Luca Stolz and Maro Engel were untouchable as the Haupt Racing Team pair won Saturday night’s GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup race at Magny-Cours.
Engel brought the No. 4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo to the line 11.5 seconds clear of Norbert Siedler in the second-placed Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
The HRT car dominated the 60-minute contest as Stolz took full advantage of his pole position on the grid to lead the opening stint from Siedler’s co-driver Mikael Grenier.
Stolz built up a five-second advantage over the Canadian in the opening quarter, but his charge was compromised by a brief safety car period after Louis Machiels’ Pro-Am class Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 spun and became beached in the gravel at Estoril.
This put Grenier right onto the tail of the Mercedes but the lead didn’t change in the two laps prior to the pit window opening.
After the driver swaps, Engel emerged with a nine-second lead over Siedler, who quickly became occupied with keeping a quintet of Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evos behind him.
The Austrian soaked up the pressure from Dries Vanthoor, Christopher Haase, Frederic Vervisch, Kelvin van der Line and Mattia Drudi to secure second place for Emil Frey.
Vanthoor came through to complete the podium in the Team WRT Audi that was driven in the opening stint by Charles Weerts.
Weerts started sixth and immediately made up a spot when Steven Palette, who was on the second row, dived into the pits just before lights out to sort a puncture on his Audi.
The WRT driver then moved into fourth with a move on Drudi’s Attempto Racing co-driver Tommaso Mosca at the Turn 15 right-hander.
Up the road, Stolz was leading from Grenier while Ezequiel Companc had made a great start to put the Silver Cup-class Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG into third overall, only for the Argentinian to slip wide at Turn 1, allowing several cars through.
This elevated Weerts to third, while Vanthoor remained in that position until the end of the race.
Vervisch and Nicolas Schoell finished fourth in their Attempto Racing Audi, while Haase and Arthur Rougier completed the top five for Sainteloc Racing.
Schoell moved up to sixth after contact with Nelson Panciatici led to the Bentley driver spinning, while Vervisch gained a place on his teammate Drudi at the driver changes.
Vervisch then overtook Haase in the closing stages to snatch fourth, while van der Linde almost got his R8 between the pair as the five-car Audi train became a battle at the end.
Van der Linde, who shared the No. 31 WRT car with Ryuichiro Tomita, passed Drudi for sixth with 13 minutes to go before getting a great run on Haase out of Adelaide later on.
However, the South African lost the position he had made up when he put two wheels into the gravel whilst alongside Haase going through Turn 10, which meant van der Linde needed to re-pass Drudi to secure a double top-six finish for the two Team WRT Pro cars.
Silver Cup honors went to the Toksport WRT Mercedes duo of Juuso Puhakka and Oscar Tunjo, while brothers Hamza and Jusuf Owega finished second in their WRT Audi.
Tunjo slotted into the lead during the opening stint after issues set back theMadpanda Motorsport and AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMGs.
Although the Audi got ahead during the pit window, Puhakka dispatched Hamza Owega on-track in the second stint to secure Toksport’s maiden class win in GTWC Europe.
The Silver Cup winner finished ninth overall, one place behind Misano Race 2 winners Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy in their No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Jonathan Hui won in Pro-Am, leading home a one-two result for Sky-Tempesta Racing which also had Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever finish second.
Several cars hit trouble during a hectic opening half of the race, while the action largely settled down in the second stanza.
The first lap saw two cars eliminated on the spot, as the No. 163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini and the No. 6 Toksport WRT Mercedes came together at Adelaide.
The squeeze into that same hairpin also caused problems for the Tech 1 Racing Lexus RC F GT3, which was turned around by the Haase/Rougier Audi, leading to further issues for Aurelien Panis and Thomas Neubauer’s Silver Cup contender.
This incident was met with a drive-through converted into a 20-second time penalty for the Audi, which dropped that car to from fifth to ninth in the final classification.
CMR’s No. 107 Bentley also retired, after Jules Gounon had a high-speed crash into the tire barriers on the outside of the sweeping Turn 1 left-hander.
Gounon walked away from the accident, which happened just after the halfway mark.
RESULTS: Magny-Cours Race 1