Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts secured a second win from three GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS races at Misano by steering their #32 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine to victory in this afternoon’s closing Sprint Cup contest.
Vanthoor survived late pressure from the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi of Christopher Haase after a safety car bunched the pack during the closing 10 minutes of the one-hour run. The #55 Attempto Racing crew came home third, completing an Audi podium lockout at the Italian venue.
Weerts started from fourth and quickly made up a place by picking off the #25 Sainteloc car of Arthur Rougier through the opening sequence of corners. He remained third throughout the first stint, keeping the leaders in his sights until the mid-race driver change.
Just as in last night’s race, the #15 Tech 1 Racing Lexus started from pole and led the opening stint with Thomas Neubauer at the wheel. The Frenchman initially built a gap of three seconds, though this was gradually cut by the #55 Attempto machine of Tommaso Mosca.
Mosca and fourth-placed Rougier stopped first, followed one lap later by Neubauer and Weerts. A typically rapid turnaround from the WRT crew allowed Vanthoor to emerge in the effective lead of the race, followed by Haase after a similarly quick stop gave the #25 Sainteloc Audi track position. The #55 car slipped to third with Drudi taking over from Mosca, while Aurélien Panis dropped to seventh in the Tech 1 Lexus.
With a clear track in front of him, Vanthoor was in his element. The race appeared to be under complete control, with the youngster establishing an advantage of almost four seconds. Haase was his closest challenger, followed by Drudi and the #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG of Maro Engel.
Further back, Kelvin van der Linde (#31 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) and Nelson Panciatici (#107 CMR Bentley) produced an entertaining on-track battle as they disputed fifth position. After going head-to-head for several laps the Audi was able to slip past, which allowed Panis to get alongside Panciatici. Just as he did so the Bentley’s rear snapped loose, sending Panciatici into the Lexus at high speed. Both were sent into the gravel, but the drivers were able to climb from their cars unaided.
The safety car emerged, leaving Vanthoor to face a final challenge from Haase. The Sainteloc man stayed close at the restart and hustled the Belgian all the way to the chequered flag, but Vanthoor hung on to win by 0.7s. Drudi secured the final podium spot for Attempto, while Engel and Van der Linde completed the top-five.
Silver Cup honours went to the #108 CMR Bentley driven by Pierre Alexandre Jean and Hugo Chevalier. The young duo beat the #90 Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG, which snatched second spot with a late pass on the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car.
Like the overall result, the Pro-Am class also saw a repeat of last night’s winner as the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari took class victory thanks to Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III. The #20 SPS Automotive Mercedes-AMG and AF Corse’s #52 Ferrari completed the Pro-Am podium.
With two wins from three Weerts and Vanthoor have made a major statement about their title aspirations, with the young duo enjoying a 13-point lead over Haase and Rougier. Maro Engel and Luca Stolz sit third, while race 2 winners Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy are fourth following the Misano meeting.
The Sprint Cup campaign continues next month at Magny-Cours, which stages the series as part of a packed weekend of action on 11-13 September. Before that, the Endurance Cup will resume with a six-hour race at the Nurburgring scheduled for 5-6 September. Following a superb victory at the opening long-distance run and two wins from three at Misano, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will be the squad to beat when racing resumes in the Eifel mountains.