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GT World Challenge Europe

Costa, Altoe Lead Home Emil Frey 1-2 in First Barcelona Race

Emil Frey Lamborghini squad takes 1-2 in first of three Sprint Cup races at Barcelona…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Emil Frey Racing scored a one-two result with its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos as Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoe notched up their second consecutive GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup victory in Race 1 at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Costa held off his teammate Mikael Grenier in a one-lap dash to the checkered flag after a late safety car period restart to take the win aboard the No. 163 Emil Frey machine.

Costa overtook Grenier, whose co-driver Ricardo Feller started from pole, for the lead on the run down to Turn 1 with around 17 minutes left in Saturday’s one-hour contest.

The Catalan driver then stayed ahead as the clock wound down, despite the field being bunched up by the safety car which was caused by Jules Gounon pulling his CMR Bentley Continental GT3 to one side with smoke billowing from the vehicle’s engine bay.

While Grenier and Feller missed out on victory, their second place overall was enough to clinch the Silver Cup class honors.

Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy finished third in AKKA-ASP’s No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, ahead of the French team’s Silver pairing of Jim Pla and Benjamin Hites.

Maro Engel and Luca Stolz completed the top five in their Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG, while championship leaders Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts ended up sixth in their Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.

This tightened the gaps at the top of the standings, with Engel and Stolz now provisionally five points behind Vanthoor and Weerts.

Costa and Altoe’s win moved them up to fourth in the leaderboard, between Boguslavskiy and WRT’s Kelvin van der Linde and Ryuichiro Tomita who collected three points in seventh.

Saturday’s encounter, which was held in dry but overcast conditions, started with Altoe launching his Lamborghini into second behind Feller from row two of the grid.

However, the Italian was overtaken into Repsol a few moments later by a charging Pla, whose AKKA-ASP Mercedes remained in second through to the pit window.

Weerts made a good start for WRT, rising from eighth on the grid to fifth, before the Belgian driver was overtaken by his title rival Boguslavskiy who tucked in behind Stolz, Altoe, Pla and Feller.

During the driver swaps Emil Frey brought Costa out ahead of Hites, restoring the one-two, while Boguslavskiy’s co-driver Marciello emerged in front of Stolz’s partner Engel with Audi drivers Vanthoor, Christopher Haase and van der Linde in pursuit.

Haase then dropped out of the points battle when he was ordered to serve a drive-through for his co-driver Arthur Rougier overtaking the CMR Bentley and Weerts’ WRT Audi during a safety car sequence in the race’s early stages.

The first intervention of the day came in the opening 10 minutes after Pro-Am leader Chris Froggatt skidded his Ferrari into the gravel at Turn 5.

After the pit stops the Emil Frey Lamborghinis set off down the road with approximately seven seconds in hand, as the title protagonists got held up behind Hites.

Marciello found a way past his AKKA-ASP teammate on the run down to Turn 7 while Engel, Vanthoor and van der Linde settled into a densely-grouped train of cars.

However, no positional changes were left to come, even with the added variable of the late safety car.

Behind van der Linde in eighth was the Attempto Racing Audi of Frederic Vervisch and Nicolas Schoell, ahead of Oscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka’s ninth-placed Toksport WRT Mercedes.

Pro-Am honors went to AF Corse Ferrari drivers Andrea Bertolini and Louis Machiels who kept their slim title hopes alive after benefiting from points leader Froggatt’s misfortune.

Bertolini fended off a charging Phil Keen at the end, with the Italian crossing the line just 0.2 seconds ahead of the ERC Sport Mercedes driver who was paired with Lee Mowle.

Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III finished a lap down but still claimed fourth-placed points for the class, while Dominik Baumann and Valentin Pierburg completed the podium.

RESULTS: Race 1 (provisional)

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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