Dries Vanthoor’s overtake on CMR Bentley driver Nelson Panciatici earned Team WRT victory in the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup opener at Misano.
Vanthoor made use of a safety car restart with nine minutes of the one-hour contest left to latch his and Charles Weerts’ Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo onto the tail of Panciatici, who had established an 11-second lead in the No. 107 Bentley Continental GT3 after taking over from Jules Gounon.
The WRT Audi driver then successfully executed a lunge down the inside of Panciatici at the Quercia left-hander on the first lap after the restart to seize the advantage.
Vanthoor’s surprise move shook Panciatici, which presented a chance for Kelvin van der Linde to move the No. 31 WRT Audi past the Bentley two corners later.
This resulted in WRT scoring a one-two result in the first of three Sprint Cup races being held at Misano this weekend.
Despite missing out on the win, Panciatici came through to complete the top three for CMR after holding off Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG driver Maro Engel in the closing laps.
Panciatici’s co-driver Gounon started from second on the grid and briefly got the Bentley’s nose ahead of Thomas Neubauer’s Silver-class Tech 1 Racing Lexus RC F GT3 at Turn 1.
But Neubauer refused to let Gounon past, which resulted in the Lexus leading the Bentley through the opening stint whilst Weerts dropped to fourth behind his WRT teammate Ryuichiro Tomita.
The lead changed during the mid-race driver swaps as CMR got Panciatici out ahead of Neubauer’s co-driver Aurelien Panis.
However, an engine issue for Panis mere minutes into his stint resulted in the French driver pulling the Tech 1 Racing Lexus into the pits for retirement.
That episode gave Panciatici some breathing room, while the WRT Audis had swapped back around with Vanthoor now running second ahead of van der Linde.
The Bentley’s advantage grew by around three seconds in the short period between the pit stops and the Full Course Yellow that ultimately turned into a safety car intervention.
The FCY was called after new Silver Cup class leader Benjamin Hites, who was battling for fourth overall with the Audis of Christopher Haase, Mattia Drudi and Frederic Vervisch, was spun around by Drudi at Quercia.
Hites’ AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo was then struck on its right side by the oncoming WRT Audi of Hamza Owega, spreading debris across the track.
The resulting safety car gave Vanthoor the incentive to launch an attack on Panciatici’s lead, and ultimately denied Bentley a chance to claim its first Sprint win since 2016.
Engel and Luca Stolz had a consistent run to fourth in their HRT Mercedes, which started ninth but kept out of trouble to pick up five positions.
Engel finished just ahead of Christopher Haase, who shared the No. 25 Sainteloc Audi with Arthur Rougier.
Drudi, who partnered Tommaso Mosca crossed the line in sixth after overtaking his Attempto Racing teammate Vervisch in the nine-minute run to the flag.
Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoe were eighth in their Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, while Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy’s Pro-class AKKA-ASP Mercedes that is starting Race 2 from pole finished ninth.
Pro-Am honors went to Sky Tempesta Racing’s Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 of Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III, while Palette and Gachet won Silver Cup in 10th overall.
Race 2 is set to get underway tomorrow at 11:20 a.m. CEST (5:20 a.m. EST) while qualifying for Race 3 will take place beforehand at 9 a.m. local time.
RESULTS: Misano Race 1 (provisional)