2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall champion Anthony Pons has celebrated his title in fine style, as the AKKA ASP driver claimed victory with his #72 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Saturday’s Qualifying Race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
In the Iron Cup class, Klaus Dieter Frers (#3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3) has shown great pace throughout the title-deciding weekend so far and closed the gap to a single point to Kessel Racing’s Stephen Earle (#111 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3).
Having claimed his third pole position of the season earlier in the afternoon, Pons led the pack away at the start while fellow front-row starter Ricci immediately came under pressure from AF Corse’s Patrick Van Glabeke. The Belgian ace surged from P4 and went around the outside to vault the #488 Ferrari 488 GT3 up to second place.
The #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 fought back to reclaim P2 with 15 minutes left on the clock in Saturday’s 25-minute event. Up front, Pons kept pouncing ahead and took the chequered flag with nearly 20 seconds in hand over Ricci, who had to fend off Van Glabeke all the way until the end.
Just outside the top three was Coach McKansy, who secured the #17 HP Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3’s season-best result with fourth place, ahead of the returning Nicolas Vandierendonck, who drives the same model in the #63 Shipex by Ombra Racing challenger. Last year’s Blancpain GT Sports Club runner-up had a lucky escape when he avoided a late tangle between Karim Ojjeh (#2 Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3) and the hapless Luigi Lucchini in the #7 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
Klaus Dieter Frers took the Iron Cup win - his fifth of the season - with sixth overall. With points leader Stephen Earle finishing second in the category reserved for drivers aged 60 and over, the gap between the two title contenders has come down to a single point before Sunday’s final race. Completing the Iron Cup podium positons was HTP Motorsport’s Willem Paulys de Pundert in the #39 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Oliver Baumann drove the #68 DB-Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 to a solid seventh-place finish, with Earle P8 at the flag.
In the Xtra Cup class, which caters to Trophy Cars, GDL Racing’s Dilantha Malagamuwa took a crucial win aboard the #24 Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo with ninth overall.
Meanwhile, title rival and team-mate Mario Cordoni (#70 Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo) was punted off track in the early stages of the race.
Boutsen Ginion’s Pierre Feligioni completed the top 10 with the #6 Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EX
Last but not least, Howard Blank claimed the Cup Class honours with the #49 Ferrari 458 Challenge entered by AF Corse.
Anthony Pons, #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a tough race actually because we had some issues with the balance of the car compared to previous races but I think it’s been the same problem for everybody here. In the end, it feels good to be first. About my target for Sunday’s Main, it’s always hard to tell. The event is almost twice as long and you have to look after the tyres. But hopefully it will be fine.”
Klaus Dieter Frers, #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3: “The car has been great all weekend and I have topped all sessions so far. It has definitely paid off to come test here ahead of the event. I can see that I have found better lines than last year and I’ve improved myself. I am very pleased with that. To be honest, I was expecting a lot of nervousness in the battle with Stephen [Earle], but I feel so relaxed and calm. I am only focussed on my pace and my race and the strategy is paying off.”
Sunday’s Blancpain GT Sports Club Main Race gets under way at 12:00pm, local time, with Anthony Pons set to start from pole position after he won the Qualifying Race. The Frenchman could equal Mario Cordoni’s all-time record of five wins if he were to add another victory to his name. As for his AKKA ASP team, they could become the most successful outfit in the series’ young history by the same token.
1. Anthony Pons (#72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3) leads the Blancpain GT Sports Club Qualifying Race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
2. The Overall podium after the Qualifying Race of the Blancpain GT Sports Club at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with, from left to right: Mauro Ricci (#87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3), Anthony Pons (#72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3), Patrick Van Glabeke (#488 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3), and Xtra Cup Class winner Dilantha Malagamuwa (#24 GDL Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo)
3. The Iron Cup podium after the Qualifying Race of the Blancpain GT Sports Club at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya 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).ENDS