GT World Cup: Vanthoor wins controversial qualification race
Audi’s Laurens Vanthoor held off race-long pressure from the Porsche of Earl Bamber during a controversial qualification race for the FIA GT World Cup at Macau on Saturday.
Vanthoor got away well from the front row of the grid right alongside pole position man Edoardo Mortara, but the shape of the race changed almost immediately.
Mortara spun on the exit of the first left hander – hitting the barriers on the left with the rear of his car and dropping to the back of the field.
It was unclear from footage whether or not Mortara had been hit, but the race stewards soon stated that Bamber would face a post-race investigation, potentially for contact.
Bamber himself was baffled by the call-up though, because he was adamant that he was well behind Mortara when the Italian spun.
"We were close into the first corner, but we always struggle with the aerodynamics and that means we cannot follow too closely," said the New Zealander. "So I backed off and there was about a half a car length gap to me.
"I don’t know if he hit the inside kerb, but he started to lose the rear and then spun. These cars now, they have started to become quite aero dependent and when you get a lot of cars around each other, it is easy to lose the aero if it gets sucked off there. I didn’t expect him to lose it."
Irrespective of who was to blame, Vanthoor pushed on at the front - fighting off the advances of Bamber and his Porsche teammate Kevin Estre, with the pursuing Mercedes of Maro Engel and Renger van der Zande right behind them.
The safety car came out at the start of lap two after Nico Muller, who had hit the barrier at Lisboa on lap one, spun at the exit of the first corner in a spectacular crash.
At the restart on lap five, Vanthoor again got away cleanly, but the safety car was called out again just one lap later when John Shen and Philip Ma crashed at R Bend.
The second restart came at the beginning of lap nine, and Bamber put Vanthoor under huge pressure as he tucked in to his slipstream on the run down to Mandarin.
But Bamber lost momentum through the right hander and that was enough to give Vanthoor a gap that we was able to steadily extend over the remainder of the race.
Bamber held on for second – crossing the line 0.7 seconds behind – ahead of Estre, Engel and van der Zande.
Vanthoor said that he had felt the pressure from behind throughout, and knew that the key to staying ahead was in building up an advantage in the mountain section of the circuit.
"It was more difficult that I expected," said the Belgian. "I had to push quite hard in the second sector because the Porsches are better in sector one and sector three. Sector one is the only place you can overtake so I had to build a gap for that part. In the end it worked out."
Mortara had been able to get his car repaired in the pits during the safety car periods, and later fitted fresh tyres to help his charge through the field.
But he brushed the wall on the final lap and then collided with Darryl O’Young at Maternity Bend on the final lap before coming home in a frustrating 13th place.
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