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GT World Challenge Europe

Weerts, Vanthoor Open Title Defense with Commanding Win

Team WRT’s Weerts, Vanthoor win first race of 2021 Sprint Cup season at Magny-Cours…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor took a resounding victory in the opening round of the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup season at Magny-Cours on Saturday night.

The defending Sprint Cup champions opened their title defense with a dominant run from pole that concluded with Vanthoor taking the checkered flag by a clear 6.5-second margin from Albert Costa in the No. 163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

Weerts controlled the start from the primary spot on the 27-car grid, while Costa’s co-driver Ricardo Feller held station in second from his Emil Frey Lamborghini teammate Arthur Rougier and Patrick Kujala in the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020.

Feller applied pressure on the leading No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo through the opening half but couldn’t break Weerts’ stride.

The pit window opened just after the end of a Full Course Yellow period to facilitate the retrieval of Frank Bird’s WRT Audi which had spun deep into the gravel at turn one.

Emil Frey brought both of its front-running Lamborghinis in at the first chance, enabling Weerts to profit from a few minutes of clean air before handing over to Vanthoor.

A faultless stop from WRT gave Vanthoor a 7.5-second advantage coming out of the pit sequence, with Costa running second ahead of Rougier’s co-driver Alex Fontana and Maro Engel in the Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo started by Luca Stolz.

Stolz started from sixth before passing Madpanda Motorsport’s Ezequiel Companc on the opening lap. Engel then emerged from the pits in fourth having jumped the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari and quickly set about challenging Fontana for the final podium spot.

Despite almost finding a way past the driver of the No. 14 Emil Frey Lamborghini, Engel’s race ended abruptly in the final 10 minutes when he was forced to pull the No. 6 Toksport Mercedes off the track with its left-rear wheel missing.

This eased the pressure on Fontana who crossed the line 13 seconds behind his teammate Costa, bringing Emil Frey a double podium result to open the new season.

Fontana and late Emil Frey call-up Rougier also secured Silver Cup honors in the process, with nine seconds in hand to Rik Breukers who took second in class and fourth overall in the Madpanda Motorsport AMG started by Companc.

Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy completed the top five in the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG, after Marciello came out best in a close fight with Mattia Drudi.

Marciello drew alongside Drudi’s Attempto Racing Audi on the run out of the Chateaux d’Eau right-hander before clearing his Italian compatriot on the brakes into Lycee Pin.

Drudi and Tommaso Mosca settled for sixth, ahead of Toksport WRT’s Silver Cup podium pairing of Oscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka.

Rinaldi Racing’s Silver Cup Ferrari driven by Kujala and Benjamin Hites slipped to eighth after a promising start, while Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Ulysse de Pauw were ninth in the No. 107 CMR Bentley Continental GT3.

AKKA-ASP’s other Pro pairing of Petru Razvan Umbrarescu and factory driver Jules Gounon rounded out the top ten.

Pro-Am honors went to the AF Corse Ferrari duo of Andrea Bertolini and Louis Machiels who started from the back of the four-car grid.

After Machiels charged to the front in the first half, Bertolini consolidated to win the class in 18th overall, with a gap of two cars between him and the second-placed SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG of Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann.

Jonny Adam and Alexander West claimed the final Pro-Am podium spot in their pole-sitting Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

The final race one order was propped by the two Sainteloc Racing Audis, which both encountered issues and failed to reach the finish after initially running in the top ten.

The JOTA McLaren 720S GT3 finished 17th on the road but was given a drive-through converted to an extra 20 seconds on its race time for Ollie Wilkinson transitioning from the ‘moving’ pit lane to the working lane more than three garages before his team’s box.

RESULTS: Magny-Cours Race 1

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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