Difficult weather conditions with persistent rain at Spa.
Spa-Francorchamps lived up to its reputation for capricious weather as the Belgian Formula 1 track staged its first ever ADAC GT Masters weekend. Race 1 started on a dry surface, but after the first twenty minutes, there was a heavy downpour, which made for difficult conditions on one of the world´s most challenging circuits. The Lambda Performance duo of Nico Verdonck (27) from Belgium and Frank Kechele (26, Germany) were undismayed, steering their Ford GT to a comfortable victory over defending champion Maximilian Götz (27, Germany) and Maximilian Buhk (20, Germany) in the Polarweiss Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Third place went to the Dutch partnership of Simon Knap (24) and Jeroen den Boer (25) in a BMW Z4 entered by DB Motorsport. “After having been on pole position for six previous ADAC GT Masters races, it´s nice to have got that first win at last, ” said a jubilant Frank Kechele. “I hope there will be many more victories to come this year.” Kechele has now claimed his first Super Sports Car League winner´s trophy in 61 attempts.
Nico Verdonck controls race from the off
The race over hill and dale in the Ardennes was controlled from start to finish by Verdonck and Kechele. Initially, pole-sitter Verdonck was unable to shake off the BMW Z4 of challenger Simon Knap, but a shower of rain after about twenty minutes changed matters. The leading Ford team executed an extremely speedy change of drivers and tyres in the mandatory pit stop. When Kechele completed the first lap of the second stint, his Ford was more than 18 seconds ahead of the BMW Z4. In the second half of the race, it was no longer the Dutch pair of Knap and den Boer in their BMW who were in contention for second place, but rather Maximilian Götz in his Mercedes Benz. The defending champion had overtaken the BMW in the pit lane after a faster pit stop and held on for P2 and his first podium finish of the season.
However, this was by no means a cruise to victory for Verdonck and Kechele. Ten minutes before the end, Kechele briefly spun off track, but was able to right his car with a loss of only five seconds. Kechele: “Towards the end of the race, the track was drying out. I was looking for wet patches to cool my tyres, but in this case, I obviously spread my search a bit too wide.” The Lambda Performance outfit claimed their first ever ADAC GT Masters victory in Verdonck´s home race by a seven-second margin. “Until late last night, the team were practising pit stops, and today that has really paid off,” said Kechele.
“That was fantastic,” said a delighted Verdonck. “Things really couldn´t have gone any better in my home race. Starting from pole, certainly made life easier, but we also saw today how treacherous the conditions in Spa can be. The team did an amazing job with the pit stop.”
Thrilling battle for fourth place between Müller and Rast
There was a hard-fought battle in the closing stage for fourth place. René Rast (26, Germany, Prosperia C. Abt Racing) produced a strong performance in the wet, putting fourth-placed Jörg Müller (43, Germany) in the PIXUM Team Schubert BMW Z4 under sustained pressure. The scrap came to an unhappy end, with contact between the two vehicles. Rast spun round and conceded fourth place to the Polarweiss Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG driven by Andreas Simonsen (23, Sweden) and Sergey Afanasiev (25, Russia), while Müller was obliged to park his car with a shredded tyre. Rahel Frey had the satisfaction of posting her best result to date in the ADAC GT Masters. The former DTM driver from Switzerland and her co-driver FIA GT1 World Champion Markus Winkelhock (32, Germany) made a strong charge up the field to finish in sixth place after having started from 20th on the grid.
Second victory for Porsche driver Bourdeaux in amateur standings
René Bourdeaux (38, Germany) achieved his second amateur championship victory in a row at Spa-Francorchamps. Bourdeaux in the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 took the win from ADAC GT Masters newcomer Paul Green (20, Germany) in the Vita4One Racing Team BMW Z4. Despite two drive-through penalties for infringing pit stop regulations, Christina Nielsen (21, Denmark) brought the Farnbacher Racing Porsche 911 home in third place.
Ford team to start Race 2 from pole position again
Verdonck and Kechele have the best chance of another success in Sunday´s second race. Kechele is in pole position on the grid ahead of Porsche driver Martin Ragginger (25, Austria / Tonino by Herberth Motorsport). Maximilian Götz in a Mercedes-Benz and René Rast in an Audi head up the second row.