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Weerts, Vanthoor Become First Repeat Winners of Sprint Season

Weerts, Vanthoor manage two safety car periods to win opening race at Misano…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor became the first repeat winners of the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup season in Saturday’s race at Misano.

The Team WRT pairing led the 60-minute contest from start to finish after Weerts put the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo on pole earlier in the day, while the result added to the Belgian duo’s victory in the season-opener at Magny-Cours.

Weerts controlled the opening stint despite pressure from Emil Frey Racing’s Albert Costa, but a slow stop for the No. 163 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo cost the Swiss team several positions and gave Vanthoor a healthy eight-second advantage.

Vanthoor remained comfortably ahead of Maro Engel in the No. 6 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo until a safety car bunched the field with around 22 minutes to go.

The safety car was brought out after Garage 59 Aston Martin driver Nicolaj Kjaergaard collided with Pierre-Alexandre Jean’s CMR Bentley Continental GT3 at the final corner.

Despite seeing his lead margin evaporate, Vanthoor kept Engel out of reach at the restart to take the win by 1.17 seconds.

Engel shared the Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG with Luca Stolz, who started from seventh on the 30-car grid.

Stolz made a strong getaway and had advanced to fourth by the end of lap one. The German driver was in that position behind Weerts, Costa and Sainteloc Racing’s Leo Roussel when a Full Course Yellow/safety car period occurred after four minutes.

That interruption was due to a clash between Pro-Am competitors Louis Machiels and Valentin Pierburg, whose cars needed to be recovered from a gravel trap.

Shortly after the restart on 13 minutes, Stolz muscled his way past Roussel – who qualified next to Weerts on the front row – into the Turn 2 left-hander for third.

Toksport WRT then gained another place when Emil Frey Racing’s No. 163 car spent 77 seconds on pit lane, 11 seconds more than Stolz and Engel’s Mercedes and 15 more than the leading WRT Audi.

The Lamborghini’s slow stop helped Roussel, but his co-driver Christopher Haase was quickly passed by fellow Sainteloc Audi pilot Frederic Vervisch early in the second stint.

Haase then challenged Vervisch after the second safety car and drafted past to retake third place into the high-speed Turn 11 right-hander.

It marked the first podium for Haase and Roussel this season, while Vervisch and Aurelien Panis settled for fourth as Sainteloc Racing picked up a solid haul of points.

JOTA’s Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson took fifth in their McLaren 720S GT3, but were ultimately classified 22nd after being handed a 45-second time penalty after the race for an unsafe pit release into the path of Garage 59’s Pro-Am Aston Martin. 

Wilkinson was seventh after the opening stint, while Barnicoat moved up a place during the pit sequence.

Barnicoat was involved in a lively multi-car battle for the outer points positions that also included Costa’s co-driver Norbert Siedler, a pair of AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMGs and the other two Emil Frey cars.

Barnicoat accessed the top five by dispatching Konstantin Tereschenko in the No. 87 AKKA-ASP machine at the restart.

A few minutes later, Raffaele Marciello overtook Tereschenko after the AKKA-ASP duo raced side-by-side down the back straight and through Turns 11 and 12.

Marciello put pressure on Barnicoat but settled for sixth on the road, which became fifth after the JOTA penalty.

Tereschenko ultimately finished sixth and earned the Silver Cup class win alongside his AKKA-ASP driving partner Jim Pla.

The French team’s Silver category victory came after a last-lap battle with Ricardo Feller in the No. 14 Emil Frey Lamborghini, who briefly got ahead before slipping behind Tereschenko and Pro-class Emil Frey driver Jack Aitken just before the flag.

The three Emil Frey Lamborghinis finished seventh, eighth and ninth as Siedler completed the overall top ten in the car that initially challenged for the lead with Costa at the helm.

Oscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka came through in tenth for Toksport WRT to secure the final Silver Cup podium place.

WRT’s Kelvin van der Linde charged into the top ten during the latter half of the race, but a late issue prevented the South African and Benjamin Goethe from scoring any points.

Pro-Am honors went to Barwell Motorsport’s Henrique Chaves and Miguel Ramos, who led most of the way in the No. 77 Lamborghini.

Ramos gained the upper hand in the early stages after pole-sitter Machiels and Pierburg clashed.

The main threat came from Garage 59’s Alexander West and Jonny Adam, who benefited from the second safety car to be right behind Chaves for the run to the line.

However, Adam was carrying a five-second time penalty due to West turning the Sky-Tempesta Ferrari around in the opening exchanges. Chaves nonetheless kept ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner to secure Barwell’s third win of the season.

RESULTS: Misano Race 1 (Final)

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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