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A massive gallery and race report from GT Masters at Spa

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It was a challenging weekend for the GT Masters field at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps with changeable weather throwing uncertainly through the field…

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Race 1

Intense wheel-to-wheel action, exciting slipstream duels and the fifth winner in as many races. On the third weekend of the 2015 ADAC GT Masters at Spa Francorchamps, Jens Klingmann (24, GER) and Dominik Baumann (22, A) of BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert picked up their first winners’ trophy of the season. Current championship leaders Sebastian Asch (29, GER) and Luca Ludwig (26, GER) in the Team Zakspeed Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG crossed the finish line 7.4 seconds behind to take second place. Luca Stolz (19, GER) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (33, NL) of Bentley Team HTP battled their way through to third place and a second ADAC GT Masters podium for a Bentley Continental. “There were some great scraps today, but we allowed ourselves plenty of space on the track,” said Klingmann after winning his fifth career race. “If you can fight hard but fair – as it should be in GT racing – and come away with the win, it’s incredible fun.”

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Klingmann thrills crowd at start

An exciting five-way battle between Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW, Audi and Bentley marked the period immediately after the start. Asch, who was on pole in the Mercedes-Benz, led from Martin Ragginger (27, A) in the GW IT Racing Team Schütz Motorsport Porsche, while Klingmann to their rear prepared to attack in the BMW. The BMW driver did not get off the line well, dropping down to fifth place. Klingmann first overtook Stefan Wackerbauer (19, GER) in the C.Abt Racing Audi, who subsequently retired after a spin into the barriers, thereby causing a brief safety car period, before Klingmann overtook both Asch and Ragginger to go into the lead.

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Once out in front, there was no stopping Klingmann. He had extended his lead to 8.8 seconds by the time he handed over the car to Baumann. After the pit stop, the Austrian had a cushion of as much as 11.1 seconds to comfortably clinch his fifth ADAC GT Masters race victory.

Klingmann: “It was important for us to at least finish this time after a difficult start to the season, including a double retirement last time out. I could see on the first lap that our car was very strong. I had to use that to my advantage and went right to the front of the field.”

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“I had to really watch the front tyres in the closing stages,” added Baumann, “So it was good that Jens had already pulled out a decent lead in the first stint, otherwise things could have got tricky once again in the final stages. With a pairing as strong as ours, we really should have been much nearer the front in the first few races, but things are now looking up.”

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Bentley pair fight for podium

Asch and Ludwig extended their lead in the standings even further with second place in the Mercedes-Benz, making it four podium finishes in five races. The Bentley duo of Stolz and Bleekemolen benefited on the way to their podium from a penalty against the Porsche of Martin Ragginger and Klaus Bachler (23, A). Ragginger was handed a five-second penalty for running wide and going off track. The Porsche duo had clawed their way up into fourth by the end of the race. Claudia Hürtgen (43, GER) and Uwe Alzen (47, GER) came fifth in the BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert BMW Z4 GT3. The two kfzteile24 MS Racing Audi R8s driven by Daniel Dobitsch (31, A) and Edward Sandström (36, S) and by Florian Stoll (33, GER) and Marc Basseng (36, GER) finished sixth and eight respectively. They were involved in an exciting battle for position in the second stint of the race with the HP Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG driven by Hari Proczyk (39, A) and Bernd Schneider (50, GER) who managed to split the two Audis and finish seventh.

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Patrick Assenheimer (23, GER) and Diego Alessi (43, I) of Callaway Competition and the RWT Racing Team pairing of Remo Lips (32, CH) and Sven Barth (34, GER) claimed the remaining Top Ten positions for Corvette. Lips thus won the Gentlemen stakes for the second time this season. Andreas Weishaupt (42, GER) in a C.Abt Racing Audi finished as runner-up in the class ahead of series newcomer Samuel Sladecka (21, SVK) in the Senkyr Motorsport BMW Z4.

The Bentley HTP pair of Clemens Schmid (24, A) and Fabian Hamprecht (19, GER) took the chequered flag in sixth place but were subsequently handed a 30-second penalty and demoted to 14th after Hamprecht collided with the YACO Racing Audi R8 of Rahel Frey (29, CH) in the final turn.

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Schneider and Alzen on front row for Sunday’s race

More high-octane thrills are guaranteed on Sunday when Race 2 gets underway at midday local time (live coverage on SPORT1 commencing at 11:45 CEST plus live streaming on adac.de/gt-masters). The two slots on the front row have been booked by touring car greats Bernd Schneider in a Mercedes-Benz and Uwe Alzen in a BMW. Breathing down their necks are Saturday’s winner Dominik Baumann in a BMW and championship leader Ludwig in his Mercedes.

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Race 2

Sebastian Asch (29, GER) and Luca Ludwig (26, GER) driving a Team Zakspeed Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG have notched up their first win of the campaign in an exciting rain-curtailed race at Spa-Francorchamps. The Zakspeed duo have thus continued an impressive run of results to further consolidate their championship lead. This was under the watchful eyes of FIA president Jean Todt who attended the Sunday session of the ADAC GT Masters in Belgium. Having so far consistently finished inside the Top Four, Asch and Ludwig this time ascended to the top rung of the podium, thereby becoming the sixth different winning pair in as many races. Daniel Keilwitz (25, GER) and Andreas Wirth (30, GER) in a Callaway Competition Corvette took second place on a rain-soaked track ahead of the kfzteile24 MS RACING Audi R8 driven by Florian Stoll (33, GER) and Marc Basseng (36, GER). “We finally managed an actual race win,” said a delighted Asch. “We’ve been waiting for this a long time. It’s great that we’ve been able to show what we and the car are capable of. The season has so far been textbook perfect.”

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Battle of the Mercedes in first stint of race

The start turned into a test of nerves for the ADAC GT Masters drivers. On the formation lap it started to rain, whereupon the race director red-flagged the race while the formation lap was still under way in order to give all the teams a chance to safely switch to full wets. The race, now shortened to 51 minutes, got under way after a short break. Immediately after the start, Ludwig, who was placed fourth on the grid in the Mercedes-Benz, played his hand on the very first lap and began to hunt down fellow Mercedes driver Bernd Schneider (50, CH, HP Racing) in the lead. The two Mercedes-Benz drivers battled for the top spot until adverse weather conditions brought out the safety car, which effectively neutralised the race.

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After the restart, the duel for the lead became a three-way battle, with Corvette driver Daniel Keilwitz entering the fray. Keilwitz managed to find a way past Schneider to take P1 before handing the car over to Wirth. Schneider’s team-mate Hari Proczyk (39, AUT) retook the lead at the driver changeover, and the second-placed Corvette, now driven by Wirth, immediately came under pressure from Asch. Mercedes-Benz man Asch overtook the Corvette and subsequently inherited the lead with four laps to go after Proczyk had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for an infringement during the pit stop. Asch kept the lead and put 2.8 seconds between himself and Wirth to take his fifth podium in six races and secure the first victory of the season for Mercedes-Benz. Proczyk and Schneider trailed home in tenth after serving the penalty.

“Luca produced a strong performance during the start phase to hunt down Bernd Schneider and lay the foundations for victory,” said Asch. “We know our car goes well in the rain, and I was certain of a podium on a wet track. As everyone is aware, there is something special about winning in the wet, so it’s a very special success.”

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“This victory gives me a certain sense of satisfaction, because the past two years have not been easy and I’ve had to put up with some disappointments,” said a relieved Ludwig. “It’s absolutely fabulous that we’re having so much success at the moment. This is a reward for a long fallow period. You just have to believe in yourself and keep going. That’s what connects Sebastian and me, so we are especially proud of our win.”

Third place also ended a losing streak for the kfzteile24 MS RACING team as Florian Stoll and Marc Basseng battled their way to third in their Audi R8. For the 2012 team champions, it was the first podium since winning the title and the first with an Audi. A strong performance was also put in by fourth-placed Jordan Lee Pepper (18, ZA) and Nicki Thiim (26, DK) sharing a C.Abt Racing Audi R8 – their best result since joining forces.

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The two BMW Z4s entered by BMW Sports Trophy Team Schubert crossed the line next, with Dominik Baumann (22, AUT) and Jens Klingmann (24, GER) taking fifth place and Claudia Hürtgen (43, GER) and Uwe Alzen (47, GER) sixth. Philip Geipel (28, GER) and Rahel Frey (29, CH) in the YACO Racing Audi R8 came seventh. Martin Ragginger (27, AUT) and Klaus Bachler (23, AUT) had to contend with a severely misted-up windscreen in their GW IT Racing Team Schütz Motorsport Porsche 911 on the way to P8. Despite the inclement weather, all contestants saw the chequered flag.

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Weishaupt claims first win of season for Audi in Gentlemen class

Andreas Weishaupt (42, GER) and Christer Jöns (27, GER) in a C.Abt Racing Audi lost sixth place after a minor collision on the last few laps, but despite finishing back in ninth, they still have good cause to celebrate, as Weishaupt celebrated his first victory in the Gentlemen classification ahead of Remo Lips (32, CH) who had won Saturday’s race in his RWT Racing Team Corvette. The current leaders in the Gentlemen standings – Dominic Jöst (36, GER) and Florian Scholze (42, GER) – came fourth in their MRS GT-Racing Nissan GT-R.

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Photos by Johannes Brock June 2015

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