In the final race of 2018, the Blancpain GT Sports Club Iron Cup champion was finally crowned, with Stephen Earle (#111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3) taking a commanding class victory in the Barcelona Main Race ahead of long-time rival Klaus Dieter Frers (#3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3).
It was a thrilling race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, as Patrick Van Glabeke (#488 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3) scored a deserved first victory of the season, with Qualifying Race winner Coach McKansy’s (#17 HP Racing International Lamborghini Huracan GT3) second-place finish good enough for runner-up in the final drivers’ standings.
The German also took victory in the Titanium Cup, meaning he jumps Mario Cordoni for second in the class standings following his strongest Blancpain GT Sports Club campaign yet.
Starting the Barcelona Main Race from the second row of the grid, Patrick Van Glabeke made another stunning getaway, taking both Coach McKansy and Karim Ojjeh (#2 Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3) on the run up to Turn 1.
Karim Ojjeh was slow to get going, with Luigi Lucchini (#7 BMS Scuderia Italia SRL Ferrari 458 GT3) also making up a position on the 2018 champion, as the Italian went in search of his fifth podium in six races.
The race started to settle in and Stephen Earle and Klaus Dieter Frers soon found themselves separated by just three-seconds in fifth and sixth respectively, with 30 minutes of the race still to go.
Ahead of the Iron Cup duo, Karim Ojjeh begun his recovery and soon caught the back of third-place driver Luigi Lucchini. The Saudi Arabian tried a move around the outside of Turn 4, but went wide and found himself stuck in the gravel trap, eventually dropping to the back of the field.
With 15 minutes of the race remaining, Klaus Dieter Frers found himself defending hard from Herberth Motorsport team-mates Edward Lewis Brauner (#991 Porsche 991 GT3 R) and Jürgen Häring (#66 Porsche 991 GT3 R). However, the two Porsches came together in Turn 2 and dropped outside the top-10.
At the front, Patrick Van Glabeke was unchallenged for the remainder of the race and took an emphatic victory ahead of Coach McKansy and Luigi Lucchini, whose 15 points weren’t quite enough to claim third in the Overall Drivers’ Championship.
Stephen Earle and Klaus Dieter Frers continued to trade fast lap times, but the American ultimately finished ahead, equalling his best finish of the season in fourth with the German fifth.
Behind them was a race-long battle from sixth to ninth, with Dilantha Malagawuma (#224 HB Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3) getting overtaken by Claude-Yves Gosselin (#4 Boutsen Ginion Lamborghini Gallardo Extenso R-EX) for sixth late in the race, as the pair also picked up second and third in the Titanium Cup class.
Next came Vadim Kogay (#333 Rinaldi racing Ferrari 488 GT3) and Angélique Detavernier (#55 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3), who both recovered from earlier drive-through penalties to pick up a handful of points each.
Rounding out the top-10 was Jürgen Häring, who passed Louis-Philippe Soenen (#50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3) in the final moments. The Belgian still collected an Iron Cup podium, his tenth of the season.
Despite claiming both the Overall and Titanium Cup titles in Budapest, Karim Ojjeh joined Stephen Earle on the podium to celebrate their championship victories in front of the Barcelona crowd. The top three of each class in the championship will receive their official trophies at the 2018 SRO Awards Ceremony in London on 24th November.
Stephen Earle, #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, Iron Cup champion: “After Spa we were 25 points down with just four races to go, so I said to myself ‘OK, I have to win every race now’. I’ve always done well in Budapest and I really like Barcelona. My driver coach David Perel helped a lot. People often think the bravest is the fastest, but it’s actually the one who knows the car best and finds a good balance. Today, I put my head down and didn’t concentrate on Klaus behind me. It was only when I crossed the finish line that I could celebrate and I’m delighted with the Iron Cup title. It’s been great to fight Klaus all season and that’s what makes racing exciting - having someone to battle with.”
Patrick Van Glabeke, #488 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3, Overall winner: “I’ve been good on the starts this year. I think about different strategies and I was well prepared to take the lead. I’m happy that I could hold onto first position and keep the gap to Coach behind. I’ve been driving here in the championship since the first ever race at Barcelona and have learned a lot since. This season I wanted to be champion, but that was pretty much over after Monza. I had some bad luck and made a couple of mistakes but I redefined my target, which was to win a Main Race, so I’m happy to have done it here.”
Coach McKansy, #17 HP Racing International Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Titanium Cup winner: “Patrick had a strong pace today so it was tough. I was sometimes able to close up and then he’d pull away again, but overall I’m very happy with second place and the Titanium Cup victory. Second in the drivers’ standings is also fantastic and if you had told me that at the beginning of the season I would not have thought it was not true. I’ve improved a lot and it’s put us in a good position for next year. Gaining more experience and understanding the car more has helped me get to this point, so I’m really happy.”
Klaus Dieter Frers, #3 Artega Rennsport Ferrari 488 GT3, Iron Cup runner-up: “It wasn’t the race I had planned for, but the problem came in qualifying with the Full Course Yellow. I was up on Stephen’s time but ultimately had to settle for the grid spot I got. In the race our pace was very similar, so at the end of the day it was about getting track position, which I didn’t have. It’s bad luck, I couldn’t do much about what happened in the last two weekends but congratulations to Stephen he drove a good race.”