Denis Remenyako made a late pass on Audi GT2 racer James Sofronas to win a gripping Blancpain GT Sports Club Saturday race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Jens Reno Moller clinched the overall drivers’ title.
Multiple changes of position throughout the top five made for a pulsating 45-minutes of GT racing action, which concluded with Capital Racing Team’s Remenyako scoring a second consecutive victory in his Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The Russian driver started from pole but was quickly swamped by the lightning-fast getaways of Murod Sultanov - who led the opening two laps – and Danish ace Moller in the #11 Honda NSX GT3 Evo
But Remenyako didn’t give up, and by the end of the third lap was back in the lead, while soon after both Sultanov in his Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 and Moller were overtaken by Sofronas in the WRT-prepared Audi R8 LMS GT2.
This exchange set the rhythm for the mid-portion of the race, with Remenyako working up a seven-second lead over Sofronas, who was giving the GT2-spec Audi a spirited run on its eagerly anticipated race debut.
At halfway, Moller had started to reel in Sultanov, but the Honda driver was already in a position to clinch the Overall drivers' title despite playing catch-up to his closest points rival on the track.
Moller needed to finish fourth to become champion, based on his 38-point advantage, but the Dane clearly wanted to achieve the feat in style with a podium finish.
His plans were dented slightly by a safety car intervention, which took place after Pavel Strukov’s Ferrari spun at the final corner.
This reset the field, and not only gave Sultanov some much-needed breathing room after his duel with Moller, but also neutralised Remenyako’s lead over Sofronas.
When the field was released with 14 minutes to go, the intense action and positional jockeying displayed at the start of the race came to a head once again.
Sofronas kicked things off by taking the lead from Remenyako into Turn 1, with the powerful Audi GT2 showing exceptional top-end speed.
However, the GT3 cars appeared to have the better measure in the corners, and this created an enthralling fight to the end with Remenyako’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 all over the back of Sofronas in the twisty parts while the Audi gained space on the long front straight.
Their lead battle reached its height with less than 10 minutes left on the clock: Remenyako, despite struggling for grip with his ageing tires, made a daring lunge on Sofronas into Turn 5 to take a lead he would refuse to relinquish.
The drama didn’t stop there, however, as Sultanov managed to find a way past Sofronas before the chequered flag – although even second place for the Kessel driver couldn’t prevent Moller from securing the championship (in his debut season) with fourth.
Perhaps the best seat in the house on Saturday was in the cockpit of Coach McKansy’s Titanium Cup-winning Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which spent much of the race sat behind the brilliant podium battles.
McKansy, preferring not to risk a big overtaking move, came through in fifth to bank further valuable points for his Overall haul, ahead of Luigi Lucchini in the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 458 GT3 and Frederic Fangio in one of two Spirit of Race-entered Ferrari 488 GT3s.
Eighth went to Pierre Feligioni, who won a thrilling race-long tilt against fellow Lamborghini drivers Dilantha Malagamuwa – who scooped second in Titanium Cup – and Angelique Detavernier.
In Iron Cup, Louis-Philippe Soenen ended a streak of five races without a win by producing a stellar reliability-focused drive aboard his Spirit of Race Ferrari.
The Belgian driver benefited from a puncture to erstwhile leader Stephen Earle and brought home the win ahead of the American driver and Rick Lovat.
Denis Remenyako (#13 Capital Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3) – Overall winner
“At the end, the tyres almost died, so it was really unstable and hard to overtake. I had to follow the Audi, but I was too close so there was not enough air. I was losing the tires so I had to overtake because otherwise I would have lost everything, but I made it!”
Murod Sultanov (#23 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3) – 2nd Overall
“It was difficult to save tyres because I went wide a couple of times. After the start, I think everyone had the same with the tires. The safety car really helped us to cool the tires down, so afterwards everyone could battle.”
James Sofronas (#25 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT2) – 3rd Overall, GT2 winner
“I had a blast. I knew I had the power advantage, but I didn’t have the braking or cornering so I just had to strategise my moves and which corners I could come off hard. The Audi was amazing. The WRT guys are obviously at the top of their game. They came out with a fantastic car and it never gave up. It was consistent, and at the end we could hang in there.”
Coach McKansy (#17 HP Racing International Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo) – Titanium Cup winner
“The start was quite good, but then I lost a few places due to the field narrowing up. I pushed a lot and got quicker, and a few guys ahead of me were battling tough, so I thought maybe I could gain from some of their mistakes. The safety car was not so good for me because I had a good distance to Lucchini, but I was not afraid he could catch me… until the last lap!”
Louis-Philippe Soenen (#50 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3) – Iron Cup winner
“It was great, just perfect. I had no problems, but the other two guys had problems. It was quite busy out there, and quite difficult. I’m going to try to win again tomorrow.”
After a dramatic opening race of the weekend, attention now turns to Sunday’s contest which can be followed LIVE on the Blancpain GT Sports Club website, Facebook page and GTWorld YouTube channel.