AKKA-ASP drivers Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy won the opening Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup race at Brands Hatch after a big accident for the leading JOTA McLaren 720S GT3 determined the finishing order.
Marciello had been tasked with hunting down JOTA’s Oliver Wilkinson in the second stint after Ben Barnicoat charged the No. 38 McLaren into a huge lead from third on the grid.
Having reduced a nine-second gap to under a second with 13 minutes of the one-hour race remaining, Marciello set about getting his No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo past the red, white and green McLaren.
With just over five minutes remaining, Wilkinson got caught up behind Giorgio Roda’s backmarker Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 into Hawthorns, enabling Marciello to get alongside through the following right-hander at the far end of the 2.43-mile GP circuit.
Marciello had the outside line through Westfield, where on exit he got caught up behind Roda. The AKKA-ASP driver was squeezed between the Ferrari and the McLaren, bringing contact that speared the latter across the other two cars and into the barriers.
Marciello managed to continue without major damage to his Mercedes-AMG and took the checkered flag as the winner under Full Course Yellow and safety car conditions.
Wilkinson walked away from the scene of the heavy crash, which resulted in his McLaren clearing the outer perimeter barriers and ending up on its wheels in the bushes.
An update from JOTA said that Wilkinson had been transported to the on-site medical center. The published results are currently provisional.
Dries Vanthoor, who was right behind the battling leading pair, assumed second in the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo that was started by Charles Weerts.
Boguslavskiy took the start of Sunday’s first of two Sprint Cup races from pole after Barnicoat was handed a two-place grid drop for impeding cars during the qualifying session.
The Russian kept his AKKA-ASP Mercedes ahead on the maiden run through Paddock Hill and Druids, while Barnicoat dived underneath Weerts at the first corner for second.
Barnicoat then pulled off a brilliant move around the outside of Boguslavskiy at the quick Hawthorns right-hander, from which the British driver opened a 15-second advantage.
With the McLaren clearing off up the road, Boguslavskiy turned his attention to the pressure being exerted from the train of drivers behind.
Luca Stolz got his Toksport WRT Mercedes past Weerts in the early stages and tailed the No. 88 AKKA-ASP machine through the opening stint but couldn’t find a way through.
AKKA-ASP gained four seconds on JOTA in the pits, giving Marciello a leg-up for his excellent charge onto the tail of Wilkinson that ended in unfortunate circumstances.
Barnicoat pitted later than the other front-runners while AKKA-ASP, Toksport WRT and Team WRT all came in at the same time. A change for third occurred during that pit sequence when Vanthoor emerged slightly ahead of Stolz’s co-driver Maro Engel.
Stolz and Engel assumed third place at the checkered flag after the dramatic conclusion, while Silver Cup winners Ricardo Feller and Alex Fontana took fourth overall in their No. 14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
Feller started from the class pole but was overtaken by CMR Bentley driver Pierre Alexandre-Jean during the early exchanges.
The Swiss driver kept on the tail of the No. 107 Bentley Continental GT3, which exhibited better straight-line speed but appeared to struggle against the Lamborghini through the corners.
Feller made a crucial overtake after 19 minutes of racing by getting a run through Clearways, out of Clark Curve and down into Paddock Hill Bend where he completed the move.
The Bentley lost a handful of positions during the pit stops, bringing Frank Bird and Ryuichiro Tomita’s No. 31 WRT Audi into the picture.
Bird was one of the top climbers in the opening stint after rising from seventh in Silver Cup to third, while Tomita spent the second half of the race with Fontana in his sights.
The Emil Frey driver nonetheless held on until the FCY to take his fourth class victory of the year, and his third alongside Feller. Ezequiel Companc and Rik Breukers were third for Madpanda Motorsport, as the CMR Bentley ended up fifth.
Pro-Am honors went to Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves of Barwell Motorsport.
The drivers of the No. 77 Lamborghini won from AF Corse Ferrari pair Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini after a positional change during the pit window.
Machiels initially overtook pole-sitter Ramos but the lead swapped around again when Chaves emerged ahead of Bertolini, whose Ferrari required a push-back after Machiels overshot his pit box.
Jonny Adam and Alexander West completed the Pro-Am podium with their Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Marciello and Boguslavskiy’s first win of the season took four and a half points out of Vanthoor and Weerts’ Sprint Cup championship lead, which now provisionally stands at 24 points heading into Race 2 of the 2021 season’s penultimate weekend.
RESULTS: Race 1 (Provisional)