One week after the ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen at the Nürburgring, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was on the podium in the prestigious Blancpain GT Series: Zolder in Belgium was the venue for the third Sprint Cup event and the fifth round of the Blancpain GT Series season. The closest finish of the year to date saw the Mercedes-AMG GT3 with starting number #90, run by the AKKA ASP Team, cross the finish line of Saturday’s qualifying race in second place. In the action-packed opening stages, starting driver Raffaele Marciello (ITA) kept it cool, managed to make up one position from third place on the starting grid during his stint and handed the car to Michael Meadows (GBR) in second place. The Brit also showed a faultless performance and after one hour of racing, he finished second, 0.798 seconds down.
In perfect racing conditions on Saturday, Maximilian Buhk (GER), Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport, and Daniel Juncadella (ESP), AKKA ASP, particularly benefited from the startline collision between two opponents. Defending overall champion Maximilian Buhk started the race from tenth place on the grid and moved up to third. During the pit stop and driver change to team-mate Franck Perera (FRA), the engine was started too early, which led to a drive-through penalty that cost the team a podium finish. Eventually, the #84 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was classified in 16th place of the 33-car field. Daniel Juncadella started the sprint race from twelfth place and drove his #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to sixth place. Team-mate Felix Serralles (PUR) then overtook another opponent and concluded the team’s progress in fifth place, 2.749 seconds down on the winners. HTP Motorsport added another top ten finish with the #86 Mercedes-AMG GT3, driven by Dominik Baumann (AUT) and Jimmy Eriksson (SWE) in eighth place.
HTP Motorsport’s two junior drivers showed impressive progress: Fabian Schiller (GER) and Jules Szymkowiak (NED) started from 33rd place and worked their way up to 17th. Thus, the duo with the #85 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was classified second in the Silver Cup class.
A class win and sixth place for HTP Motorsport in the main race
The classification of the qualifying race on Saturday determined the starting grid positions for the race on Sunday. In the main race, one day later, the two youngsters continued their progress: again in excellent conditions at the 3.977 kilometres long ex-Formula 1 track, Fabian Schiller and Jules Szymkowiak worked their way up to eighth place in the overall classification with impeccable stints. Thus, the German-Dutch pairing already won the Silver Cup class for the third time this season.
In sixth place, Maximilian Buhk and Franck Perera scored the best classification for a Mercedes-AMG GT3. With this result, the reigning champions retain their Sprint Cup points’ lead.
The drivers that had finished second on the previous day lacked the necessary racing luck on Sunday: two errors in the opening stages of the race resulted into a pair of drive-through penalties. Thus, Michael Meadows and Raffaele Marciello were left without a chance at an early stage already and ended up in 24th place.
Michael Meadows, AKKA ASP #90: “The qualifying race went really well, although we didn’t take maximum risk. We didn’t want to jeopardize our good starting grid position. The Saturday was a pleasant affair, but the Sunday was annoying. However, we have shown that we are able to challenge for victory. That is the feeling we are taking from here, even though, initially, it is difficult.”
Fabian Schiller, HTP Motorsport #85: “We came here with high expectations and it was our goal to be in contention for a podium finish. In the last race, we were unlucky in qualifying over and over again and then it is difficult to make up for such a gap. We had the pace and we pushed as hard as we could. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was perfect to drive, as usual. At least, it is nice to have scored another class win, but in the next races, we want to be further up in the overall classification again, too.”