The exciting season opener of the new Blancpain Sprint Series took place at the 3.636-km Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France over the Easter weekend. Almost 40 top drivers, including 6 former Formula 1 contestants, battle for points and podium places this year.
HTP Motorsport drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz took the win in the first Main Race of the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series. With their Mercedes AMG SLS they crossed the finishing line with less than two seconds advantage over the #3 G-Drive Racing Audi driven by local favourites Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert. Mateusz Lisowski and Vincent Abril in the #4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS ultra, claimed the third podium position during the final laps of the race, also winning the Silver Cup category.
It was a very positive debut for the pairing Marc A. Hayek (President and CEO of Blancpain) and Dutch race driver Peter Kox, who are contesting the series for Blancpain Racing team. Compared to other teams who had previously tested their vehicles at the track, the duo completed their first tests in the Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 during the free practice sessions on Friday and Saturday. Hayek and Kox used the 160-minute session to make themselves familiar with the track and the car as well as to try different set-ups in collaboration with the team.
Both benefited from the set-up in the qualifying. In the end, Peter Kox at the wheel of the Gallardo secured the fourth fastest time (1:28.559) and therefore a place in the second row for the qualifying race on Sunday.
The qualifying race took place under cold and wet conditions. Rain made the track difficult to handle for all drivers. Having defended his place during the start, Kox was able to keep up with the top group and maintain his position until the driver change. After taking over the Lamborghini, Hayek continued to set excellent lap times. Following that, transmission damage prevented a good performance and therefore a promising position among the top10. Another car crashed into the rear of the Gallardo shortly after the start of the championship race. The damage was too severe to continue the race.
Marc A. Hayek: “The new Blancpain Sprint Series is a fantastic series. It has been a lot of fun right from the start and promises to be exciting. We have a very high level at the track thanks to the strong grid of high-profile drivers from all over the world. Our team found a great set-up in the free practice session. As a result, the Gallardo ran really well in the qualifying and Peter (Kox) secured P4 for us. We had bad luck in the qualifying race, when we were not able to change gears anymore. And on Monday, I was pushed off the track right after the start of the race during the acceleration phase, which was totally unnecessary. Too bad, because the car ran really well and I felt truly optimistic.”
Peter Kox: “Most teams had an advantage based on the fact that we were able to test the car at the track in Nogaro. We tried to make up for this gap in the free practice session. We were competitive in the qualifying and secured P4 for the qualifying race. I am sure that we could have finished among the top10. However, we were not really able to change gears at the end. And as a consequence, Marc (A. Hayek) lost a lot of places. In the championship race on the following day, Marc was pushed off the track right after the start. The team provided a perfect car for the weekend. A big thank you to Hans Reiter and his crew.”
The next round of the Blancpain Sprint Series will take place at Brands Hatch, Great Britain from May 17th to 18th. Marc A. Hayek and Peter Kox will also be contesting the ADAC GT Masters at Oschersleben (DEU) this weekend, where they will be back at the wheel of their Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo FL2.