Black Falcon Mercedes drivers win ’18 Blancpain Endurance Cup title

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Black Falcon Mercedes drivers Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz claimed the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup title with a narrow victory in the Barcelona finale.

Buurman crossed the line less than two seconds up on the Auto Sport Promotion Mercedes-AMG GT3 shared by Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Tristan Vautier, who had started the race equal on points with the eventual championship winners.

Engel had built up a lead of more than 20 seconds in the opening stint of the three-hour race, only for a series of safety cars to eradicate his advantage.

The fourth safety car of the event turned the race into a winner-takes-all sprint to the flag over the final five minutes.

“The tricky thing was that the safety car was going so slow that we got a lot of pick-up, which made the first couple of corners at the restart a bit tricky,” Buurman said.

“After the first restart, I felt more confident and after the second one, a bit more so.”

Buurman was just four tenths up on Vautier as the race went green, before edging away over the final four laps.

Engel and his team-mates had claimed the point for pole position to move level on points in the Endurance Cup standings with ASP’s Marciello, with his Mercedes only sixth on the grid.

The Black Falcon Mercedes built up its substantial lead while the rest of the field was backed-up behind the R-Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage driven by Nicki Thiim.

Marciello had moved up to third by the time the first round of refuelling stops began, but Juncadella just failed to get ahead of Jake Dennis in the Aston during the pit cycle.

Vautier moved ahead of the Aston Martin during the second round of stops as Matthieu Vaxiviere took over, but the Mercedes driver was never able to get close enough to Buurman to mount a victory bid through a final hour interrupted by three safety cars.

Second place for Marciello was enough to give him the overall BGTS title to go with the Sprint Cup crown he claimed at the Nurburgring earlier in the month.

Third place at Barcelona went to the SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Davide Rigon, Mikhail Aleshin and Miguel Molina.

Molina was running sixth in the final hour before Dries Vanthoor in the best of the WRT Audi R8s nerfed Vaxiviere off the track.

The Aston retired as the result of its trip through the gravel, while the Audi that Vanthoor shared with Christopher Mies and Alex Riberas was penalised for avoidable contact.

Molina was subsequently able to pass the Emil Frey Jaguar G3 driven by Mikael Grenier to take the final spot on the podium.

The Silver Cup class-winning Jaguar, which Grenier shared with Adrian Zaugg and Alex Fontana, moved into an unlikely lead early in the third hour when it made its final pitstop under virtual safety car conditions.

Grenier’s lead was short-lived, but it held on to take fourth overall in what is the last race for the XK-based car.

The Pro-Am Cup class went to the Lazarus Racing Lamborghini shared by Miguel Ramos, Fabrizio Crestani and Giuseppe Cipriani, the former boss of the Il Barone Rampante team of the early 1990s.

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