October 26th, 2016 by Paul Slavonik
The 2016 Blancpain GT Series – iRacing’s premiere GT3 championship – has seen many teams experience their share of ups and downs. However, like any championship, simulated or otherwise, consistency is key. While the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series and the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series both enjoy a full 16-race schedule throughout the year, the drivers of the Blancpain GT Series had only six races to prove their meddle.
There was triumph, there was heartbreak, but in the end, only one team could claim the inaugural 2016 GT Series championship.
Through their combined driving skill, brilliant use of race strategies, and overall consistency, VRS Coanda Simsport #18 drivers Jörn Jens, Klaus Kivekäs, Rens Broekman, and Markus Lendermann have etched their names into the virtual history books and have become the very first team to win the Blancpain GT Series championship and the accompanying $6,000 cash prize for the team title.
Additionally, Coanda Simsport becomes the first team to have ever won two championships in one year with Coanda’s Martin Krönke taking the iWCGP title earlier this month while Jens captured the inaugural Blancpain GT Series drivers title along with the accompanying $2000 in iRacing credits.
Despite finishing in second during the final round at the Nürburgring on Saturday, VRS Coanda accrued enough points to secure the title due to a late race surge after their final pit stop. With 229 points to their name, VRS Coanda was able to hold off Heusinkveld CORE Motorsports sim racers Alexander Voß and Nils Koch who were the eventual race winners at the ‘Ring after starting from pole position and who finished just a single point behind Jens in the drivers standings.
Heusinkveld CORE Motorsports
It was a deflating moment for CORE after their solid qualifying effort followed up by a dominating victory which saw them finish with an 18 second gap over their VRS Coanda rivals. Things were looking up for CORE at the start of the race especially with Coanda starting the online race from sixth.
Unfortunately for the CORE drivers, the late race charge from VRS Coanda allowed them to make up several positions which eventually put them in a spot to secure the title. Even with the win, CORE’s 200 championship points wasn’t enough to take the overall championship which forced them to settle for second.
Although many fans were left pointing to the events at Silverstone earlier this year for the demise of CORE’s championship hopes, the team’s second win of the season during the final race at the Nürburgring assures us that they will be on the charge next year.
ineX Racing Red
For the ineX Racing Team, however, it was a season of ‘what could’ve been.’ Despite their commanding presence in the lead-up to the start of the Blancpain GT Series, the various branches of ineX didn’t get the consistency they had hoped for.
Starting from ninth on the grid at the Nürburgring, ineX Racing Red drivers Jack Sedgwick and Joni Törmälä stormed the field to take third. They were hoping for a second place finish but during the final 30 minutes of the race, VRS Coanda was on the charge and the ineX Red drivers simply didn’t have the tire life on their car to put up a fight at that point in the race.
Still, ineX Red settled for third in both the final race and in the championship standings while their Yellow and Blue sister teams finished fifth and seventh in the overall championship respectively.
Not to be overshadowed, the deeds by two of the Pure Racing Team cars should be mentioned as the #71 of Patrick Pichler and Jonas Wallmeier followed by the #73 of Marc Elkemann and Maximilian Benecke (who posted the fastest lap of the race with a 1:51.880) finished the final round in fourth and fifth respectively. Although the #73 was not in contention for the championship, the #71 finished the season out in sixth with their McLaren MP4.
Further back in the race standings was the Mercedes AMG of Team Redline Black. Despite starting in fifth, drivers Greger Huttu, Enzo Bonito, and Tommi Hahka would eventually finish the online race in eighth. Unfortunately for them, they were just one point shy of obtaining a spot on the championship podium and thus were forced to settle for fourth with 178 points.
Year in review
As previously stated, consistency is key and by the end of the season, VRS Coanda played their cards right to take the championship in their BMW Z4. With the next closest BMW all the way down in 10th in the standings, the VRS Coanda drivers proved once again that it’s not what you drive, it’s how you drive it.
Although CORE missed out on the overall championship, they were consistently able to show off the pace of the newly added Audi R8 LMS just as ineX Racing Red did in their Mercedes AMG. The Pure Racing Team #71 was one of only a handful of teams to field the McLaren MP4 but its impressive top-speed was evident on many of the circuits the series visited throughout the season.
As for the manufacturers championships, VRS Coanda led the way for BMW with CORE topping the Audi contingent. ineX Red took the Mercedes honors while Pure proved the best of the McLaren proponents and, like the other manufacturer champions, garnered $500 in iRacing credits for each member of the team.
That said, which was the best manufacturer? Although it would be difficult to say one marque is better than the next, the top-ten results (by points) from each race throughout the season can certainly indicate which is the most popular.
Mercedes AMG: 924 points
BMW Z4: 519 points
Audi R8 LMS: 475 points
McLaren MP4 12C: 186 points
Additionally, here are the top ten finishers in the 2016 Blancpain GT Series:
- VRS Coanda Simsport #18 (201)
- Heusinkveld CORE Motorsports (200)
- ineX Racing Team Red (196)
- Team Redline Black (178)
- ineX Racing Team Yellow (175)
- Pure Racing Team #71 (162)
- ineX Racing Blue (162)
- TTLR Next Level Racing (155)
- Team Redline Green (151)
- CoRE SimRacing (150)
As we conclude what has been an exciting year with arguably the best sim-racers in the world all competing for a coveted prize, the final race at the Nürburgring reminds us that the best is still yet to come. With the 2017 season forthcoming, we hope to see new teams locking horns with the more established teams next year. Although a break for the holidays is in order for the teams involved, one can be assured that many are already preparing for the coming year.
Congratulations to VRS Coanda Simsport #18 on their championship and to all of the teams who finished in the top-ten. We’ll see you next year!