Marciello and Meadows clinch Sprint Cup drivers’ title with AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG thanks to victory in dramatic Nürburgring decider

18th September 2018

  • AKKA ASP duo triumph after show-stopping final race
  • Stolz and Haupt star to take Silver Cup victory for Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG 
  • Stievenart and Winkelhock Pro-Am champions with Sainteloc-Audi, class win for Perel and Salikhov in #333 Rinaldi-Ferrari

Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows clinched the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup drivers’ title by taking victory in a dramatic season-closing race at the Nürburgring.

Piloting the #88 Mercedes-AMG, the AKKA ASP duo overcame a 9.5-point deficit to Christopher Mies and Alex Riberas (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) in a battle that remained impossible to call until the final moments.

The WRT drivers’ advantage meant that a fourth-place finish would ensure them the title regardless of what Marciello and Meadows achieved and cap a perfect Sprint Cup season for the Belgian squad, which clinched the teams’ championship following Saturday’s race.

The 60-minute contest began with Luca Stolz on pole in his #6 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG. The Silver Cup runner held his advantage into the opening turn, while Marciello slotted into P2 after going wheel-to-wheel with Dries Vanthoor’s #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine.

Vanthoor went wide and suffered a puncture, effectively ending the #2 Audi’s chances, while Christopher Haase assumed third spot in his #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS.

The lead battle soon settled down, with Stolz running around one second clear of Marciello for the opening stint and Haase gradually falling behind the two Mercedes-AMGs.

But while the leaders edged away the attention was focussed on Mies in the #1 WRT-Audi. The German driver started from 13th position following an accident in qualifying, but made instant progress by leaping to ninth on the first lap.

He then found himself behind the #87 AKKA-Mercedes of Adam Christodoulou, but was eventually able to make a pass into the opening corner after the British driver was slowed by Robin Frijns (#17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT).

Mies lapped well in clean air and was the first of the leading contenders to stop, diving into the pits before the 30-minute mark to hand over to Riberas.

As the pit stop phase progressed the title battle seemed to be shifting in favour of the WRT squad. Crucially, Riberas was able to overhaul the #19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Ezequiel Perez Companc.

The momentum then swung back to the AKKA ASP crew as Marciello and Stolz stopped at the same time. The #88 Mercedes-AMG was able to exit the pits just ahead of the #6 car, with Meadows taking the race lead and Hubert Haupt now second.

When the pit window closed Simon Gachet was next across the line in the #25 Sainteloc-Audi, while Steijn Schothorst was fourth in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi. But, with Riberas rapidly closing on to the rear of the #66 machine, it looked as though the Spanish driver would be able to make the pass to take fourth – and with it the Sprint Cup title.

What followed was a tense duel between Schothorst and Riberas, with the young Dutchman fighting for every inch of track to keep the WRT-Audi behind. Out front Meadows was doing his job perfectly, leading in the #88 AKKA-Mercedes, but the destination of the title was now out of his hands.

Finally, with just four minutes left on the clock, Riberas launched an attack into turn 1. Both drivers ran wide and then went door-to-door for the next turn, but Riberas made another move that looked to have sealed the position and perhaps the championship.

Schothorst fought back, and as the two Audi cars tussled the #19 Lamborghini joined the battle. The #1 WRT-Audi came off worst, sliding into the gravel and dropping behind both the #66 and the #19. Riberas made it back on to the circuit, but had suffered a puncture that was enough to force him into the pits. Having briefly held the position that would have made them champions, the #1 car was suddenly out of contention.

That meant the #88 AKKA-Mercedes only needed to finish third to secure enough points for the championship. In fact, Meadows had held the lead for the entirety of the second stint and crossed the line as the race winner and the new Sprint Cup champion. In the pits, a jubilant Marciello celebrated their success with the AKKA ASP crew.

Haupt crossed the line in second place and as Silver Cup winner after a superb performance in the #6 Mercedes-AMG. The German kept Meadows honest for the second half of the race and closed to within a second of the British driver during the closing stages.

The podium was completed by Gachet, who recorded a third top-three finish from as many Sprint Cup weekends for the #25 Sainteloc-Audi crew. Schothorst held fourth – a crucial result, as it secured third in the standings for him and Kelvin van der Linde – while Perez Companc completed the top-five.

The Pro-Am category was won by the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488, which made up 10 places during the opening lap in the hands of David Perel. The South African driver then handed over to Rinat Salikhov, who completed a strong comeback following a race-ending collision in Saturday’s contest.

The Pro-Am title, meanwhile, was secured by Markus Winkelhock and Nyls Stievenart (#26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS), who completed the job with third in class. The Sainteloc crew also wrapped up the Pro-Am teams’ championship in the process, ahead of the Kessel Racing squad. The Silver Cup title was sealed last time out at the Hungaroring, with Jack Manchester and Nico Bastian (#90 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG) taking class honours.

Following the closing Sprint Cup contest of 2018 the Blancpain GT Series will conclude with a three-hour race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (28-30 September). The Spanish venue plays host to the final Endurance Cup event of the season and will also see the overall championships decided.

Marciello heads into the deciding round leading the overall drivers’ standings from Mies and Riberas, while Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and AKKA ASP Team are tied on points. Another dramatic encounter is in store as the curtain falls on the 2018 campaign.

Driver quotes

Raffaele Marciello, #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3: “There was quite a lot of emotion because as well as the Sprint Cup I am fighting for the overall drivers’ championship. It was tough, because you don’t know what you can risk and what you can’t. Then we needed to wait, because Michael was in front but the #1 Audi was fighting the #66. I am really happy to win the championship, because Sprint Cup is super-tough, especially with the pit stops. My thanks to AKKA ASP and to Michael, because they did a very good job. Now we need to finish well in Barcelona.”

Hubert Haupt, #6 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3: “First of all, it is fantastic for us to win the Silver Cup. I was surprised to be so quick today, but the car was fantastic and we are really happy. We were a bit slow in the pit stop, so we need to practice that because the others gained three or four seconds there. But we scored good points for the overall Silver Cup championship. In Barcelona we have to be in front of the #90 Mercedes-AMG to be champions, which would be fantastic.”

Christopher Haase, #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS: “For us this has been another great weekend. At the beginning my Sainteloc Audi R8 was just fantastic. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow the two Mercedes. I tried everything, using every millimetre of track, but was always losing a few tenths each lap. We had a good pit stop and then Simon had another fantastic drive to the end to make the podium possible.”

David Perel, #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3: “We had quite a bit of bad luck yesterday, so I was really looking forward to today. The start was fantastic. I chose some really good lines that I’ve been practicing in the sim and made up 10 places on the first lap. That set the tone for the whole race and we were then able to jump the Pro-Am leaders in the pits. Well done to Rinat for his pace during the race and thank you to our team for their work. We were just here for enjoyment, but I hope that next year we can do the full Sprint Cup championship.”


2018 Sprint Cup titles

Overall teams

  1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 123pts
  2. AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG 119pts
  3. GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini 95pts

Overall drivers

  1. Raffaele Marciello/Michael Meadows #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes AMG 98pts
  2. Alex Riberas/Christopher Mies #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi 90.5 pts
  3. Kelvin Van der Linde/Steijn Schothorst #66 Attempto Racing Audi 65 pts

Pro-Am Teams

  1. Sainteloc Junior Team Audi 137pts
  2. Kessel Racing Ferrari 126pts
  3. Audi Sport Slovakia 39.5pts

Pro-Am Drivers

  1. Markus Winkelhock/Nyls Stievenart #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi 134.5pts
  2. Piti Bhirombhakdi/Carlo Van Dam #39 TP12 Kessel Racing Ferrari 126pts
  3. Christian Malcharek/Jirko Malcharek Audi Sport Team Slovakia 39.5pts

Silver Cup Drivers

  1. Nico Bastian/Jack Manchester #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG 108.5pts
  2. Alexey Korneev/Vladimir Atoev #35 SMP Racing by AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG 80.5pts
  3. Lukas Moraes #37 3Y Technology BMW 59pts


➢ Race 2 Results

➢ Standings after Nürburgring


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Since 1735, Blancpain has been contributing to the development of mechanical watchmaking, while conserving the traditional skills of its founder.

Blancpain is currently engaged to the renewal of mechanical watchmaking and to passing on exceptional expertise from one generation to the next through constant investment in human resources, production facilities and research. This approach is its strength and the expression of our long-term vision, even though it goes against the tide of a certain tendency to seek immediate profit.

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Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One.

Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world. The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of GT racing while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past. The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.


SRO Motorsports Group, the architect of modern GT racing 

Over the past 25 years SRO has specialised in the promotion and organisation of motorsport series around the world.

Inextricably linked with GT racing’s revival in the early 1990s, currently SRO predominantly promotes series that adhere to the successful GT3 and GT4 regulations. Indeed, these rules – a common framework allowing manufacturers, teams and drivers to compete equally with one another – have helped to establish SRO as the global leader in customer GT racing.

Today, SRO’s influence and organisation can be seen around the world. Its flagship continues to be the European-based Blancpain GT Series, which features both the Sprint and Endurance Cups. Its annual highlight remains the iconic Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The same Pirelli tyres and Balance of Performance parameters governing the Blancpain GT Series have also been adopted in the United States by the Pirelli World Challenge (of which SRO is the controlling shareholder), while SRO expanded its successful platform East in 2017 by establishing Blancpain GT Series Asia.

In addition, the world’s best GT races from all four corners of the globe are brought together under the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The 2018 edition features four events – the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, and the California 8 Hours of Laguna Seca.

SRO is also strong domestically. The multi-class British GT Championship, over which it has presided since 2005, pairs GT3 with GT4 machinery. The FFSA French GT Championship, for many years run by SRO, returned to the fold in 2017, and was added to the existing GT4 European Series. GT4’s incredibly successful first season in France provided SRO with the blueprint and confidence to expand the class’ European footprint further. A new regional series to support the flourishing GT4 class has been added in 2018: the GT4 Central European Cup.

In addition, SRO’s world-renowned Balance of Performance regulations are licensed by other series running GT3 and/or GT4 machinery, such as Super GT in Japan, the Australian GT Championship, the ADAC GT Masters and the VLN in Germany and the China GT Championship. SRO also works closely with the FIA when organising its prestigious Macau FIA GT World Cup race.

While Macau caters solely for professional teams and drivers, SRO also understands the important role amateurs play in GT racing’s global success and sustainability. That is why it operates the SRO Race Centre by MMC – a high-level technical centre at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France – and Curbstone Track Events, which provide the ultimate track driving opportunities on world-renowned circuits. Many of its clients have subsequently graduated to the Blancpain GT Sports Club, the first competitive stepping stone towards gaining the confidence and racecraft required to compete in a Pro/Am environment.

SRO continues to focus on new initiatives that meet the demands of a fast-changing motorsport industry. In light of this, the organisation will launch the inaugural Bahrain GT Festival in November 2018, working in collaboration with the FIA and the Bahrain International Circuit.

This end-of-season event will feature two new standalone races: the FIA GT Nations Cup for GT3 cars, and the GT4 world final, the SRO GT4 International Cup. The Nations Cup will see drivers competing for international honour in the colours of their home countries, while the GT4 contest will bring together the global elite from this rapidly-growing category.

What’s more, SRO will also organise the first GT4 Europe Final at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit in October, creating yet another competitive challenge for the continent’s many GT4 racers.   

SRO Motorsports Group is chaired by company founder and CEO Stephane Ratel and has offices in London, Paris, Liège and Hong Kong. Its dedicated team of full-time and freelance staff work with the support of numerous national sporting authorities and sanctioning bodies to offer teams, drivers and manufacturers the world’s best professional, Pro/Am and amateur GT racing platforms.