Blancpain GT Series Silver Cup Champion

Jack Manchester and teammate Nico Bastian were crowned overall 2018 Blancpain GT Series Silver Cup Drivers’ Champions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, rounding off a hugely successful season by securing their second title in as many races.

Jack’s rookie season in GT3 racing has produced 9 podiums in total, including outright class victory at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in June.

Approaching the final Endurance Cup round in Barcelona, Jack and Nico held a 4.5-point advantage over their Silver Cup rivals in Black Falcon #6, so finishing ahead was the primary objective for the weekend.

Joining Jack and Nico for the final Endurance Cup round of the year, Jules Szymkowiak returned car #90’s driver line-up after his last appearance at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

Once again, the Team Thunderhead Mercedes-AMG GT3 prepared by AKKA ASP Team demonstrated great pace from the beginning of Saturday’s Free Practice session at a circuit Jack has enjoyed prior success.

Qualifying for the afternoon’s 3-hour race commenced on Sunday morning with Jules taking to the track first, posting an impressive P2 in class. Jack followed, but his qualifying was impeded by repeated yellow flags and incidents, eventually delivering a solid P8 in class. Jack’s best sectors indicated he was headed towards a Silver Cup Top 3, but the session ended early with a red flag.

Nico followed with a comparatively clear Qualifying 3 to place P1 in class and third overall, a testament to both the team’s pace and their race prospects in the afternoon. With Qualifying results combined, car #90 lined up P4 in class, 20th overall.

Opting to ride the momentum of Qualifying, Nico took the green flag for the race and started strong, running 13th overall, P1 in class by the end of the first hour. After a rapid driver change pitstop, Jack took charge of the battle for Silver Cup class victory with strong pace throughout his stint, maintaining P1 in class.

At the 2-hour mark, a slew of racing incidents prompted multiple full-course yellows and Safety Car periods through which Jack maintained the team’s class lead ahead of many of the chasing pro drivers.  The melee following race restarts are always a challenge, and in the last of these a brief moment off-line in a train of cars dropped car #90 to 4th in class.

Jules took over for the final hour which proved to be as eventful as the second with many more incidents, allowing the team to make quick progress through the field. Jules crossed the line in 15th overall, 3rd in class – a brilliant result to end the season with, and another visit to the podium for Jack.

Looking back on his success over the season, Jack said:

Words can’t describe how I feel right now, it’s been a rollercoaster of a weekend.

"...We had a great start to the race, and my stint went as planned until the final Safety Car really put us in the thick of it. Fighting back to the podium in the final minutes was tense, but with our main rivals retiring I was mindful that we had to keep it all together, especially in the frenzied restarts towards the end.  

The car was great, and I really felt like this weekend was a culmination of all the experience gained over a year of racing in this brilliant championship. It’s been a steep learning curve to say the least, so to win the Blancpain GT Silver Cup Sprint Championship, then the overall Silver Cup Drivers’ Championship in my rookie season is a dream. It still hasn’t sunk in!

I’d like to thank my teammates Nico and Jules for an incredible season. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!

AKKA ASP Team’s manager Jerome and engineers Fred, Arnaud and Kevin have gone above and beyond this year to keep the car in contention, and Mercedes-AMG have been instrumental in helping me achieve so much this year. It’s been a pleasure to drive alongside pro Mercedes-AMG drivers such as Rafaelle Marciello in the same machinery too – congrats to him on the overall title, of course.

I’d also like to thank Team Thunderhead for their support, MB Partners for their guidance, Kieren Clark for his expertise, PAP’s George, Alex and Nick, Fifty Digital and Simon Weller. As a team we’ve really exceeded expectations this year.

With the Blancpain GT Series now complete, Jack and the team look forward to the next challenge as they evaluate several opportunities in GT3 and beyond.

Final Championship Standings

Blancpain GT Series Sprint Silver Cup – 1st (108.5 points)
Blancpain GT Series Endurance Silver Cup – 5th (49 points)
Blancpain GT Series Overall Silver Cup - 1st (157.5 points)