The trio of Matthieu Vaxiviere, Jake Dennis and Nicki Thiim won by almost 11 seconds to comfortably secure a first overall victory for the British marque since 2013, when they triumphed at the same venue.
Jake Dennis, #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage, said: “I looked to my left coming out of the pits and I could see the Mercedes overtaking me. I pushed as hard as I could for a few laps to try and put some pressure on Tristan and the move paid off. We left each other enough space so there was good respect between us. From then on I just wanted to run a clean stint. The car was incredible all weekend. We’ve had a really strong package and my teammates have done an outstanding job.”
Starting from pole, Vaxiviere led away from the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG entry of Adam Christodoulou and began to edge ahead at the front of the field. The Frenchman built a lead of around two seconds, but as the first round of pit stops approached Christodoulou trimmed the gap.
That would prove to be significant when Christodoulou handed the #88 Mercedes over to Tristan Vautier. Vaxiviere remained on track longer before stopping and handing over the Vantage to Jake Dennis, but the British driver emerged close behind Vautier.
Tristan Vautier, #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG, said: “Jake had incredible pace and, to be honest, I struggled to get into the rhythm. I saw that he was pulling away so I decided to run the stint as well as I could and just try to be solid. I was hoping I could reduce the gap, but that’s the way it goes. We still managed to be strong all weekend and we finished the job, which is satisfying.”
He did not remain there for long, however. Dennis quickly caught the Mercedes driver and made a decisive move to re-take the lead, displaying a clear pace advantage in terms of pace.
From this point onwards, the Aston never looked to be under serious threat. Dennis quickly built a comfortable gap over Vautier, holding a lead of 12 seconds by the time of the second pit stops.
Behind them, the #144 Emil Frey Racing Lexus of Norbert Siedler had moved into third position. Stephane Ortelli had run well in the first stint before handing over to Markus Palttala, who elevated the car into third spot by passing the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin with a bold move at turn three.
Stephane Ortelli, #114 Emil Frey Racing RC F GT3: “Taking the first podium for Lexus in the Blancpain GT Series feels really good. This is a great achievement for Emil Frey Racing too as we have been improving a lot since the beginning of the season. Norbert did an amazing job by keeping Dries Vanthoor behind during the last stint, while Markus made a great move on the Aston Martin. We are still fighting to catch up and we’re on a very steep learning curve, but a big thank you to Emil Frey Racing today.”
Out in front, the #76 Aston Martin pitted from the lead with a comfortable advantage and emerged from the stops with an even bigger lead. From there Thiim was able to take a calm approach during the final stint, with Raffaele Marciello taking over the #88 Mercedes in a distant second. Behind these two, however, there was plenty of action.
The #114 Lexus held third into the final stint, but there was a charging Dries Vanthoor to contend with. Just as was the case last time out at Monza, the youngster had a fresh set of tyres on the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine he shares with Christopher Mies and Alex Riberas.
Vanthoor homed in on Norbert Siedler, who had taken the controls of the #114 Lexus, but was met with a robust defence from the Austrian driver. Despite Vanthoor holding an advantage in pace the #144 held firm to secure a first Blancpain GT Series podium for the Lexus brand, which sparked emotional scenes in the Emil Frey Racing garage.
Out front Thiim remained cool to win by a shade under 11 seconds, with Marciello following him home in a comfortable second spot.
While the destination of Pro class glory always looked assured, this was not the case in the Silver Cup class.
Throughout the first two stints, victory looked to be heading to the #54 Emil Frey Jaguar G3. Having scored a comfortable class pole, the car of Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg and Mikael Grenier went on to lead the first two stints, but technical problems cost them dear in the closing hour.
That created an opportunity for the #6 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG crew to take top spot. Despite facing pressure from the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan, the crew of Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt and Gabriele Piana held firm to take class honours.
Abdulaziz Al Faisal, #6 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3, said: “We had a really good start to the race, so after that we just had to focus and keep going. I maintained the position and we did a good job with the pit stops and drivers changes. Compared to qualifying, the car was quite strong. Overall we had a good race and managed to keep the car safe.”
The Pro-Am category was more straightforward. After a first-lap incident ended the hopes of the pole-sitting #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488, the #49 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG soon assumed control of the class with Darren Burke at the wheel. He remained cool to hand over to Salih Yoluc leading Pro-Am, with the Turkish driver successfully navigating a largely trouble-free stint.
Finally, Euan Hankey took charge of the car with a comfortable advantage and was able to complete a home victory for the Ram squad.
Salih Yoluc, #49 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG, said: “I managed to do a few clear laps during my stint, but there were still some challenges with all of the traffic. Beside this, however, it was a good race. Our car was fast and the team did a great job today.”
There was a popular home win in the Am Cup class too, with the Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3 of Chris Harris, Alexander West and Chris Goodwin triumphing with a healthy advantage.
It had not always looked like being that way, however. Harris spent his stint battling with the #488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 machine, which ended with the McLaren running second in class.
Chris Harris, #188 Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3, said: “The team really prepared a solid machine for the weekend and the start was mega. We had a good first stint, the car was really strongly balanced, and I could do some overtaking. I think I over-did the tyres a bit, maybe being greedy, but I’m very happy.”
But, following the first round of pit stops, West was able to take control of the Am Cup category with a comfortable lead. He successfully extended that advantage before handing over to Goodwin, who was untroubled as he took the car to the chequered flag.
The Blancpain GT Series will reach its halfway mark at the next event, with round five of the 2018 campaign taking place at Paul Ricard. The 1-2 June contest will see the Endurance Cup continue with a six-hour race into the night at the high-speed French venue.
Update: The #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin that took pole position for the Blancpain GT Series race at Silverstone was disqualified for a breach of the sporting regulations.
Following the session, the car’s data-logger was found to have no data present. This is a breach of Article 89 of the Blancpain GT Series sporting regulations, which states that the data-logger must work at all times during competition.
As such, the decision was taken by the stewards to disqualify the #76 car from all qualifying sessions.
However, the team has lodged notice of their intention to appeal so the car will start from pole. The race result will therefore remain provisional until the appeal is heard.
1 76 Matthieu Vaxiviere, Jake Dennis, Nicki Thiim R-Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage 1:58.890 89
2 88 Tristan Vautier, Adam Christodoulou, Raffaele Marciello Mercedes-AMG Team Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.105 89 10.947
3 114 Markus Palttala, Stephane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus RC F GT3 1:59.410 89 25.652
4 1 Dries Vanthoor, Christopher Mies, Alex Riberas Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS 1:59.214 89 26.178
5 62 Alex Brundle, Maxime Martin, Marvin Kirchhöfer R-Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage 1:59.058 89 28.569
6 4 Maro Engel, Luca Stolz, Yelmer Buurman Mercedes-AMG Team BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.287 89 29.329
7 72 Mikhail Aleshin, Miguel Molina, Davide Rigon SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 1:58.667 89 30.384
8 43 David Fumanelli, Maxi Buhk, Maxi Götz Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.156 89 32.050
9 14 Marco Seefried, Christian Klien, Albert Costa Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus RC F GT3 1:58.859 89 33.422
#10 63 Andrea Caldarelli, Christian Engelhart, Mirko Bortolotti GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 1:58.984 89 45.201
11 911 Dirk Werner, Frederic Makowiecki, Romain Dumas Manthey-Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R 1:59.348 89 57.938
12 17 Marcel Fässler, Sheldon van der Linde, Stuart Leonard Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS 1:59.236 89 59.674
13 99 Jesse Krohn, Connor de Phillippi, Jens Klingmann Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 1:59.751 89 1:04.377
14 8 Vincent Abril, Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet Bentley Team MSport Bentley Continental GT3 1:58.968 89 1:07.610
15 58 Andrew Watson, Come Ledogar, Ben Barnicoat Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3 1:59.660 89 1:46.125
16 23 Matt Parry, Lucas Ordonez, Alex Buncombe GT SPORT MOTUL Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 1:59.097 89 1:46.851
17 82 Phil Keen, Rolf Ineichen, Franck Perera GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 1:59.528 89 1:58.652
18 6 Silver Cup Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Gabriele Piana BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.973 88 1.111
19 66 Pieter Schothorst, Steijn Schothorst, Kelvin van der Linde Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS 1:59.970 88 10.048
20 49 Pro-AM Cup Darren Burke, Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.426 88 27.570
21 7 Guy Smith, Jules Gounon, Steven Kane Bentley Team MSport Bentley Continental GT3 1:59.377 88 42.541
22 55 Nicolas Pohler, Pierre Kaffer, Jeffrey Schmidt Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS 1:59.791 88 43.120 5/21/
23 24 Silver Cup Mads Siljehaug, Lenny Marioneck, Patric Niederhauser Reiter Young Stars Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX 1:59.967 88 45.136
24 42 Pro-AM Cup Chris Buncombe, Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.333 88 1:17.258
25 188 AM Cup Alexander West, Chris Harris, Chris Goodwin Garage 59 McLaren 650 S GT3 1:59.992 88 1:28.621
26 51 Pro-AM Cup Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 1:59.905 88 1:55.835
27 27 Pro-AM Cup Giuseppe Cipriani, Miguel Ramos, Fabrizio Crestani Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2:00.494 87 9.098
28 5 Pro-AM Cup Kriton Lendoudis, Saud Al Faisal, Rui Aguas BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.465 87 20.588
29 22 Silver Cup Jordan Witt, Ricardo Sanchez, Struan Moore GT SPORT MOTUL Team RJN Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 2:00.934 87 24.583
30 19 Raffaelle Gianmaria, Ezequiel Perez Companc, Giovanni Venturini GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 1:59.874 87 1:22.810
31 26 Pro-AM Cup Marc Rostan, Nyls Stievenart, Markus Winkelhock Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS 1:59.859 87 1:28.919
32 89 AM Cup Philippe Giauque, Eric Debard, Fabien Barthez AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:00.819 87 1:32.225
33 991 AM Cup Jürgen Häring, Edward Lewis Brauner, Wolfgang Triller Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R 2:01.045 87 1:54.917
34 488 AM Cup Rick Yoon, Pierre Ehret, Rory Penttinen Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 2:00.474 87 2:19.290
35 28 Silver Cup Federico Leo, Arno Santamato, Stefano Gattuso Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2:01.880 86 37.475
36 36 AM Cup Henry Walkenhorst, Andreas Ziegler, Immanuel Vinke Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 2:01.494 85 24.142
37 87 Pro-AM Cup Jean-Luc Beaubelique, Mauro Ricci, Nicolas Jamin AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.811 84 46.867
38 44 Thomas Jäger, Oliver Rowland, Adrien Tambay Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.416 83 1:11.274
39 97 Silver Cup Ahmad Al Harthy, Euan Mckay, Charlie Eastwood Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin V12 Vantage 1:59.752 82 41.314
40 78 Silver Cup Michele Beretta, Sandy Mitchell, Martin Kodric Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 1:59.826 74 -26:30.505
41 333 Pro-AM Cup Alexander Mattschull, Rinat Salikhov, Daniel Keilwitz Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 1:59.431 74 1:54.368
42 77 AM Cup Jon Minshaw, Adrian Amstutz, Leo Matchiski Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2:02.068 71 -31:23.180
43 53 Pro-AM Cup Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 2:00.334 70 -4:15.253
44 54 Silver Cup Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg, Mikael Grenier Emil Frey Jaguar Racing Emil Frey G3 Jaguar 1:59.442 66 -43:03.207
NC 35 Michael Meadows, Vitaly Petrov, Denis Bulatov SMP Racing by AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 1:59.764 60 -57:06.779 5/21/2018
NC 25 Antoine Jung, Simon Gachet, Christopher Haase Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS 2:00.762 60 -54:44.956
NC 98 Ricky Collard, Nick Yelloly, John Edwards Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 1:59.226 58 -11:59.100
NC 12 Silver Cup Andrea Rizzoli, Romain Monti, Alex Frassineti Ombra Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2:00.672 47 -1:17:47.409
NC 31 Pro-AM Cup Derek Pierce, Rob Smith, Sebastian Morris Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 2:01.605 8 -2:43:38.581
NC 90 Silver Cup Jules Szymkowiak, Jack Manchester, Nico Bastian AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 2 -2:55:16.538
By Melissa Warren