Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts sealed their second consecutive Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup drivers’ championship title by taking a podium result in Sunday’s second 60-minute race at Brands Hatch.
The WRT Audi pairing finished second to leave the penultimate round of the 2021 season with an unassailable lead over their nearest rivals ahead of next month’s Valencia finale.
Luca Stolz and Maro Engel won Race 2 in their Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo after a last-lap tire issue denied AKKA-ASP’s Timur Boguslavskiy and Raffaele Marciello.
Boguslavskiy and Marciello came into the race as Vanthoor and Weerts’ closest championship threat, but left Brands Hatch sitting behind Stolz and Engel in the standings with two races remaining.
Stolz and Engel’s reduced 42.5-point deficit to the WRT pairing is too great to enable a turnaround at Valencia, with a maximum of 35 on offer at the season-ending weekend.
A deflated Boguslavskiy limped his AKKA-ASP Mercedes to the checkered flag in sixth, as Weerts moved the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo up from third place to second.
Weerts crossed the line two seconds behind Stolz, who captured his and Engel’s third victory from the last four Sprint Cup races held at Brands Hatch.
Vanthoor and Weerts would have sealed the title even without Boguslavskiy’s late issue since anything better than fourth would have been enough in the event of a No. 88 AKKA-ASP triumph.
The Belgian drivers were given a major boost in their quest for a repeat of their 2020 Sprint Cup success when the AKKA-ASP Mercedes lost its on-the-road Race 1 victory due to Marciello being deemed at fault for an incident that took out the leading car.
The change of results, which promoted WRT to first and gave the AKKA-ASP crew zero points, turned a 4.5-point loss for Vanthoor and Weerts into a 16.5-point gain, handing them a golden opportunity to secure the championship ahead of time in Race 2.
Marciello made a strong start from pole position and led the opening stint from Engel, Vanthoor and Jules Gounon in the No. 89 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG.
The first half of the race included an early safety car for the recovery of Adam Christodoulou’s RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG, which was spun into the Clark Curve gravel by Emil Frey Lamborghini driver Arthur Rougier on lap one.
Marciello remained out until the end of the mid-race pit window, coming in later than his diminishing pursuers, and handed the leading car over to Boguslavskiy with 9.3 seconds in hand to Stolz whose Toksport WRT car remained second.
Stolz ate into the fellow Mercedes-AMG’s advantage over the next few laps and was less than half a second behind with around 15 minutes remaining.
A staunch defense from Boguslavskiy around the tricky 3.42-mile Brands Hatch GP course meant that Stolz couldn’t find a way past for a while until the No. 88 car dramatically slowed on the approach to Hawthorns, half a lap away from the finish.
Weerts sat back in third for most of the second stint after briefly attempting to get past Stolz into Druids on his out-lap.
The 20-year-old didn’t need to fight the two cars ahead and also faced no pressure from behind, as the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG driven by Petru Umbrarescu fell away from the lead battle.
Umbrarescu spent the final laps trying to keep ahead of the Silver Cup top-three which involved Juuso Puhakka, Frank Bird and Konstantin Tereschenko.
The Romanian pilot held on to take his and Gounon’s first podium of the campaign, after benefiting from Boguslavskiy’s sudden drop of pace.
Puhakka finished fourth overall to claim Silver class honors with his Toksport WRT co-driver Oscar Tunjo, as the German squad won both of the categories in which it was entered.
Tunjo and Puhakka won from pole, but faced stern challenges from the No. 31 WRT Audi and the No. 87 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG.
Tereschenko’s co-driver Jim Pla overtook Ryuichiro Tomita in the Audi for second on the opening lap, before the positions switched back again later in the race.
Boguslavskiy slotted in one place ahead of Tereschenko in the overall classification.
Ricardo Feller and Silver points leader Alex Fontana were eighth overall in their Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, ahead of Pro-class Audis from WRT and Sainteloc Racing.
Barwell Motorsport completed a sweep of the Pro-Am victories at Brands as Henrique Chaves and Miguel Ramos extended their championship lead.
Chaves started from seventh overall but a couple of hairy off-track moments enabled Jonny Adam to catch up in the No. 188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Adam pitted one lap later than Chaves, contributing to his co-driver Alexander West emerging in the lead ahead of Ramos.
However, Ramos fought back and overtook the Swedish driver into the Druids hairpin, before going on to put two cars from other classes between himself and second place.
JOTA’s McLaren 720S GT3 which led the opening race until Oliver Wilkinson’s heavy accident at Dingle Dell did not take part in Race 2.
RESULTS: Race 2 (Provisional)