Perfetti denies Pons perfect Misano weekend with Main Race win; Earle recovers to Iron Cup victory

2 April 2017 Perfetti denies Pons perfect Misano weekend with Main Race win; Earle recovers to Iron Cup victory

Daniele Perfetti prevented AKKA ASP team-mate Anthony Pons from achieving a grand slam at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli for the 2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club opener. The Swiss ace won Sunday’s Main Race in the #87 Mercedes-AMG GT3 ahead of the Frenchman, who had topped all sessions so far and claimed Saturday evening’s Qualifying Race. In the Iron Cup class, Stephen Earle recovered from 13th on the grid to cross the line in fifth and enjoy the spoils in the category designed for drivers aged 60 and over.

Although Pons led the way on the formation lap, it was Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter’s Cedric Leimer who enjoyed the best launch among the front row starters, with the #963 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 powering away and up to P1 when the lights turned green.

Oliver Baumann and his #68 DB-Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 momentarily featured in the top three after a strong start from fourth but Perfetti quickly re-claimed third place and was soon on Pons’ tail in a lively intra-team battle for the AKKA ASP entries.

Last year’s GTSC runner-up Nico Vandierendonck’s weekend went from bad to worse after the Belgian driver had to retire on Lap 3. Up front, Perfetti found a way past Pons for second place and immediately started chasing race leader Leimer. This marked the start of another fascinating battle for the Overall victory, with the Mercedes putting the Huracan under tremendous pressure.

Perfetti’s efforts paid off on Lap 11 when the former British GT champion forced his way past Leimer, with an opportunistic Pons also sneaking ahead of the Lamborghini. Leimer quickly responded and re-claimed P2 from the Frenchman on the very next tour.

However, Leimer’s hopes of a win at Misano would be dealt a blow shortly afterwards. Indeed, the Autovitesse entry was hit with a drive-through penalty for not respecting track limits, but such was the pace of the top-three cars that the Huracan was able to rejoin the fray in third.

Yoshiki Ohmura and his camo-livered #666 Ferrari 458 GTE nicely picked up his way through the field to vault himself up to fourth at the flag, while CMR’s Pierre Hirschi and Boutsen Ginion’s Karim Ojjeh both retired after an all-BMW collision as they squabbled over P5 in the late stages.

This promoted Iron Cup charger Earle to the top five, with the Texan pulling off a great move on Qualifying Race winner Klaus Dieter Frers in the closing laps. HTP Motorsport’s Willem Paulys de Pundert finished seventh and completed the Iron Cup podium after reigning double champion Martin Lanting endured a second retirement in as many contests at the Italian venue. Elsewhere, Mario Cordoni and his #70 GDL Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo topped the Xtra Cup Class, which is reserved for ‘trophy’ cars.

Sunday’s Main Race belonged to Perfetti, who delivered a flawless diplay and sped to victory at the end of the 40-minute affair. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 proved to be the class of the field around Misano’s 4.226km circuit, with AKKA ASP enjoying a two-win weekend to kick start the 2017 Blancpain GT Sports campaign.

Round two of this year’s GTSC will take place at Silverstone on May 13-14. Once again, SRO Motorsports Group's Bronze drivers-only series will serve as curtain raiser for the high-profile Blancpain GT Series at the British Grand Prix venue.

Daniele Perfetti: “It was a fun race! We had to fight a little bit to get the win, there were some nice overtaking moves, mistakes from the others - but to be honest I actually don’t remember a lot about how it went! I just made sure to carry on the speed and continue to go fast and it worked out in the end.”

Anthony Pons: “The first 10 minutes of the race were very intense with a great three-way fight with Daniele [Perfetti] and Cedric [Leimer], and then my team-mate just pulled away. I tried everything I could to close the gap but there was not enough time. When I looked at the clock and saw four minutes left, I wished it had been 10! At the start, I was caught out by Cedric, who had a great launch when the lights went green. Then during the race, even though we did not change anything on the setup, I did not feel quite as comfortable as on Saturday and was losing five tenths in the second sector alone. That said, it’s still a great weekend overall with plenty of action on track. After all, we’re not here to hang about and twiddle our thumbs!”

Stéphane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group: “The Blancpain GT Sports Club is entering its third season and you can see the championship really coming of age. Despite many series available, the GTSC platform has carved its way in the GT world. It continues to offer an innovative format with experienced drivers, one pilot per car, and most importantly a genuine ‘Club’ spirit among all competitors who can enjoy a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Congratulations to Series Manager Maryon Kaczka for her great job in making the Blancpain GT Sports Club such a success.”

Image captions

1. Misano Main Race winner Daniele Perfetti takes the chequered flag ahead of AKKA ASP team-mate Anthony Pons.
2. From left to right, second-placed Anthony Pons, Main Race winner Daniele Perfetti, third-placed Cedric Leimer and Xtra Cup Class winner Mario Cordoni on the Overall Blancpain GT Sports Club podium.
3. Stephen Earle (centre), Klaus Dieter Frers (left) Willem Paulys de Pundert (left) on the Main Race Iron Cup podium at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club Misano Main Race