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Vanthoor, Weerts Victorious in Brands Hatch Sprint Cup Opener

Quick pit work from Team WRT allows Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts to claim victory in Brands Hatch Race 1…

Photo: JEP/SRO

Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts kickstarted their hunt for a fourth Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup title by winning the opening race of the season at Brands Hatch.

Weerts overcame two safety car restarts to take the No. 32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 to victory by a margin of 0.633 seconds over the No. 14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 of Ben Green and Konsta Lappalainen.

Green started the race from pole position and led for the opening half, coming under increased pressure from Vanthoor.

The Belgian started third but dispatched of the No. 7 Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo of Mattia Drudi at Clark Curve to move up to second place after nine minutes.

The two leading cars then pitted together, with Weerts’ No. 32 BMW able to leap ahead of the newly installed Lappalainen to take the lead.

Weerts then kept his rival at bay for the remainder of the contest, even through two safety cars that were both caused by cars from Comtoyou Racing.

First, Drudi’s co-driver Nicolas Baert brought an early end to a podium challenge for the No. 7 Aston Martin when he ran wide at Stirling’s and smashed through a polystyrene board at the side of the track.

Parts of the sign became lodged in the Aston Martin’s air intake, causing it to overheat and forcing Baert to pull off at Druids.

Later, Matisse Lismont spun the sister No. 21 car into the gravel to Paddock Hill Bend with eight minutes remaining, requiring a second intervention.

Weerts kept Lappalainen at bay through both restarts to claim WRT’s first Sprint Cup win since Valencia last year.

Behind the No. 14 Ferrari, the No. 48 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Maro Engel and Lucas Auer completed the podium.

The No. 159 Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 Evo recovered from an opening-lap skirmish with Giacomo Altoe to finish fourth, although aided by penalties for cars further ahead.

Altoe’s co-driver Thierry Vermeulen initially crossed the line in fifth, but was demoted to eleventh after stewards deemed Altoe responsible for the contact with the McLaren and handed out a five-second penalty.

A separate five-second penalty was extended to the fourth-placed No. 99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II of Ricardo Feller and Alex Aka for speeding in the pitlane.

As a result, the two cars dropped to tenth and eleventh respectively, although Feller could receive an additional penalty for contact with stablemate Lorenzo Ferrari that sent the No. 99 Audi off the track at Surtees.

Cesar Gazeau and Aurelien Panis completed the overall top five and won Silver Cup aboard the No. 10 Boutsen VDS Mercedes-AMG, with Luca Engstler and Max Hofer claiming Gold Cup honors aboard the No. 6 Audi one spot behind.

Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin initially finished seventh but also picked up a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane, leaving the No. 46 car tumbling out of the top ten.

Instead, WRT stablemates Calan Williams and Sam de Haan took seventh in the No. 30 car, ahead of CSA Racing and the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari.

The second Sprint Cup race of the weekend is set to take place at 4 p.m. BST (11 a.m. EDT).

RESULTS: Race 1

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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