Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoe set up a GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup title showdown with victory in the season’s penultimate race at Barcelona.
The Emil Frey Racing duo, who headed into the 2020 finale as championship outsiders, added to their Race 1 win on Saturday by dominating the weekend’s second race from pole to earn a third consecutive victory with the No. 163 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
Altoe took the checkered flag 2.8 seconds ahead of Nicolas Schoell who piloted the No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo with Frederic Vervisch.
Title contenders Maro Engel and Luca Stolz completed the top-three ahead of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, whose points lead was reduced further by their rivals.
Vanthoor and Weerts are provisionally on 72.5 points heading into this afternoon’s final race of the campaign with Engel and Stolz just three points behind, while Costa and Altoe are a further half-second back after leapfrogging AKKA-ASP’s Timur Boguslavskiy.
Costa started the 60-minute race from pole and held his position through the squeeze into the first turn, while Engel slotted HRT’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo into second.
The hectic opening sequence included Attempto Racing driver Mattia Drudi, who started alongside Vervisch on row two, spinning out.
Engel was then deemed to have used space outside the track boundaries to get up to second past Vervisch, which led to the German driver letting the Attempto Audi back through after 20 minutes of racing.
Costa led the opening stint from Vervisch and Engel, with Vanthoor’s Audi running fourth after the Belgian got past front-row starter Raffaele Marciello on the opening lap.
Emil Frey Racing’s sister Lamborghini, which was running in seventh as the Silver Cup leader in the early stages, lost ground with a drive-through penalty after Mikael Grenier turned Eddie Cheever III’s Pro-Am leading Ferrari around at Turn 10.
The top Emil Frey car fared better and continued out front after the driver swaps, but the lead gap came down when a safety car period was called with just over 20 minutes left.
Lee Mowle’s Pro-Am Mercedes-AMG had spun into the Turn 5 gravel, resetting the gaps at the head of the field.
But Altoe controlled the restart and led all the way to the checkered flag from Schoell, Engel’s co-driver Luca Stolz and Weerts, while Marciello’s driving partner Boguslavskiy narrowly held off a charging Ryuichiro Tomita in WRT’s other Pro-class Audi on the line.
Tomita and Kelvin van der Linde fell out of championship contention, with sixth putting them 17 points off the top of the standings with 16.5 points on offer in Race 3.
The same could be said for fellow dark horses Arthur Rougier and Christopher Haase, who finished seventh in their Sainteloc Racing Audi.
CMR’s Pro-class Bentley Continental GT3 did not take part in Race 2 after being withdrawn from the weekend due to a damaging fire in the second half of Saturday’s contest.
Silver Cup, Pro-Am Titles Decided
While the overall championship remains open heading into Race 3, crews from Sainteloc and Sky-Tempesta Racing wrapped up the Silver and Pro-Am category titles in Race 2.
Steven Palette and Simon Gachet secured the Silver crown with fourth-place in class, while their nearest rivals Axcil Jefferies and Ezequiel Companc finished sixth.
Silver race honors went to Jim Pla and Benjamin Hites, whose AKKA-ASP Mercedes got past the fellow AMG of Toksport WRT’s Oscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka during the pit cycle.
These two cars finished eighth and ninth overall, while the top ten was completed by Emil Frey’s penalized Lamborghini which also completed the class podium.
In Pro-Am, Cheever III and Chris Froggatt wrapped up the Pro-Am championship by taking their fifth victory of the season.
Having recovered from Cheever’s rotation on lap one, Froggatt moved up a place when Mowle spun off before picking up another spot on Louis Machiels into Turn 10.
The Brit then overtook the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG of Valentin Pierburg on the final tour to clinch the win.
Froggatt and Cheever’s victory leaves them an unassailable 30 points clear of Machiels and Andrea Bertolini with a race to spare.
Race 3 is due to start at 4:30 p.m. CEST (10:30 a.m. EST).
RESULTS: Barcelona Race 2 (provisional)