Felix Rosenqvist capped off the 2016 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup season in the best way conceivable, storming to an emotional victory with AKKA-ASP team-mate Tristan Vautier (FRA) at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday.
The victory, timely delivered in the final race of the season, was the culmination of a competitive weekend overall for the #88 crew in Spain, with Rosenqvist leading the 32-car pack in free practice before going fifth quickest in the decisive Q3 “super pole” segment of Saturday qualifying.
In the Qualifying Race on Sunday morning, the outcome of which is used to shape the final grid for the subsequent Main Race, Rosenqvist (completing the first stint) and Vautier then came home third – as the leading Mercedes entry – to present themselves as genuine victory contenders.
Their case was further strengthened as Vautier, taking care of opening stint driving duties in the one-hour finale, rocketed away at the start, sweeping bravely around the outside of pole-sitter Enzo Ide at the first corner to snatch a crucial early lead.
The Frenchman then put in a faultless drive, controlling the gap to his pursuers at around the three-second mark throughout his stint before pitting at the earliest opportunity to hand the car over to Rosenqvist as the pit window opened after 25 minutes.
With the driver and tyre change completed without any dramas, Rosenqvist then consolidated the lead in the second half of the race, comfortably steering the Mercedes-AMG GT3 across the line as the winner of the final Blancpain GT Series round of the season.
Rosenqvist eventually took the chequered flag 7.2 seconds ahead of the opposition, claiming his maiden GT victory in the process.
“I’m really, really thrilled about this win, especially for the AKKA-ASP guys who did a tremendous job this weekend,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “I have to acknowledge Tristan for a mighty opening stint; that’s what laid the foundations for this and his start was one of the best I’ve seen. Our pit stop was also really good and all I had to do was manage the gap and take care of the tyres. Big thanks to the team for everything we’ve experienced together this year, not least our second place in the 24 Hours of Spa and the win here today. GT racing has really exceeded my expectations and I’m excited to cap off the Blancpain campaign in this perfect way.”
As the GT adventure concludes for now for Rosenqvist, another quest begins, the Swede’s next challenge being the much-anticipated Formula E opener in Hong Kong in one week’s time (October 9).
Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup | Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (Spain)
1: Felix Rosenqvist/Tristan Vautier (Mercedes-AMG GT3), 33 laps
2: Andy Soucek/Maxime Soulet (Bentley Continental GT3), +7.229s
3: Enzo Ide/Robin Frijns (Audi R8 LMS), +7.628s
4: Frederic Vervisch/Laurens Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS), +8.071s
5: Nicholas Pohler/Mirko Bortolotti (Lamborghini Huracan GT3), +8.587s