the other hand, it is a pity that Daniel is not next to me as he had an injury and was not able to compete one race this season, but we had some great times over the season.”
David Perel (Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Am Cup winner): “I am not sure about what is going to happen next year, but I think that staying a Bronze driver will complicated for me. Competing in Pro-Am will change completely the game, but I am not worried about that now. My team did a fantastic job and I had the chance to have good team-mates in both Sprint and Endurance Cups. I just have a smile on my face when looking back at this achievement.”
Felix Serralles (Race winner overall): “This year was my first season in GT3 racing. Sometimes we were close to the podium this year, but then some mistakes were made in the pitstops, as I am not used to driver changes. What was different today from the other races is that everything went smoothly. It is a special weekend for me, especially with what happened back home. I am sure that ever happy to see a Puerto Rican Flag on the podium.”
Patrick Kujala (Race winner Pro-Am Cup): “This win is completely dedicated to Adrian Amstutz, after what happened in Spa. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I shouted on the radio: “Adrian, this is for you!”.
Rino Mastronardi (Race winner Am Cup): “Everything went perfect, from the set up of the car to the pit stop. It was always going to be difficult to win the championship’s title, even if we still had some hopes. But we are still here to celebrate.”