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Main Title Contenders Weigh In Ahead of Endurance Decider

GTWC Europe Endurance Cup overall title to be decided at 3 Hours of Barcelona…

Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari’s Nicklas Nielsen says the No. 51 Iron Lynx crew are “giving everything” while Charles Weerts reckons Team WRT will need to dig deep for a “tough race” at the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup title decider.

Nielsen, Come Ledogar and defending champion Alessandro Pier Guidi hold a 13-point lead over Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts in the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo ahead of today’s three-hour race at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The Iron Lynx trio qualified 11th in their Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020, one place behind the WRT crew which also includes Robin Frijns who is subbing for Kelvin van der Linde.

Also in title contention are FFF Racing Team’s Mirko Bortolotti, Marco Mapelli and Andrea Caldarelli, who will start from pole in the No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

The Lamborghini factory drivers are 16 points off the top spot, with AKKA-ASP’s Raffaele Marciello and Jules Gounon the outside bets with a 23-point deficit.

Speaking ahead of the title-deciding race, Nielsen told Sportscar365 that Iron Lynx was given a boost in the championship by winning the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa in August and is looking to carry that momentum through to the final round of the year.

Iron Lynx headed to Spa 11 points behind the leading GPX Racing Porsche crew, but claimed maximum scores at each of the two mid-race intervals and also at the checkered flag to vault ahead of their Pro-class competitors.

“We had a few races at the beginning of the year that were difficult for us,” said Nielsen.

“Then we won Spa, which was the overall goal of the year. Now, heading into the last round, we are leading which is always a good thing.

“We are definitely in a better situation than the No. 32. But it’s still really close and anything can happen.

“For us, it’s just about giving everything we have and then hopefully it will be enough to take a title as well.”

When asked how a title success would compare to winning the Spa enduro, Nielsen said: “Obviously we want to win both, but Spa was something that we really wanted to win.

“Not just for Iron Lynx but for Ferrari, with it being 17 years since they last won it. The championship is very important for us as well, but we were very happy with the Spa victory.

“I’m not saying we’re not also going for the title, because if we can do that it would be perfect. For sure we are going for it.”

Weerts believes that WRT has the odds stacked against it heading into today’s race after the Belgian squad struggled to match the pace of the front-runners in qualifying.

WRT also underwent a shakedown lap on Sunday morning after extensive work on a mechanical problem, which is believed to have been related to its car’s differential.

“It has been quite a tough weekend for us,” Weerts told Sportscar365.

“We thought we found something, at least that was what we hoped. It seems like it’s going better, but 10th place is not what we were hoping for. It’s not a disaster but it’s going to be a tough race, especially looking at the speed of the Lamborghini and the Mercedes.

“It was tough coming here, but in these conditions it’s going to be even more difficult.

“We [came from behind] at Paul Ricard, but the difference was that we were not seven-tenths off. It’s fine not to have a great qualifying, as long as you understand why and know how you can fix it. But we don’t really know how we can fix it ourselves.”

Weerts and Vanthoor were recently crowned as the Sprint Cup champions for the second consecutive year, and have also clinched the overall GTWC Europe series crown which combines results from Endurance Cup and Sprint.

“This is a title I’m really wanting to get,” said Weerts. “It’s a really important one, after we missed Spa. So it would be great to get this championship.”

Despite having a larger deficit to overcome, FFF arrived at Barcelona as the in-form Endurance Cup outfit after Bortolotti, Mapelli and Caldarelli dominated at the Nürburgring from pole position. The Italians have taken four of the five poles this year.

“It’s great to be there: after Spa we were not thinking any more about the title,” Caldarelli told Sportscar365.

“But it will be difficult, because it’s [16] points so it’s a long way to go and a lot of things have to come together.

“I think we will take this race as it is, and we will try to do the maximum we can. All the guys are very boosted and confident. But to win the championship is a long process.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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