Minshaw, Earle sweep Blancpain GT Sports Club honours in thrilling Silverstone affair

13 May 2017 Minshaw, Earle sweep Blancpain GT Sports Club honours in thrilling Silverstone affair

Barwell Motorsport’s Jon Minshaw capped a perfect Blancpain GT Sports Club weekend at Silverstone after winning Saturday’s Qualifying and Main Races aboard the #33 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. In the Iron Cup class, Kessel Racing’s Stephen Earle achieved the same feat with his #111 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, thus extending his points lead at the Home of British Motor Racing.

Making his maiden Blancpain GT Sports Club appearance at the weekend, Minshaw started building his perfect race day by claiming an emphatic pole position on Friday afternoon. Still, the British GT star had to dig deep in both contests to keep at bay a charging Cédric Leimer on the #963 Autovitesse Garage R.Affolter Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and Karim Ojjeh’s #2 Boutsen Ginion-entered BMW M6 GT3.

Minshaw kickstarted his Saturday efforts with a flawless performance to win the 25-minute Qualifying Race, resisting constant pressure from Leimer. Behind the leading duo, Ojjeh surged ahead of Nicolas Vandierendonck’s #63 Shipex by Ombra Racing-entered Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to grab third place in the opening event.

The same actors would return for an even more electric performance during the late afternoon’s showpiece, with Minshaw, Leimer, and Ojjeh dicing for positions around the 5.891km venue throughout a riveting 40-minute Main Race.

Lining up on pole position once again, Minshaw enjoyed another good launch at the rolling start to keep the lead from Leimer into Copse Corner. Starting from third, Ojjeh initially slipped down to fourth, as Vandierendonck overhauled the former Le Mans 24 Hours class winner at the green light. Ojjeh was soon back to P3 though and immediately set about hunting down the battling Lamborghinis up the road.

After shadowing the race leader’s every move for the first half of the race, Leimer started to fall back into the clutches of Ojjeh, who seized the momentum to reel in the Swiss ace. Minshaw’s respite did not last long though, as he soon had both the Autovitesse Lamborghini and Boutsen BMW all over the back.

Thus began a titanic three-way scrap for the Main Race honours. With five minutes left on the clock, Leimer saw a gap and dived on the inside of the Barwell Motorsport pilot to relieve him of the top spot. Ojjeh took advantage of the battle ahead to vault himself up to second position and continue to hound the new leader.

Minshaw recovered quickly to re-claim P2 from the Boutsen driver, which became first place as Leimer was handed a 30-second time penalty for not respecting track limits two laps from the chequered flag. His misfortune promoted Anthony Pons to his third podium result of the season and the Blancpain GT Sports Club Overall points lead with the #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Frenchman had previously claimed a solid fifth in the Qualifying Race.

Vandierendonck bounced back from a challenging season-opening weekend in Italy with a strong showing at the wheel of the #63 Huracan. Last year’s Blancpain GT Sports Club runner-up leaves the UK with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the bag. Following his penalty, Leimer was eventually classified fifth in the Main Race.

In the Iron Cup, points leader Stephen Earle started on the back foot when his Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 hit the barriers in Qualifying. The US racer gradually picked up positions as the Qualifying Race unfolded and managed to overtake title rival Klaus Dieter Frers’ #3 Artega Rennsport-entered Ferrari 488 GT3 on the final lap, reaching the Overall top 10 on the same occasion. Louis-Philippe Soenen completed the Iron Cup podium positions in the #50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3. In the Main Race, the same trio starred in the category reserved for drivers aged 60 and over, with Earle making it two wins out of two events on Blancpain GT Sports Club’s maiden visit to Silverstone.

Jon Minshaw, #33 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “I am more than happy. I really did not think I’d get the Main Race win as well. I thought if I got on the podium I might be quite lucky. But as it happened, I was obeying track limits and it turned out my rival was not so he got the penalty. Still, I had to do everything to keep the lead and dig deep for that one.”

Karim Ojjeh, #2 Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3: “This is a gentleman’s racing series. Jon [Minshaw] did not close the door on me so I did likewise when he replied to my overtake. We’re building respect amongst us and when the car behind you is faster then you have to let it go. But it was very close indeed!”

Anthony Pons, #72 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: “The Silverstone weekend was tough for us and we had to fight a lot for this podium, especially after the free practice and Qualifying sessions turned into a washout! We could not take our marks on a dry track so we had to learn and adapt on the fly during the Qualifying Race. Then we worked hard in between the two races, both on the car and on my driving, and it paid off in the Main Race. Granted, Cedric’s penalty promoted me to the podium but track limits are also part of the game in motor racing.”

Stephen Earle, #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3: “Starting in the back, I knew I was faster than several cars ahead but you have to take your time to pass them. You don’t want to risk damaging the car because if you crash in the Qualifying Race, then the guys don’t have enough time to fix it for the second event. So we stayed consistent chipped away and on the final lap I managed to overtake Klaus [Dieter Frers], my main competitor in the Iron Cup. In the Main Race, we changed the approach and went on the attack, whilst remaining careful not to get tangled up with other cars. The fun part about racing is the fight and that’s what we all enjoy!”

Round three of this year's Blancpain GT Sports Club takes place at Paul Ricard on June 24-25, with the championship serving as curtain raiser to the high-profile Blancpain GT Series. Both races will be shown live on the official Blancpain GT Sports Club website and Facebook page with commentary in both English and French.

2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club - Silverstone Main Race results

2017 Blancpain GT Sports Club - Standings after Silverstone

Image captions

1. Barwell Motorsport's Jon Minshaw leads away at the start of Saturday's Blancpain GT Sports Club Main Race aboard the #33 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
2. The Overall Main Race podium with, from left to right, Karim Ojjeh, Jon Minshaw, and Anthony Pons
3. Kessel Racing's Stephen Earle swept both Silverstone races with the #111 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.