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GT World Challenge Europe

Valencia Weekend Notebook

Sportscar365’s weekend notebook ahead of the GTWC Europe Sprint Cup title decider…

Photo: Jules Benichou/21 Creation

***The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup season wraps up this weekend at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, located 15 miles west of Valencia. It is the series’ second visit to the 2.48-mile circuit, which is also on next season’s schedule.

***Team WRT’s Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor lead the Sprint Cup overall drivers’ championship standings by 11.5 points over Akkodis ASP’s Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy. Weerts and Vanthoor are pursuing their third consecutive title.

***The Pro-Am drivers’ title is also open, but the gap between the top two pairings is larger. Garage 59 drivers Dean MacDonald and defending champion Miguel Ramos have a buffer of 20.5 points over AF Corse’s Andrea Bertolini and Louis Machiels. The leaders only need to finish both races in their McLaren 720S GT3 to seal the crown.

***The Sprint Cup Silver drivers’ title was wrapped up at Misano where Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Ulysse de Pauw put themselves mathematically out of reach. The Silver titles in both Sprint and Endurance Cup have been secured ahead of the final round this year.

***A four-hour paid test session took place in dry and hot conditions on Thursday. Weerts set the pace in the No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II with a time of 1:31.496 that came 15 minutes from the end. The Belgian edged out Dinamic Motorsport Porsche driver Christian Engelhart by five-thousandths of a second. Results

***Nürburgring 24 runner-up Fabian Schiller is driving for Madpanda Motorsport this weekend, for the Spanish team’s first Sprint Cup outing since last season. Schiller will partner team principal Ezequiel Companc in the No. 90 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

***Schiller is making his first appearance with Madpanda. The German driver races full-time in GTWC Europe Endurance Cup with Mercedes-AMG squad Al Manar Racing by HRT.

***Joshua Kreuger has joined GSM Novamarine and will share the team’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo with Danny Kroes. Krueger, 31, is set for a significant step up from the Dutch national Mazda MX-5 Cup series in which he has previously raced.

***Kreuger’s addition to the GSM lineup means the Italian team has had six different drivers for its debut GTWC Europe Sprint Cup campaign. Kroes joined from round three at Zandvoort onwards. GSM Novamarine’s Lamborghini was the only car that didn’t take part in paid testing.

***Nicolai Kjaergaard has been drafted in as a late replacement for Ethan Simioni in the No. 159 Garage 59 McLaren. Kjaergaard will team up with Manuel Maldonado. A reason for Simioni’s absence has not been disclosed. The Canadian missed the most recent Endurance Cup round with COVID-19.

***Garage59 has special stickers on its McLarens paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away last week at the age of 96 and whose funeral takes place on Monday.

***Valencia was a strong circuit for Mercedes-AMG machinery last year, which could be promising for title hopefuls Marciello and Boguslavskiy. Maro Engel and Luca Stolz swept the 2021 event at the track for Toksport WRT. On the other hand, Vanthoor and Weerts had the worst result of their second title-winning season although they had already wrapped up the championship.

***Looking ahead to the season finale, Weerts said: “It is going to be a very stressful weekend, as we know that our closest competitors, the Mercedes, are very quick there, as proven last year.” WRT team principal Vincent Vosse added: “I hope we have learned the lessons and carry back better memories.”

***This weekend marks the final Sprint Cup event for WRT’s Audi partnership. The Belgian squad has won a total of 44 races with Audi GT3 machinery in the series.

***Although Vanthoor and Weerts have the upper hand in Sprint Cup, Marciello can secure the combined GTWC Europe drivers’ title — which combines Sprint and Endurance — this weekend by scoring less than 14 points fewer than the WRT pairing.

***Tristan Vautier is making his first Sprint Cup appearance in four years, as Jules Gounon’s stand-in at Akkodis ASP. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi driver’s last series outing came at the Hungaroring in 2018, when he partnered Kenny Habul for a one-off entry. Vautier also contested one round in 2017, subbing for Gounon at the season finale.

***The minimum pit stop time for the Pro-Am class at Valencia is 61 seconds, with a single one-second ‘joker’ tolerance available across the two races.

***The Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II and the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 have been given 5 kg weight reductions in a Balance of Performance update since the last Sprint Cup round at Misano. Going the other way, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo has received an additional 5 kg.

***Official track action begins with an 80-minute Free Practice starting at 9:40 a.m. (3:40 a.m. ET) on Friday. As usual, the first half will be reserved for Bronze and Silver-rated drivers.

***The race schedules for Saturday and Sunday are identical, with each 20-minute qualifying session getting underway at 9 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) and each race starting at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET).

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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