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GT World Challenge Europe

De Pauw, Jean Take Ferrari’s First Overall Sprint Win Since 2015

Silver pairing De Pauw and Jean deliver Ferrari’s first Sprint Cup win for six and a half years…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

Silver Cup pairing Ulysse de Pauw and Pierre-Alexandre Jean earned Ferrari’s first Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup overall victory since 2015 in the opening Sunday race at Brands Hatch.

After de Pauw took a surprise overall pole with the No. 53 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 on Saturday, the 20-year-old Belgian and his French co-driver Jean resisted the best efforts of the Pro competitors to win the 60-minute race by 1.3 seconds.

Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts opened their Sprint Cup title defense by finishing second in the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, while Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy completed the podium for Mercedes-AMG outfit Akkodis ASP.

De Pauw and Jean, who drove for the CMR Bentley squad last year, became the first Ferrari duo to win a GTWC Europe Sprint Cup race since Rinaldi Racing’s Norbert Siedler and Marco Seefried swept the Misano round six and a half years ago.

Several Ferrari entries have accrued class wins and titles in the years since then, but the Italian manufacturer has rarely featured in contention for overall Sprint honors.

De Pauw held the lead over Akkodis ASP driver Jules Gounon at the start of Race 1, which went into an almost immediate safety car due to an accident further down the field.

ASP driver Igor Walilko lost control of his Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo on the inside and made contact with Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer’s WRT Audi. An out-of-shape Simmenauer then collected his teammate Benjamin Goethe, leaving both Audis in the gravel.

Walilko, whose car emerged from the incident relatively unscathed, was handed a 10-second stop/hold for causing a collision, plus a five-place grid drop for Race 2 for accumulating three behavior warning points.

Racing resumed after 13 minutes and de Pauw made a strong getaway ahead of Gounon, Mattia Drudi in the No. 12 Tresor by Car Collection Audi and Weerts’ WRT Audi.

Replicating his giant-killing exploits in qualifying, de Pauw grew his advantage over Mercedes-AMG factory driver Gounon to just under three seconds when the pit window opened on 25 minutes.

Gounon was one of the latest front-runners to pit, but his hopes of giving co-driver Jim Pla an overcut advantage on the Ferrari were dashed when the Akkodis ASP mechanics lost time struggling to affix a new left-rear Pirelli tire.

This dropped Pla to third behind Vanthoor, whose WRT pit crew performed the quickest service in the field to leapfrog Drudi and Luca Ghiotto’s Car Collection Audi.

While the pit window was open, Marciello overtook Ghiotto to reach net fourth, before out-braking his Akkodis ASP teammate Pla into Graham Hill Bend for third.

Vanthoor started the second stint with a three-second deficit to Jean, but the Belgian reduced the margin over the next few laps as the leading Ferrari encountered traffic.

At one stage Vanthoor was only 1.5 seconds behind Jean, but the pressure was eased in the final 15 minutes when a charging Marciello caught up with the WRT Audi.

Marciello came up just 0.3 seconds short of Vanthoor at the line, as Jean sped away to round off a landmark result for AF Corse, which became a first-time overall winner in Sprint Cup.

Pla continued in fourth until the checkered flag, ahead of Patric Niederhauser in the No. 25 Sainteloc Racing Audi that was started by Aurelien Panis.

Ghiotto held off his Tresor by Car Collection teammate Christopher Haase to secure sixth in the No. 12 Audi that spent the opening stint in the podium positions.

Casper Stevenson and Thomas Drouet finished seventh in the No. 87 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG and took second in Silver Cup behind de Pauw and Jean.

The Silver podium was completed by the No. 99 Attempto Racing Audi driven by Alex Aka and Nicolas Schoell, who placed tenth overall behind their Pro-class teammates Pieter Schothorst and Dennis Marschall.

Pro-Am honors went to the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari duo of Hugo Delacour and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli.

Fellow AF Corse driver Louis Machiels held pole but made an unscheduled pit stop during the opening stint that dropped his No. 52 machine to the back of the field.

Machiels’ co-driver Andrea Bertolini recovered to take third in class, behind Patryk Krupinski and Christien Klien who shared the No. 111 JP Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.

Barwell Motorsport’s Pro-Am Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo withdrew from the meeting before Race 1, due to driver Alex Malykhin feeling unwell.

The second 60-minute race of the day is due to start at 4:45 p.m. local time (11:45 a.m. ET) with Marciello starting from pole position in the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG.

RESULTS: Race 1

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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