Phoenix Racing Audi wins season-opening race at Zolder
7 April 2018
Phoenix Racing drivers Milan Dontje and Nicolaj Møller Madsen won the season-opening round of the GT4 European Series at Zolder in their new Audi R8 LMS GT4. Victory in the Pro-AM class went to Schwede Motorsport's Phillip Bethke and Marc Basseng. AM honours went to the Selleslagh Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Nicolas Vandierendonck and Johan Vannerum.
The #5 Audi R8 LMS GT4 started the race from pole and it was Møller Madsen who, after a rather clean start, led from the opening lap, with the HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 in Stuart Middleton second, followed by Gabriele Piana and Ricardo van der Ende.
Møller Madsen was able to build a gap, but behind him Van der Ende also had the pace and the 2017 champion first passed Piana and then on lap 12 he moved up into second place.
During the pitstop phase, Van der Ende was the first from the frontrunners to pit, but a small delay on his stop meant the #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren 570S GT4 dropped back behind the #55 HHC Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4.
A safety car as a result of one of the Porsches spinning into the gravel bunched the field up again, but at the restart the #5 Audi, now driven by Dutchman Milan Dontje, pulled away from Will Tregurtha in the Ginetta and Finlay Hutchison in the McLaren. Soon after Hutchison passed the Ginetta driver to take second, but with seven minutes left on the clock it was too late to try and catch Dontje.
The safety car was on standby once more after the Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 went off into the tyre barriers, but it was never deployed and after 33 laps it was Dontje who crossed the line to claim the first win of the 2018 GT4 European Series.
Hutchison finished the race 2.882 seconds behind the Dutchman, with Will Tregurtha securing third overall and in the Silver Cup for HHC Motorsport at 5.724 seconds from the race winning Audi.
Fourth position went to the #36 CMR Ginetta G55 GT4 of Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Stéphane Tribaudini, with the MDM Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 of Simon Knap and 2017 champion Max Koebolt taking fifth. They were followed by Marcus Paverud and Ivan Pareras in the #2 Leipert Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 and Beitske Visser and Nico Menzel in the #110 RN Vision STS BMW M4 GT4.
The #13 Schwede Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR of Phillip Bethke and Marc Basseng claimed Pro-AM victory, just 0.375 seconds ahead of the #77 Racing One Audi R8 LMS GT4 of Patrick Zamparini and Csaba Mor.
Jörg Viebahn and John-Louis Jasper opened their 2018 campaign with a third place finish. The W&D Racing Team BMW M4 GT4 of Massimiliano Tresoldi and Paolo Meloni took fourth in class, ahead of the second Schwede Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR of Dominik Schraml and Rudolf Schulte and the V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R of Luc Braams and Duncan Huisman.
In the AM class it was David Loger in the #26 CMR Ginetta G55 GT5 who led the class from the start, but after the pit stops the Ginetta dropped down the order and it was the #222 TFT Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR of Niki Leutwiler who took the lead. However, the Swiss driver was given a drive through penalty, which was eventually converted into a time penalty after he crossed the line.
This resulted in the Selleslagh Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Nicolas Vandierendonck and Johan Vannerum inheriting the win, ahead of the Ginetta of David Loger and Eric Mouez, with Leutwiler classified third in the end.
Nicolaj Møller Madsen, #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4: "First race of the year, new car, new team in GT4, new teammate. We put it really together today. Good job by Milan to finish it!"
Milan Dontje, #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4: "It was a really good race, I liked it! I think we did a really good job and we'll go full gas tomorrow."
Ricardo van der Ende, #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren 570S GT4: "We knew we had a strong package, which we showed in qualifying. I lost a position at the start, but after that I was able to go gain places. I made it into second place, then handed over to Finlay and he did everything right!
Finlay Hutchison, #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren 570S GT4: "Ricardo handed over the car in second place, I came out in third and had to fight with the HHC Ginetta and I managed to get him when he caught traffic. It was great fun and I was happy with coming home second, despite catching the leader quite quickly towards the end. But second is a good start to the season."
Phillip Bethke, #13 Schwede Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR: "I didn't expect us to be so competitive in this field. There are a lot of cars and some very good drivers, so for me it was amazing! I hope for another good race tomorrow and perhaps a podium."
Marc Basseng, #13 Schwede Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR: "It's amazing. Coming back as a team manager and driver in one person, like I did in my GT1 time, and then have a win in the first race with my teammate Phillip Bethke is just amazing. I think we now have a mission!"