Monday 29 August 2011

Blancpain Endurance Series: Marc VDS BMW wins in France as WRT Claims Team’s Crown

Marc VDS BMW wins in France as WRT Claims Team’s Crown

BMW became the fourth different manufacturer in four races to win a Blancpain Endurance Series race in 2011, joining Porsche, Ferrari and Audi, when Maxime Martin took the chequered flag at the end of the 3-hour evening race in Magny Cours, to give himself, Bas Leinders, Marcus Palttala, the Marc VDS Racing Team and BMW their first victory in the series. Martin finished ahead of the nr9 AutOrlando Porsche of Paolo Ruberti after the Italian overtook Marcel Fassler's Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi

R8 four laps from the flag to keep the driver's championship alive until the last round at Silverstone in October. Third place was enough to secure the Team's Championship for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.

The nr2 ALD Vita4One Ferrari 458 Italia of Louis Machiels, Paul van Splunteren and Niek Hommerson secured victory in the Pro-Am Class after Machiels overtook the nr20 SOFREV ASP Ferrari after the Safety Car period 10-minutes before the chequered flag.

Georges Cabannes secured his third win of the year alongside Gregory Guilvert and Fabien Michal, finishing a lap ahead of their nearest rivals.

The GT4 Cup battle was won by the RJN Motorsport Nissan 370Z of Jordan Tresson, Alex Buncombe and Chris Ward after a close battle with the nr62 Lotus Driving Academy Lotus Evora of Andrina Gugger and Matthias Gamauf. The nr70 Lotus of Greg Mansell, Edoardo Piscopo and Leo Mansell finished 3rd to keep their championship hopes alive for the season finale at Silverstone in October.












Markus Palttala / Bas Leinders / Maxime Martin







Gianluca Roda / Raffaele Gianmaria / Paolo Ruberti

Porsche 997 GT3 R







Greg Franchi / Andrea Piccini / Marcel Fässler

Audi R8 LMS







Martin Matzke / Filip Salaquarda / Michael Bartels

Ferrari 458 Italia







Henri Moser / Gilles Vannelet / Frederic Makowiecki

Aston Martin DBRS 9







Nick Hommerson / Louis Machiels / Paul van Splunteren

Ferrari 458 Italia







Franck Morel / Jean-Luc Beaubelique / Ludovic Badey

Ferrari 458 Italia







Richard Westbrook / David Brabham

Nissan GTR GT-3







Duarte Felix da Costa / Lourenco Beirao da Veiga / Ricardo Bravo

Lamborghini LP 560







Eric Clement / Philippe Gache

Porsche 997 GT3 R




The 35-car grid formed up behind the nr29 ALD Vita4One Ferrari 458 Italia of Filip Salaquarda and the nr32 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 of Stephane Ortelli and as the race started the cars all sped across the line with some frantic juggling of the order as the cars squeezed through the first turn without incident. The nr9 AutOrlando Porsche of Gianluca Roda tried to wrestle 2nd place from Ortelli only to lose out to Bas Leinder's Marc VDS BMW. The battle for the lead continued for lap after lap and resembled something from a 30-minute sprint race rather than a 3-hour endurance in its intensity as Salaquarda defended his lead at every trun from the vastly experienced Ortelli as Leinders held a close watching brief, waiting for the lead cars to trip over each other. The top three were separated by just 0.5 seconds for lap after lap.

On lap 8 Ortelli briefing got past the Ferrari at the final corner only to run wide and allow Salaquarda to regain the lead and Leinders had to back off as Ortelli regained his second place. A lap later Ortelli attacked again, Salaquarda defended again but this time Leinders was able to take advantage and more ahead of the Audi for second place. On lap 10 the lead changed as a collision between the lead cars saw the Ferrari and Audi spin allowing Leinders to gain the lead ahead of the Ferrari as Ortelli's Audi had to trundle to the pits, the bonnet of the car laying across the windscreen obscuring the drivers view. Frantic repairs by the WRT mechanics got the Audi back into the fight but now one lap adrift of the leaders.

the nr10 SOFREV ASP Ferrari 458 of Julien Jousse, which had started at the back of the grid due to not taking part in all of the qualifying sessions, was making significant progress in the early stages of the race and was into the top 10 by lap 11 and challenging the nr3 Hexis AMR Aston of Yann Clairay for 9th.

On lap 14 the nr18 De Lorenzi Racing Porsche of Alessandro Bonetti span and stopped at T5 in a dangerous position and the first Safety Car session of the race was declared. As the cars circulated the nr59 McLaren of Oliver Turvey pitted to take advantage of the Safety Car but the McLaren failed to restart for Alvaro Parente and after the mechanics had spent several minutes getting the McLaren to fire up the Portuguese driver rejoined after the race had restarted on lap 16. The problem was caused by a starter motor which would cause further delays later in the race.

Back at the front Leinders had opened up a 5-seconds gap to the nr29 Ferrari as Salaquarda came under pressure from the Pro-Am class nr20 SOFREV Ferrari of Ludovic Badey, who had passed the AutOrlando Porsche for 3rd place. Roda then came under pressure from the nr33 WRT Audi of Andrea Piccini and Julien Jousse in the nr10 SOFREV Ferrari. On lap 30 Roda was blocked by the nr51 Ferrari and the resulting contact allows Piccini and Jousse to slip by. A lap later Roda runs wide inio the gravel at T2 but keeps the car moving and regains the track. Two laps later he heads to the pits which resulted in the AutOrlando mechanics having to make some frantic bodywork repairs to the front of the Porsche.

At the end of the first 60 minutes the class leaders were the nr31 Ruffier Racing Porsche of Georges Cabannes (Gentlemen Trophy) in 19th overall, the GT4 Cup class was led by Leo Mansell in the nr70 Lotus Sport Italia Evora in 20th place and the sole Cup Class car, the nr36 De Lorenzi Racing Porsche of Marco Cassera, was in 28th.

After the first round of pitstops the nr40 Marc VDS BMW, now with Markus Palttala at the wheel, was holding a 14 second lead over the nr1 ALD Vita4One Ferrari of Nico Verdonck after a good first stint by Frank Kechele and a good stop by the pitcrew put the Belgian driver into 2nd from 7th. The nr29 Vita4One Ferrari was in 3rd place, with Martin Matzke at the wheel, just ahead of the nr33 Team WRT Audi with championship leader Greg Franchi at the wheel.

However the large lead enjoyed by Palttala was being eaten into by the flying Ferrari, with Verdonck over a second a lap faster than the BMW. Despite negotiating some heavy traffic, the gap continued to come down and it only seemed to be a matter of time before the nr1 Ferrari was challenging for the lead of the race.

The great run from the back of the grid by the Nr10 SOFREV Ferrari came to an abrupt end on lap 55 when Jerome Policand went off into the wall at T5 after a collision with the nr100 BMW M3 GT4. The Ferrari was damaged by the impact with the wall but Policand was soon out of the car and standing forlornly behind the safety barriers as the marshals recovered the car to a safe position.

The nr9 AutOrlando Porsche was making steady progress with Raffaele Gianmaria behind the wheel, moving up to 5th before handing over to Paolo Ruberti just before the second hour finished.

Meanwhile at the front the nr1 Ferrari was on the tail of the nr40 BMW and Verdonck was challenging for the lead. However Palttala wasn't going to give up the lead and doggedly held his racing line and defended wall at every corner. On lap 66 the BMW pitted and to everyone’s surprise was followed by the nr1 Ferrari. The pitcrews went to work and Maxime Martin regained the track in the BMW very quickly while the Ferrari was still on its jacks as the mechanics struggled with the tyres after the wrong set had been originally selected by the team. The delay cost Jean-Karl Vemay the advantage won by Nico Verdonck and he rejoined the track 30 seconds behind the BMW but still in second place but a gearbox problem then caused further frustration and eventually led to their retirement from the race.

After the second set of stops the class leaders were nr20 SOFREV Ferrari (Pro-AM) in 7th overall, nr31 Ruffier Racing Lamborghini (Gentlemen Trophy) in 17th overall, nr62 Lotus Driving Academy Evora (GT4) in 19th overall and the nr36 De Lorenzi Racing Porsche Cup car was in 26th overall and still running strongly.

The nr35 JRM Nissan GT-R was having a good run on its international racing debut with Richard Westbrook and David Brabham battling hard and keeping the car in the top 10 for most of the race. Their main goal was to get to the chequered flag to aid in the development of the brand new GT3 car and any championship points gained would be a bonus.

The third hour still had plenty of battles raging throughout the order as Maxime Martin looked set to take the win as long as the BMW held together. He set three fastest laps early in his stint to extend his lead further before settling into a rhythm. However fate decided to step in when a Safety Car period was declared 15-minutes before the end of the race. The nr3 Hexis AMR Aston Martin of Julien Rodrigues spun off at high speed into the wall at T5 after suffered a brake disk failure, causing heavy damage to the car and putting debris on the track. The French driver emerged unhurt from the car but the safety car bunched the field up for a 10-minute sprint to the finish line.

Maxime Martin had several cars between him and the second placed Audi of Marcel Fassler and the third placed AutOrlando Porsche of Paolo Ruberti. At the restart Martin used the gap to his rivals to pull away as Ruberti and Fassler were side by side fighting for the second place on the podium. Some slight contact between the cars saw the Porsche step out at one of the corners but Ruberti kept his foot in and took the place from Fassler three laps from home.

Further back the nr2 Vita4One Ferrari of Louis Machiels and the nr20 Ferrari of Franck Morel were battling over 6th place but more importantly the lead of the Pro-Am class. Morel held the advantage but Machiels had the faster car and the two cars were side by side on the run into the last corner and Machiels swept into the class lead as they crossed the line for the 95th time.

In GT4 the nr63 RJN Motorsport Nissan was leading the class from the nr62 Lotus Driving Academy Evora after several changes of class lead during the final hour of the race. The Spa 24 Hour winners were able to hold off the Lotus challenge and secure the second win of the 2011 season, with less than 9 seconds separating the two cars at the chequered flag.

At the front Maxime Martin brought the Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4 home to the delight of the team who lined the Magny Cours pitwall. The pass by Paolo Ruberti on Marcel Fassler keeps the driver's championship alive until the final race at Silverstone with Greg Franchi on 79.5 points holding a 21.5 point advantage over Paolo Ruberti, Gianluca Roda and Raffaelle Gianmaria on 58 points. Stephane Ortelli, Bert Longin and Filipe Albuquerque on 56 points and Markus Palttala on 55 all also still in the running to become the first Blancpain Endurance Series Driver Champions. However third place for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi was enough to secure the Team's title for the Belgian race team, finishing a comfortable 37.5 points ahead of Vita4One with one race remaining.

In the Pro-Am Cup title chase it is even closer with Franck Morel, Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Ludovic Badey on 81.5points, just 5.5 ahead of Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels who are on 76 points going into the final round in Silverstone.

In the Gentlemen Trophy Georges Cabannes on 75 points is 16 points ahead of Giorgio Piodi on 59, while the GT3 Cup is led by Sergio Negroni on 88.5 points, 13.5 ahead of teammates Luigi Emiliani and Marco Cassera and as long as Emiliani or Cassera don't switch to another car at Silverstone, Negroni will be declared the 2011 GT3 Cup Champion.

The GT4 Cup will aslo go down to the wire at Silverstone with the RJN Motorsport trio of Alex Buncombe, Jordan Tresson and Chris Ward 18 points ahead of Lotus Sport Italia drivers Leo Mansell, Edoardo Piscopo and Greg Mansell, who finished third in class at Magny Cours to keep their title hopes on track.

The final round of the 2011 Blancpain Endurance Series will take place at Silverstone on Sunday 9th October.

CLICK HERE for the race facts, including some race quotes, from Round 4

CLICK HERE for the result from Round 4

CLICK HERE for the Championship Positions after Round 4


Bas Leinders

"I got a good start and managed to move up to third behind Ortelli and Salaquarda, who were having a real battle at the front. I didn't want to get too close, but I didn't want to hang back and let them think that I'd back off if they tried to block either. I pushed and that meant I was close enough to capitalise on mistakes from both of them to take the lead. Battling for the lead at the start of the race was good fun, as was fighting my way through the traffic; I like traffic! I'm happy to have handed over the race lead to Markus, and that he and Max were able to defend the lead until the end, to give the team and BMW Motorsport a first win in the Blancpain Endurance Series. Let's hope it's the first of many!"

Markus Palttala

"This was my first race in the BMW, so at the beginning of my stint I was still trying to learn the car, which allowed the Ferrari to close on me. At the end I was able to hold him off and hand over the lead to Max, so I'm relatively happy about that. I have to say a big thank you to Bas, to Max, to BMW and to the whole team who did a great job today. As for still being in with a chance of winning the championship, well, it's nice to know, but it's not something I'm going to be thinking about ahead of the final round at Silverstone."

Maxime Martin

"My two teammates did a great job before I jumped in the car, which made it much easier for me. When I joined the race I didn't really know where we were in terms of position, so I pushed hard for a few laps just to be safe. After that I just tried to keep a good pace, stay consistent with the lap time, and try and maintain position. After the safety car I pushed again, just to make sure, but anyway, there were quite a few cars between me and the car in second place. I'm happy; this was only our second race with the BMW and we took our first win in the series. It doesn't get much better than that!"
Info and Photos: SRO.

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