Enzo Ide can win the Blancpain Sprint Cup title with a tenth-place finish in the Barcelona feature race after he and Robin Frijns took a dominant victory in the Sunday morning qualifying race.
In the absence of season-long team-mate Christopher Mies, Frijns stepped up to the plate to give Ide the simplest of tasks, converting a handsome 14-second lead after the pitstops into a third qualifying race victory of the year over the second-placed Grasser Lamborghini Huracan of Mirko Bortolotti and Nicolas Pohler.
Frijns took the lead at a chaotic first corner and never looked back. Starting third, the Dutchman used the tow from pole-sitter Franck Perera to sweep past the ISR Audi and fellow front-row starter Bortolotti, then built up a lead of over seven seconds to Jules Szymkowiak’s HTP Mercedes-AMG GT3 before the pit window opened.
One typically efficient WRT stop later and Ide was on his way, but he will have to wait until this afternoon to be crowned champion after a penalty for WRT stablemate Laurens Vanthoor promoted Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann to a points-paying sixth place.
The overall Blancpain GT Series points leaders had been due to inherit fifth after Szymkowiak and Alvaro Parente were given drive-through penalties for gaining an advantage by cutting the chicane on lap one, only to lose three places in the pits to Will Stevens, Maxime Soulet and Vanthoor.
However, their Sprint Cup title hopes were handed a slim lifeline when a charging Vanthoor – taking over the car Frederic Vervisch had started from 18th – was called up for punting Perera’s team-mate Marlon Stockinger into the gravel.
I said yesterday I would go for every gap. It worked 5 times, went wrong 1 time. Sorry, my mistake.
— Laurens Vanthoor (@VanthoorLaurens) October 2, 2016
Although he was able to battle past Pohler for second on the final lap, a 30-second penalty dropped Vanthoor out of the points to 13th, giving the final podium spot to Felix Rosenqvist and Tristan Vautier in the best of the Mercedes contingent.
Soulet managed to pass a fading Stevens for fourth in the closing stages, while Buhk and Baumann’s sixth place – just ahead of Silver Cup winners Alessio Picariello and Nicolai Moller-Madsen – means the HTP duo now sit 24 points behind Ide in the Sprint Cup table with 25 available. However, Ide’s superior win tally, having also won the feature race at Brands Hatch, means a point for tenth would be enough to secure him the title on countback.
Parente’s misdemeanour means team-mate Rob Bell will have some work to do in the feature from 16th on the grid. The Blancpain Endurance Cup champion is six points behind the Buhk and Baumann Mercedes in the overall standings.
— Racing GT (@RacingGT) October 2, 2016