Rob Bell, Come Ledogar & Shane van Gisbergen claimed the 2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup element of the Blancpain GT Series despite not scoring a single point during the final Endurance Cup round at the Nurburgring.
The trio claimed the title by just one point over rivals Maximillian Buhk, Dominick Baumann and Jazeman Jafaar in their #84 HTP Mercedes AMG.
Despite van Gisbergen not being present at the Nurburgring this weekend due to a clashing V8 Supercars race, he was still able to claim the championship alongside his co-drivers in the #58 McLaren 650S run by Garage 59, due to the trio remaining on the same points total.
Garage 59 also claimed the Blancpain Endurance Teams Cup with a one-point margin over HTP Motorsport.
The race itself was won by the #16 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan of Christian Englehart, Rolf Ineichen and Mirko Bortolotti, with Englehart driving a fantastic final stint to hold of a charging Laurens Vanthoor in the #1 WRT Audi R8 LMS. The podium was rounded out by the #23 RJN Nissan GT-R of Alex Buncombe, Mitsonouri Takaboshi and Lucas Ordonez. The defending champions best finish of a disappointing year.
“I’m very happy with my stint, I couldn’t have done any more” said winner Bortolotti. “From then on my teammates and the Grasser crew did everything right. We had a great strategy and Christian did a fantastic job defending from Laurens to the end.”
It was the other GRT Lamborghini the #19 of Luca Stolz, Andrea Piccini and Michele Beretta which was on pole and held the lead during the early laps with Bortolotti in the sister Lamborghini slotting into second during the start chaos.
The best start was made by Fredric Vervish in the #1 WRT Audi which he shares with the Vanthoor brothers, charging up to third from a fourteenth place start which he then made second by passing Stolz in the #19 Lamborghini on lap 14.
At the first stops first and second places remained the same, Rolf Ineichen in the #16 leading Dries Vanthoor in the #1. There was a change of third place as Mitsonori Takaboshi in the #23 Nissan emerged ahead of Michele Beretta in the #19.
The other main title protagonists Maxi Buhk, Dominick Baumann and Jazeman Jafaar in the #84 HTP Mercedes AMG had made its way up to fifth, which Jafaar turned into fourth during his stint. With the #58 McLaren outside of the points, compounded by a drive through penalty, the #84 HTP crew only had to finish fourth to have enough points to take the crown.
A late safety car bunched the field back together and presented Maxi Buhk driving the #84 Mercedes for the final stint with an opportunity to take the third they needed, but Alex Buncombe in the #23 Nissan was able to put a couple of backmarkers between himself and Buhk holding onto third and consequently denying the #84 HTP crew the title.
At the front Christian Englehart at the wheel of the #16 Lamborghini was able to hold off a hard charging Laurens Vanthoor for Grasser Racing Lamborghinis first win of the year.
The other title contenders who had an outside change could not capitalize. The #8 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT of Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet and Wolfgang Reip was able to get to seventh, while the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 could only manage tenth, neither able to amass enough points to challenge the #58 McLaren for the title.
With 34 points still available at the final weekend at the Circuite de Catalunya on the 2nd October, both the Sprint Cup and overall Blancpain GT Championship are up for grabs.
Five driver pairings could still mathematically win the Sprint Cup, while the #84 HTP pairing of Maxi Buhk and Dominick Baumaan who currently lead the overall championship will have to defend from Rob Bell and a posse of Audi drivers in Christopher Mies, Fredrick Vervish and Laurens Vanthoor if they want to win the big prize.