Grasser Racing Team duo Jeroen Bleekemolen and Hari Proczyk took the win in the Qualifying Race for the Portuguese round of the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series. The Dutch-Austrian duo led from start to finish. Due to a different pitstop strategy the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Buhk and Götz managed to climb to second place halfway through the race. Third went to the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of René Rast and Enzo Ide, while their team-mates Mateusz Lisowski and Vincent Abril took the win in the Silver Cup. First in the Pro-Am Trophy was Phoenix Racing pairing Marc Basseng and Alessandro Latif.
The Qualifying Race for the Portuguese round of the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series had an eventful start. In the opening lap Stephane Ortelli in the #9 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi suffered a puncture when hitting one of the higher kerbstones, Stefano Colombo hit ROAL Motorsport team-mate Alex Zanardi and there was contact between Giorgio Pantano and Alessandro Latif as well. Not surprising then that Race Control decided to have a safety car intervention, to remove the stranded #34 ROAL Motorsport BMW.
Once the race got going again, Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #28 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini began to defend the lead he had taken at the start when he passed polesitter Tomas Enge in the run towards the first corner. The #3 G-Drive Racing Lamborghini slotted in behind Bleekemolen, putting pressure on the Dutch driver for a couple of laps. That probably had a negative effect on the tyres, because towards the end of his stint, Enge had a hard time keeping his machine under control. A big slide coming out of the final corner cost him the necessary speed for the long straight and Audi drivers René Rast and Laurens Vanthoor managed to pass the orange Lamborghini.
With the top six coming into the pitlane at the same time, the speed of the teams’ mechanics when changing the wheels was to have an important effect on the result of the race. Hari Proczyk managed to leave the pitlane in first position, but he was immediately put under pressure from Maximilian Götz in the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes. His team had decided to call in Maxi Buhk a couple of laps earlier, in an effort to gain positions by running in clean air for a while. The plan almost worked to perfection, but Proczyk managed to hold off Götz in a hectic first lap after his pitstop. Afterwards, Götz never managed to really challenge for the lead again, despite never being more than one second behind the Lamborghini.
Behind the leading duo, Enzo Ide had come out of the pitlane in third position. The Belgian had no trouble in keeping his Audi team-mate Cesar Ramos behind him. In the end Ide evenmanaged to create a six-second gap over the Brazilian.
Meanwhile, another Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi was fighting for the win in the Silver Cup. After an early pitstop, during which Vincent Abril had taken over the wheel of the #4 Audi from Mateusz Lisowski, the Frenchman had managed to take the Silver Cup lead from the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Stolz and Wolf. Despite being involved in a fight for 7th overall with the #76 BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert BMW, Abril managed to hold the SLS behind right until the chequered flag.
After the incident in the opening lap, a win in the Pro-Am Trophy looked far from likely for the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi of Latif and Basseng. An impressive come-back race by the German gave the duo another win however, and Basseng even managed to end up in 11th overall.
Jeroen Bleekemolen (#28 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini): ‘I had a good start and the plan was to run away from the others. Initially, that worked perfectly. But towards the end of my stint, the tyres went off and René Rast managed to close the gap. Our pitstop was almost perfect though and Hari did an excellent job as well. But it’s the Main Race that brings the important points of the weekend, so we will have to perform well tomorrow as well.’
Maximilian Götz (#84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes): ‘I came alongside Hari when he came out of the pitlane, but since he was on fresher tyres, he managed to hold on to first place. Afterwards, it proved to be very difficult to have another go at the lead, because we struggled for pace in the final sector of the lap. That made it impossible to have a go at the end of the main straight, which is the best overtaking opportunity on this track.’
Enzo Ide (#2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi): ‘We lack some straight line speed on this track, but that’s part of racing. I find it quite alright as it is now. I rather like this track. I took my first victory here in the FIA GT3 European Championship by going from fifth to first at the start. And now we are third on the grid for tomorrow’s race.’
Marc Basseng (#5 Phoenix Racing Audi, 1st Pro-Am Trophy)): ‘For a moment I thought our race was over, but the car only suffered a damaged rim in the incident during the opening lap. We were a bit lucky with the safety car intervention afterwards, because that made up for the time we lost. Our second pitstop was perfect as well, so we could take the lead in Pro-Am Trophy. I am a bit disappointed that we only finished in 11th overall though, because we have the speed to end up well within the top ten.’
Vincent Abril (#4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi): ‘It was not easy when I was right behind Thomas Jäger in the BMW fighting for 7th overall, because my main rival for the Silver Cup was right behind me. I managed to overtake the BMW though and that gave me some breathing space.’