Will super-subs decide title fight at Zandvoort?
Zandvoort hosts the season finale of the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series.
With five drivers still possible candidates for the overall title, the race through the Dutch dunes promises to be both interesting and exciting, especially since some renowned replacement drivers will strengthen the entry list.
Five drivers enter the seventh and final round of the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series with a shot at the overall title: Norbert Siedler (Rinaldi Racing Ferrari), Maxi Buhk and Vincent Abril (Bentley Team HTP) and Robin Frijns and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgian Audi Club Team WRT). However, Vanthoor, who is the joint leader of the standings on the eve of the Dutch weekend, will be the first to agree that his chances on taking the sprint crown are theoretical at best.
What happened to Laurens in Misano is very unfortunate, and it also feels very odd to end this season without him.
Since the Belgian is absent due to injuries sustained during last week’s qualifying race in Misano, he cannot defend his title chances. There is still one scenario in which Vanthoor becomes champion, but that includes Siedler not scoring more than 17 points, Buhk and Abril not more than eight, and last but not least that Vanthoor’s year-long team-mate Robin Frijns does not score a single point in Zandvoort. Chances are slim that those conditions will be fulfilled, but weirder things have happened in the world of motorsports.
However, Robin Frijns will be able to defend his lead on track. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has provided him with a new car, since their Audi R8 affectionately called ‘Rose’ proved to be beyond repairs after the Misano crash. The team will announce the name of Vanthoor’s replacement before the start of the weekend. For Dutchman Robin Frijns it will be his first competitive outing in Zandvoort since his Formula Renault days in 2011.
No such problems for Bentley drivers Maxi Buhk and Vincent Abril on the other hand. They both have plenty of GT experience on the Dutch track, with Buhk finishing fourth in last year’s Blancpain Sprint Series main race and Abril taking the win in the Silver Cup on the same occasion. At one point during the 2015 season the German-French duo was down 34 points on series leaders Vanthoor and Frijns, but by finishing three times on the podium – including a win on the Moscow Raceway – the Bentley Boys have reduced that gap to eight points before the start of the final round. With still 34 points up for grabs in Zandvoort, Buhk and Abril have a more than decent shot at the crown.
Norbert Siedler’s title chances are a bit slimmer, but with a 17-point deficit they are far from non-existant. Together with his regular team-mate Marco Seefried the Austrian scored his first wins in Misano – with the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari crossing the line in first position in both the qualifying and main races – but due to prior engagements Seefried cannot make it to the Dutch coast. Siedler and Rinaldi have found an A-grade replacement driver though, in the person of Jeroen Bleekemolen.
The man who literally grew up on the Zandvoort tarmac was fighting for last year’s Blancpain Sprint Series drivers’ title right up until the final round, with the win in the qualifying race in Zandvoort one of the four wins the Dutchman scored in 2014. Bleekemolen even has some previous experience with the Ferrari 458, having driven the Prancing Horse in a race in Japan last year, albeit in GTE configuration.
Siedler’s biggest handicap might well be the fact that there is only one Ferrari at the start in Zandvoort. Frijns will certainly get the help from the other cars in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT armada, while Bentley Team HTP has another Continental GT3 in their line-up, for Silver Cup drivers Van Splunteren and Szymkowiak.
Silver Cup duel
They will also by preoccupied by their own title fight, because not only the overall title is at stake in Zandvoort. The duel for the Silver Cup is still in full swing as well. With the Dutch Bentley pairing hardly scoring any points during the two most recent rounds of the series, the lead of Szymkowiak has been reduced to 16 points. Anders Fjordbach is his only remaining rival however, since the other half of the Fjordback twins – Thomas – cannot make it to Zandvoort. He will be replaced by another Danish driver, Michael Markussen.
Zandvoort is also the final round of the overall 2015 Blancpain GT Series, combining sprint and endurance races. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has conquered the teams title since the sprint round in Algarve, but for the drivers title there are still three candidates: here too Frijns and Vanthoor share the lead and they have a 27-point lead over Maxi Buhk. That means that the German has to outscore Frijns by at least three points in Saturday’s qualifying race to take that title fight to the wire.
In short: with five cars on the grid having title candidates at the wheel, the Zandvoort season finale promises to be a worthy end of an already eventful 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series season.
Robin Frijns (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT): “What happened to Laurens in Misano is very unfortunate, and it also feels very odd to end this season without him. When I entered this GT3 program, I was a real rookie. I only had single seater experience. Laurens had to teach me how to drive the car, how to get the most out of it. It is thanks to him that I am able to do the lap times I am doing now. So whatever happens in Zandvoort: if I am still on top of the standings on Sunday night, in my mind both Laurens and I will be the new champions.”
Norbert Siedler (#333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari): “It is great to have Jeroen as my team-mate in Zandvoort. He is very experienced and is one of the quickest drivers around the world. Marco and I both agreed that he certainly is a good replacement driver! I don't want to speak about the chance of winning the title, but we will definitely work hard to have a good weekend and good results. The chances are small but in racing everything can happen. I hope Laurens Vanthoor will get better soon and all the Rinaldi Team wish him good luck and a speedy recovery.”
Vincent Abril (#83 Bentley Team HTP Continental GT3): “This year has been a massive challenge for me, and fighting for the title until the last race is very rewarding. We have a chance to win it, and we will fight until the last second of the Main race on Sunday to achieve our goal. Our rivals will have new team-mates, which isn't the case for us. My partnership with Maxi this year has been fantastic, both on and off the track, and hopefully this will play to our advantage during the title decider in Zandvoort!”
Blancpain GT Series
Team WRT secures Blancpain Sprint Teams’ title in difficult weekend at Misano
Zandvoort BSS: Buhk and Abril win Qualifying Race, take points lead