Audi duo prevails in battle of title contenders
The title chase in the ADAC GT Masters is reaching a climax. In Saturday’s race at the Sachsenring, the current Top Three in the championship table were battling it out for victory. In a thrilling duel at the front, championship leader Kelvin van der Linde (18, ZA) and René Rast (27, Germany) in their Prosperia C Abt Racing Audi R8 saw off the challenge of the GW IT Racing Team Schütz Motorsport Porsche 911 driven by their closest rival for the title, Jaap van Lagen (37, NL) and Christian Engelhart (27, Germany). Saturday’s podium party perfectly reflected the current situation at the top of the championship table, with third place going to Claudia Hürtgen (43, Germany) and Austria’s Dominik Baumann (21) in a Pixum Team Schubert BMW Z4. “This second victory of the season was a lot longer coming than we had wanted,” said a beaming van der Linde after the race. “We are very pleased to have finished ahead of our closest pursuers – this gives us a bit more breathing space at the top.”
Van der Linde reigns supreme from the start
Pole-setter van der Linde needed nerves of steel in the first half of the race. The Audi driver converted pole position into a race lead, but then saw it whittled away by two safety car periods in the first seven laps. The yellow flags first came out after a collision involving Israel’s Alon Day (22) in a BKK MOBIL OIL Zakspeed Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Max Sandritter (25, Germany) in a Pixum Team Schubert BMW Z4 on the opening lap, and again on Lap 6 after a mechanical breakdown left Patrick Assenheimer’s (22, Germany) Corvette stranded in the middle of the track.
After the restart, van der Linde managed to defend the lead ahead of pursuer Engelhart in the Porsche 911 but was unable to shake him off completely. It was only after van der Linde handed over to Rast at the mandatory pit stop that the Audi built up a 3.5-second advantage over the Porsche which now had van Lagen at the wheel. But the margin was once again eaten away ten minutes before the end of the race when the safety car was deployed for a third time after a technical defect forced Corvette driver Sebastiaan Bleekemolen (36, NL) to a halt at the side of the track. Six minutes before the end, the race was on again for a final five laps in which Rast and van Lagen slugged it out for the race win and championship lead. The Audi man held on to his lead and crossed the line 1.3 seconds ahead.
“The safety car period towards the end obviously didn’t help, but I managed to re-establish a small gap for the last few laps,” said Rast after his seventh ADAC GT Masters race victory. “We had to be careful with our strategy today. We actually wanted to take our pit stop early in Race 1, but if we’d done that, the Porsche might have been able to gain time, and the situation would have become a lot tighter. Consequently, we adapted our strategy in line with that of the Porsche and pitted late.”
Baumann and Hürtgen sustain title challenge with P3
It was also a sound strategy that resulted in third place for Hürtgen and Baumann, keeping the BMW duo in the title race. Hürtgen was running sixth after the start and pitted early in the ten-minute window, allowing Baumann to move up to P3 during the second stint. Sebastian Asch (28, Germany) and Switzerland’s Philip Frommenwiler (25) finished fourth in their Farnbacher Racing Porsche 911, much to their relief after a long barren spell in the campaign. Local favourite Philip Geipel (27, Germany) and co-driver Markus Winkelhock (34, Germany) in a YACO Racing Audi R8 LMS finished fifth, their best result of the season.
A drive-through penalty for exceeding the maximum speed in the pit lane cost Luca Stolz (19, Germany) and Maximilian Götz (28, Germany) of HTP Motorsport a possible podium spot. Their gullwing had moved up to third immediately after the start but dropped back to seventh after serving the drive-through, slotting in behind Maro Engel (29, Germany) and Jan Seyffarth (28, Germany) driving a Mercedes entered by ROWE RACING.
David Jahn (23, Germany) and Sven Barth (33, Germany) of RWT Racing Team were the fastest of the Corvettes, coming home in eighth position ahead of Fabian Hamprecht (19, Germany) and Nicki Thiim (25, DK) in a Prosperia C Abt Racing Audi R8. Austrian Herbert Handlos (31), championship leader and class winner in the Gentlemen standings, took tenth place in the TONINO Team Herberth Porsche 911 that he shares with Alfred Renauer (29, Germany).
“I didn’t have it easy at the start, because the Porsches were very fast. But with a bit of luck, I was able to stay ahead. At the two restarts after the safety car period, I had everything under control. This second victory of the season was a lot longer coming than we had wanted. We are very pleased to have finished ahead of our closest pursuers – this gives us a bit more breathing space at the top.” – Kelvin van der Linde