Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall points leader Anthony Pons enjoyed a perfect weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard, which played host to round three of this year’s campaign (June 24-25). Having taken pole position on Saturday afternoon, the Frenchman also claimed Sunday’s Qualifying and Main Races aboard the #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Klaus Dieter Frers delivered an equally flawless performance in the #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3 to reel in points leader Stephen Earle (#111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) in the category for Blancpain GT Sports Club drivers aged 60 and over.
PONS KEEPS COOL UNDER RELENTLESS PRESSURE FROM PERFETTI
Sunday’s Blancpain GT Sports Club action kicked off with a thrilling 25-minute Qualifying Race, which saw pole sitter Anthony Pons lead from start to finish.
This was hardly a walk in the park for the Frenchman though, as he had to hold off his team-mate Daniele Perfetti in the sister #89 Mercedes-AMG GT3, which also took part in the prestigious Paul Ricard 1000km at the weekend.
Driving the third AKKA ASP-entered car in the #87 entry, Mauro Ricci made it an all-Mercedes podium at the French Grand Prix venue.
The same scenario unfolded during the afternoon’s 40-minute showpiece event, as Pons launched his efforts from pole position with Perfetti alongside him.
Both drivers would run nose to tail for the entire duration of the race. The gap between the two leading Mercedes did ebb and flow as the proceedings went on, but the former British GT champion always remained a genuine threat to his fellow AKKA ASP charger.
Pons also had a late scare when he nearly collided with Roberto Rayneri while lapping the #66 GDL Racing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 in the final laps. But Perfetti could not take advantage of the Frenchman swerving slightly off track ahead of him and had to settle for another second-place finish, albeit a mere 0.760s behind Pons.
Putting in another strong performance in the Main Race at the wheel of the #87 Mercedes-AMG GT3, their team-mate Ricci ensured both Overall podiums were identical at Paul Ricard.
Coming off a two-podium weekend at Silverstone, Boutsen Ginion’s Karim Ojjeh harvested another valuable points haul as he claimed a pair of fourth-place finishes aboard the #2 BMW M6 GT3.
Luxemburg’s Alexis de Bernardi also had a solid showing around the 5.842km circuit, with the #65 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 finishing fifth in both races.
However, it was a weekend to forget for title contender Cédric Leimer in the #963 Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The Swiss ace had a chaotic Qualifying Race, which included a spin and a time penalty, before he was forced into retirement in the afternoon.
Anthony Pons’ perfect weekend moves him up to 76 points in the Overall standings, 23 points ahead of Daniele Perfetti on 53.
Anthony Pons, #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Daniele [Perfetti] was pushing so hard at the beginning of the Main Race and then I managed to have a little gap so I could breathe a bit better in the car. Then I saw him come back, so I had to fight again. And at the end, we had some issues with the traffic. I hope I did not damage the car too much but I did not want to have Daniele ahead of me today.”
FRERS MAKES IT TWO IRON CUP WINS IN TWO RACES DESPITE CLASH WITH EARLE
Entering the Paul Ricard weekend on the back of a two-win round at Silverstone last month, Iron Cup points leader Stephen Earle had hoped to extend the momentum in the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
But title rival Klaus Dieter Frers had other plans aboard the #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3. The German driver, who had won the Misano Qualifying Race, laid the groundwork for his perfect points haul when he claimed the Iron Cup pole position in Saturday’s 20-minute Qualifying session.
Frers still had to deliver the goods on Sunday. And delivered he did! But while he had a fairly smooth run to the Qualifying Race win, the Artega Rennsport ace had to overcome drama in the form of a clash with Earle during the second contest.
The US charger was right on Frers’ tail through the final sequence of corners when he tried a move on the inside of his rival. The pair ended up banging wheels, with Frers pushed off track and suffering minor bodywork damage as a result. Earle was eventually found guilty of causing a collision and had to serve a drive-through penalty as a consequence, which pushed him back to second place in class.
Frers’ two-win performance allows him to narrow the gap to Earle to just three points (86 against 83) as the Blancpain GT Sports Club reaches the halfway mark in the 2017 campaign.
Klaus Dieter Frers, #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3: “It was an exciting Sunday! The first half of the Main Race was crazy as I was fighting in the pack with cars all around me. It was unbelievable. Then my tyres lost a little bit of grip but I could still manage it. And then Stephen [Earle] thought there was a gap where there was no gap and he hit me. I saw he got a drive-through penalty so I knew that I’d get the position back. Overall, it was a great weekend and I am very pleased to have closed the gap in the championship.”
Round four of this year’s Blancpain GT Sports Club will serve as the curtain raiser to the prestigious Total 24 Hours of Spa, the blue ribband event in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup (July 27-30). As usual, both races will be streamed live on our official website and Facebook page, as well as on SRO Motorsports Group’s GT World YouTube channel.
Image 1: Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall points leader Anthony Pons (#72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3) takes the chequered in Sunday's Main Race ahead of team-mate Daniele Perfetti (#89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG-GT3).
Image 2: The Main Race Iron Cup podium with, from left to right, Stephen Earle (#111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3), Klaus Dieter Frers (#3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3), and Willem Paulys de Pundert (#39 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3).
Image 3: The Main Race Overall podium with, from left to right, Daniele Perfetti (#89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3), Anthony Pons (#72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3), and Mauro Ricci (#87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3).
Image 4: Klaus Dieter Frers (#3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3) won both Iron Cup races at Paul Ricard.