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Engelhart and Bortolotti celebrate clean sweep at Brands

Sunday, May 07 2017

Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti completed a dominant performance at Brands Hatch today (Sunday), winning the Blancpain GT Main Race in convincing style in their GRT Lamborghini Huracan.

At the start, it was a GRT Lamborghini 1-2, with Christian Engelhart leading from pole position, whilst Felix Serralles was on the attack, positioned between the Rowe BMWs of Markus Palttala and Antonio Felix da Costa. Engelhart had done an even better job than team-mate Mirko Bortolotti in clearing the pack, but within a few moments, Clemens Schmid's race ended in the gravel and with the ISR Audi stricken, the safety car came out, bunching the field back up.

At the restart Seralles cleared the BMWs, which began to squabble, as Engelhart did another fine job of scarpering into the distance. Trying to take advantage of the M6 fight was Ben Barnicoat in the Strakka McLaren, and this made for an entertaining tussle for second place as Ezequiel Perez Companc helped his GRT team-mates by holding up the field.

Barnicoat demoted da Costa, and with the field so close, Stuart Leonard's WRT Audi R8 also passed the BMW. A few laps later the McLaren attacked the other BMW, and this allowed Serralles a chance to go for second place. However, with the pitlane opening, Perez Companc, Palttala and Barnicoat all stopped, handing over to Norbert Siedler, Jesse Krohn and Alvaro Parente respectively. But the Lamborghini didn't leave the pitlane, changing the complexion of the race. There was also contact in the pitlane caused by an errant tyre involving Serralles' team-mate Daniel Juncadella and the Rowe BMW of Philipp Eng, who had just taken over from da Costa, ending the BMW crew's race.

The leader stopped at half distance, Bortolotti rejoining in fifth place whilst the stops were still being carried out. Once the pit window closed, the Italian had a 20-second advantage over second-placed Will Stevens' Audi R8. He was only just ahead of Leonard's team-mate Robin Frijns, with Fabian Schiller's HTP Mercedes, Krohn's BMW, Franck Perera's HTP Mercedes and Dries Vanthoor's WRT Audi, so a close battle would be fought for second place.

Stevens dropped to third behind Frijns shortly after gaining the place, but the Dutchman was too far behind Bortolotti to make any impression on the Lamborghini's lead. This left Stevens to fend off the rest of the pack, and with ten seconds covering the next 11 cars, he did well to maintain his podium position to the flag, behind Frijns and the dominant Bortolotti, who celebrated a clean sweep of pole position and two victories.

An ecstatic Engelhart said: "I'm really lucky to be in a good environment with a great team and co-driver. It was a very fortunate situation to open a big gap [at the start], I could see the rest of the pack was fighting hard and this have us the chance to push really hard and open the gap. There were luckily no other safety cars."

Asked about the retirement of the sister GRT Lamborghini, Bortolotti commented: "We know that we have a car that is quite reliable, so I was surprised to see them not leaving the pits. The worry is always in the back of your mind, but I was not too worried.

"The level in this championship is so high and the smallest mistake in qualifying can change your weekend. This one went perfectly and we could take maximum points."

Blancpain GT Series Main Race
1, Christian Engelhart/Mirko Bortolotti, GRT, Lamborghini Huracan, 41 Laps
2, Stuart Leonard/Robin Frijns, Team WRT, Audi R8, +18.974s
3, Markus Winkelhock/Will Stevens, Team WRT, Audi R8, +24.955s
4, Jules Szymkowiak/Fabian Schiller, HTP, Mercedes-AMG GT, +25.306s
5, Markus Palttala/Jesse Krohn, Rowe, BMW M6, +25.909s
6, Marcel Fässler/Dries Vanthoor, Team WRT, Audi R8, +26.343s
7, Maxi Buhk/Franck Perera, HTP, Mercedes-AMG GT, +26.754s
8, Michael Meadows/Raffaele Marciello, Akka ASP, Mercedes-AMG GT, +27.742s
9, Romain Monti, Christopher Haase, Sainteloc, Audi R8, +30.931s
10, Pieter Schothorst/Jake Dennis, Team WRT, Audi R8, 31.616s

The next major event at Brands Hatch is the Masters Historic Festival on 27/28 May, with FIA Masters Historic F1 and more. Tickets are available in advance from £16, with free entry to under-13s. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.