The Jerez circuit was already one of the highlights of the GTWS in the previous season. The demanding “old-style” track demanded everything from the drivers and caused many a surprise. This was to continue this year. The fact that the field of the winter series, with 47 starters, has not only become bigger, but also more high-class, was very obvious and not only evident from the illustrious names.
Qualifying to measure and astonishing performance density
In the morning’s two-part qualifying Michael Joos in the 991 GT3-R won by a blink of an eye ahead of Luca Engstler in the Audi R8 GT3, who had been instructed by the team to assimilate the car and tyres to the best of his ability – after all, the youngster wants to reach the top, so it doesn’t hurt to train optimally during the winter.
Kenneth Heyer in the Schnitzelalm AMG GT3 was disappointing at first, but his 15th place on the grid turned out to be a transponder error, which should give him a lot of work for the race. In part two of the qualifying, his team-mate Colin Caresani showed what the Goodyear-powered Schnitzelalm car was capable of – he drove to a superior pole in his first GT3 race, beating the established ex-Formula 1 driver Markus Winkelhock by a smooth 0.8 sec.
Cup classes can almost keep up, GT4 hotly contested
Characteristic for Jerez seemed to be that cars of the Cup-Porsche or Challenge-Ferrari classes were able to keep up with the overall leaders. Lisowski and Svepes on their 992 Cup cars, who finished immediately behind Joos and Engstler in Q1, were striking!
In the GT4 category, the PROsport Racing team, new to Jerez, was initially the measure of all things. Charles Clark drove the British car (Aston Martin Vantage GT4) to pole in his class and was also to cause a sensation later in the races.
Sprints with spice and a rookie winner
The first of the two 25-minute heats was dominated by the duel at the top, as Engstler chased Joos the whole race and finished less than three tenths behind winner Joos – there was real steam in the boiler! Heyer, who had to start from the midfield, milled his way through the field with impressive precision and finished third.
In the Cups, what had been foreshadowed in the Qualy continued. The Kapfingers” drove their Huber Porsche 911s to first and second place in the Cup 2 class, leaving many larger cars behind and keeping within sight of the overall leaders.
Ex-DTM legend Franz Engstler in his Ferrari 488 Challenge did it in a similarly commanding manner, winning Cup 1.
Drama around Blattner
Manthey driver Dustin Blattner travelled to Andalusia as championship leader. He coped excellently with the Jerez track, but in race 1 he fell victim to Igor Klaja, who spun off and came to a halt on the track, whereupon Blattner was unable to avoid a collision at the front left. Without further ado, Blattner had another Cup-992 pushed out of the Manthey truck and asked race control for a start from the back of the Cup field instead of the pole he had actually achieved. Race control granted the request, Blattner caught up and won Cup 2 in the second sprint with P5 overall. That’s what you call sovereign. The next races will show whether Blattner can save the championship lead until the final, because as is well known, the GTWS allows five strike results from individual races over the course of the season.
Rookie Caresani outdistances all – Schnitzelalm nevertheless with mixed feelings
Dutchman Colin Caresani, who has so far attracted positive attention in BMW classes as well as GT4, proved to be the fastest man of the weekend in Jerez. There was no match for him in his sprint, as he brought the Schnitzelalm-AMG GT3 home 13 seconds ahead of the field. Team owner Thomas Angerer desperately needed this refreshment as he had to cope with an accident of his driver Joel Mesch in GT4.
Italians strong in Spain
By the way, the Italian Samuele Butarelli managed a real brilliant performance. Driving a Ferrari 488, he not only won the Challenge class in the second sprint, but also advanced to P3 in the overall standings – amazing! This not only pleased the Rossocorsa team, but also the many spectators who came to watch from the grandstands at 21 degrees Celsius.
GT4 bumpers need new paint
Once again, the 14-car GT4 class came up trumps. The two new teams, Mücke Motorsport and PROsport Racing, gave it to each other according to the principle of “tough but fair” and exchanged a lot of bumper paint in a fair way – both obviously had fun, which was also perceived by the race organizers, who let them have their way. In the end, Mücke with Rodrigo Almeida came out on top, just ahead of PROsport with Charles Clark.
In the “Cayman” class, which are actually GT4 cars on paper but compete in their own classification, it was once again Swiss Cup Porsche champion Andreas Greiling and his co Jens Richter who won the class. It seems hard to grow a herb against these two.
One hour Endurance – the best pairing stung
In the Endurance it was impressively shown that it is rarely a single driver who makes the race. Only when both are similarly fast does a victory jump out. This was not only noticeable with the overall winners Caresani and Heyer, but also in the classes.
The Mücke drivers Rodrigo Almeida and Josef Knopp, for example, were able to storm their AMG GT4 to class victory in the afternoon sun of Andalusia, beating Denning/Clark in the Aston Martin. Overall, the usually winning CV Performance team struggled in Jerez, as Simon Colin Primm and Philipp Springbob were always “good at it” but rarely capable of winning. In the end, however, they could live well with a P3 podium.
In the Cup Porsches, by the way, the Kapfinger brothers Johannes and Michael shared a second driver, namely Porsche specialist Dieter Svepes. Since he provided the second driver on both cars and could not split up, both had to drive on different strategies. The reward for their efforts was P3 and P5 overall! Only the top-fit American Dustin Blattner was able to get through the 60 minutes on his own and without any mistakes.
Valencia already this week Back to Back – full field and livestream at the start!
The next race in Valencia will already take place next weekend. “We are totally happy to race on another F1-homologated track already at such short notice,” said Robin Selbach, one of the GTWS-inventors. “We have more applications for registration than grid slots there too, because the FIA protocol limits Valencia to 47 cars.”
Whether Valencia has as many surprises in store as Jerez and whether there might already be a preliminary championship decision there can be followed live, because the race Sunday will be streamed extensively and accompanied by the well-known commentators Lukas Gajewski and Adam Weller.