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GT World Challenge Europe

Weerts, Vanthoor Take Sprint Points Lead with Race 1 Victory

Weerts, Vanthoor win Race 1 to claim GTWC Europe Sprint Cup points lead after five races…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor moved into the lead of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup standings by winning the first race of the weekend at Zandvoort.

The drivers of the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II led the 60-minute contest from start to finish after Weerts set the fastest lap time in qualifying earlier on Saturday.

Their maximum haul of 17.5 points elevated them to the top of the drivers’ table after heading to Zandvoort with an 11.5-point deficit to Akkodis ASP’s Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy, who failed to score.

Boguslavskiy ran outside the points during the opening stint after qualifying 14th, while a charging Marciello brought the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo into the top 10, only for a left-front puncture to drop him down to 23rd and last position.

At the head of the field, Weerts delivered a strong first leg from pole, keeping ahead of AF Corse Ferrari driver Ulysse de Pauw who overtook Simon Gachet’s No. 11 Tresor by Car Collection Audi on the first run down to Tarzan.

Gachet lost two more positions in the opening stint, with Jules Gounon slotting his No. 88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG into third on lap one and Sainteloc Racing’s Aurelien Panis finding a way past inside the first 10 minutes. 

Weerts held a 3.5-second advantage over de Pauw heading into the mid-race pit window, during which WRT performed a slick stop to maintain the No. 32 Audi’s lead.

There was a change for second during the pit cycle, however, as Gounon’s co-driver Jim Pla emerged ahead of Pierre-Alexandre Jean who took the reins of the No. 53 Ferrari.

Vanthoor kept Pla at arm’s length over the next 10 minutes, until a Full Course Yellow and safety car period bunched up the field.

The intervention was caused by the need to retrieve Vincent Abril’s McLaren 720S GT3, which had stopped near pit exit after the JP Motorsport driver encountered a sudden mechanical problem on the right-front corner of his car.

Pla had a good run through the banked final turn when racing resumed with 15 minutes to go, but the Frenchman couldn’t get close enough to challenge Vanthoor.

The WRT driver went on to win by 2.8 seconds, delivering his and Weerts’ second victory of the season after their success in the opening race at Magny-Cours.

The late burst of green flag running saw a change for third place, as Christopher Haase recovered the No. 11 Audi’s lost ground to claim a podium alongside Gachet.

Haase took the restart in fifth, but advanced to fourth with a brilliant overtake on Patric Niederhauser in the Sainteloc Audi coming out of Hugenholtzbocht.

The German driver then accessed the top three by powering past Jean’s Ferrari after the pair went side-by-side through the Turn 10 left-hander with 10 minutes remaining.

Jean and de Pauw settled for fourth overall but nonetheless claimed their fourth Silver Cup class win out of five races held so far this season.

Niederhauser and Panis took fifth for Sainteloc, ahead of the two Attempto Racing Audi crews led by the No. 66 pairing of Pieter Schothorst and Dennis Marschall.

Nicolas Schoell and Alex Aka were second on the road in Silver sharing the No. 99 Attempto car, but they lost their class podium due to a 10-second post-race time penalty that was given because their pit gantry camera was not recording during the race.

That handed place second in Silver Cup, and seventh overall, to the No. 87 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG pairing of Casper Stevenson and Thomas Drouet.

Tresor by Car Collection’s No. 12 Audi, followed by the No. 33 and No. 30 Audis from Team WRT, completed the overall top 10.

AF Corse claimed a one-two result in Pro-Am, with Stefano Costantini and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli winning aboard the No. 21 Ferrari, and their teammates Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini claiming second.

The No. 188 Garage 59 McLaren that started from the Pro-Am pole retired after just 12 minutes due to a gearbox issue.

Valentino Rossi and Frederic Vervisch finished 14th in their WRT Audi after being demoted three places to 23rd on the grid due to Rossi impeding the No. 111 JP Motorsport McLaren during qualifying.

The Italian battled hard with other drivers as he sought to make up ground in the first stint, but a spin after clipping the inside curb at Turn 8 impeded his progress.

Vervisch then put in a strong second stint, gaining several places in the No. 46 WRT Audi.

The Belgian finished 15th on the road but a 30-second post-race penalty for the No. 86 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG, which crossed the line in 13th, yielded one more position. 

Qualifying for the second race of the weekend takes place at 9:30 a.m. CEST (3:30 a.m. ET) on Sunday.

RESULTS: Race 1 (final)

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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