The #58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren of Rob Bell, Shane Van Gisbergen and Kevin Estre took the win in the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit. The car took its first pitstop during an early Full Course Yellow-situation and acquired enough of an advantage to hold on to the lead until the end. The #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of championship leaders Vanthoor, Frijns and Vernay took second despite suffering some electronic problems, with third going to their team-mates of the #3 Audi. Seven different brands were represented in the top-10 overall. In Pro-Am the #888 Triple Eight Racing BMW led for two thirds of the race, but after the last pitstop the #32 Leonard Motorsport Aston Martin took lead and held on to that position until the chequered flag. The Am Cup went to the #15 BMW of Boutsen Ginion-duo Grötz-Ojjeh, leading for most of the race, with their competition fighting for the other podium places.
An impressive field of 61 cars thundered towards Silverstone’ Copse Corner at the start of the second round of the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series. Wolfgang Reip started from first after his teammate Alex Buncombe had conquered pole and while the Belgian managed to hold on to the lead in the #23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R, behind him Rob Bell moved the #58 Von Ryan McLaren from fourth to second.
Those positions did not change until 45 minutes into the race, when the evacuation of the stranded #16 Akka ASP Ferrari caused a Full Course Yellow-situation. Von Ryan Racing decided to pit both their cars and once the first round of pitstops was completely cycled through, that proved to be a golden decision. Shane Van Gisbergen had a 42 second-lead over Robin Frijns in the #1 Audi, and even though he had to save fuel to compensate for the early pitstop, the New Zealand driver managed to give the car to Kevin Estre with a healthy lead.
ISR Racing used a second Full Course Yellow-situation to move its #75 Audi up to second, but an inspired Laurens Vanthoor swiftly moved the black-and-blue Audi back to second. With the threat of the second Von Ryan McLaren gone after making contact with the #8 Bentley, the fight for third was now between Marco Bonanomi in the ISR Audi and Stéphane Ortelli in the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8. Ortelli had already passed the #73 MRS GT Racing Nissan at the beginning of his stint and managed to close the gap towards Bonanomi completely. Eventually passing the #75 Audi was not necessary to claim third for Ortelli, for Bonanomi incurred a five second-penalty for not respecting the track limits.
Meanwhile in front, Kevin Estre had little trouble in holding to his lead, taking an emphatic first win for Von Ryan Racing, which was also the maiden Blancpain GT Series win for the new McLaren 650S. Frijns’ and Vanthoor’s second place increases their lead in the Blancpain GT Series driver standings, as well as the advantage of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in the team standings.
In the Pro-Am Cup Joe Osborne started the race at the wheel of the #888 Triple Eight Racing BMW and by using the same tactics as Von Ryan Racing in Pro, the Z4 even moved up to third overall, enjoying a healthy lead in the Pro-Am Cup. The second pitstop negated that advantage though, with other teams being able to makte their final pitstop during the second Full Course Yellow-period. Once all pitstops were done the #32 Leonard Motorsport AMR Aston Martin was in the lead, and despite Jann Mardenborough in the #22 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R charging hard, Stuart Leonard managed to bring the ‘Bumblebee’ Aston Martin he shared with Michael Meadows and Paul Wilson home in first. Third in Pro-Am went to one of the stalwarts of the Blancpain Endurance Series, with the drivers of the #14 Emil Frey Racing Jaguar taking an emotional maiden podium finish.
In the Am Cup, polesitter Fabien Barthez’ lead was short-lived when his #16 Akka ASP Ferrari lost a wheel after making contact with another car. After a couple of laps of interesting skirmishes the #15 Boutsen Ginion BMW appeared in the lead and Olivier Grötz and Karim Ojjeh brought the car home in first. The #24 Team Parker Racing Audi looked set for a podium finish, but in the dying minutes of the race the #25 Glorax Racing Ferrari of Mancini-Birzhin-Mastronardi and the #42 Sport Garage Ferrari of newcomers Hamon-Samon-Paillard managed to climb to a top-3 position.
Shane Van Gisbergen (#58 Von Ryan Racing McLaren): “The team made a great tactical choice. We knew we could do it, but it was still tough to save fuel and still keep a good lap time. I had a good run through the traffic, and did as many laps as possible. It is pretty exciting to win my first win in Europe and I already received the congratulations of my dad in New Zealand, even though it is 4 am over there.”
Laurens Vanthoor (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): “Our goal this year is to win championships, so taking a win in the first race and finishing second here is not bad. At the beginning of my stint I did my best to catch the #75 Audi, but I knew that it would be very difficult to catch Kevin in the McLaren. They were the better team this weekend, had a better strategy and thoroughly deserve the win.”
Stéphane Ortelli (#3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): “It was a tough final stint, but that is exactly what I like. The duel with the Nissan was nice and fair and I was happy I could get past, because they were quicker on the straights. This is an important podium for the team and it’s a good feeling to share a podium finish with Frank (Stippler, ed.) for the first time in our careers, even though we have been racing for the same team for some years now.”
Michael Meadows (#32 Leonard Motorsport Aston Martin): “It was pretty nerve wracking for us when Stuart was doing the final stint, being chased by Mardenborough. But he did exactly what he needed to do and drove a superb final stint. We had a very good race, a very clean race for once, and it paid dividends in the end.”
Karim A. Ojjeh (#15 Boutsen Ginion BMW): “Our race engineer did a fabulous job of getting us in when there was a Full Course Yellow and we took advantage of that. When I started the final stint we had a healthy lead, thanks to a absolute fantastic stint of Olivier, so there was not that much pressure on me. The car was awesome, so I could keep it cool and get it to the finish.”