- Belgian Audi Club Team WRT returns to winning ways at Misano thanks to impressive young duo
- Weerts becomes youngest overall race winner in Blancpain GT Series history
- AKKA ASP wins again in Silver Cup, Orange1 FFF Racing on top in Pro-Am, HB Racing completes Am Cup domination
Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts triumphed in the weekend's second Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe race at Misano to secure a first victory for the 2019 campaign for Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
This was a momentous result, with 18-year-old Weerts becoming the youngest overall race winner in Blancpain GT Series history – beating the record set by crew-mate Vanthoor at the Hungaroring in 2017.
It comes after Weerts scored pole for Saturday's opening contest, only to spin out of contention while running in second position. Taking victory less than 24 hours later required an impressive level of maturity from the Belgian.
Vanthoor started the race second to the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG of Raffaele Marciello and, despite an early attack from the Audi driver, it was the Italian who controlled the opening stint. This was a close contest between two of the fastest competitors on the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe grid, but Marciello was able to gradually build a gap of just over two seconds.
This was wiped out when the safety car was deployed to allow marshals to clear debris from the circuit. Marciello held his advantage at the restart and, as the pit stop phase approached, the #88 Mercedes-AMG seemed to be in a commanding position.
But, as is so often the case in one-hour contests, the race would turn in the pits. The two leaders stopped at the same time, but while there were no problems for the WRT squad something was clearly amiss for AKKA ASP. The team was not ready for Marciello, which caused a significant delay as he handed over to Vincent Abril. By the time the Monegasque was able to exit the pits, the #88 had plummeted to 23rd.
This put Weerts in a strong position, but his task was by no means simple. Behind him the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi had moved into second spot, with Christopher Haase having run a close third throughout the first stint before handing over to Simon Gachet.
The gap between the leading pair remained around the two-second mark, with Weerts able to manage his position at the head of the field. Indeed, as the race reached its deciding 15 minutes, third-placed Andrea Caldarelli emerged as the Belgian's biggest threat in the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini he shares with Marco Mapelli.
Having taken victory in Saturday evening's race the Italian was in confident mood and rapidly closed on to the tail of Gachet in the Sainteloc Audi. He made a move for second with nine minutes left on the clock and, as the fastest of the top-three at this stage, was the cause of concerned faces in the WRT garages.
But while Caldarelli was able to edge closer to Weerts the Lamborghini was never within striking distance and the youngster kept his cool to win by 2.8s. Gachet brought the Sainteloc Audi third, securing the French squad its first overall podium of the 2019 campaign.
Behind the leading trio the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG took fourth to conclude a solid weekend for Luca Stolz and Maro Engel. The all-German line-up vaulted up the order during the pit stop phase and ultimately took important points for the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe title battle. The #11 Phoenix Racing Audi completed the top-five, securing a best result of the season for Finlay Hutchinson and Frederic Vervisch.
Sixth overall went to the Silver Cup winner. The battle for class honours raged throughout the second half of the race as Nico Bastian (#89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG) fought to overhaul the #10 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine of Rik Breukers. There was just four minutes left on the clock when the Mercedes-AMG ace forced his way past after a robust contest, with Breukers ultimately slipping back to third behind the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin.
Pro-Am honours went the way of Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Phil Keen in the #519 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini, who finished second on the road but were promoted to first spot when the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari was hit with a 30-second post-race penalty. The #519 had led early on, before David Perel took the Ferrari into the lead, but when Rinat Salikhov was punished for an on-track collision during the second stint it was the Lamborghini pair that ultimately took the win.
In the Am Cup class, HB Racing completed a perfect weekend that has seen the Austrian squad top every session with its #444 Ferrari. Having led the way in both free practice runs the team then secured a brace of Am Cup poles before taking victory in both races. Sunday's contest saw Wolfgang Triller handle the first stint before handing over to Florian Scholze, who came home well ahead of the competition.
Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe will return to action in two weeks when Dutch circuit Zandvoort makes its return to the calendar. Before this, many of the drivers who competed at Misano will head straight for Belgium to contest two days of official testing (2/3 July) ahead of the season’s marquee event: the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Charles Weerts, #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi: "It wasn't easy, especially in this heat, and at the end the #563 Lamborghini was pushing to catch us. I did my best out there and the guys did an amazing job in the pits. It's an unbelievable result."
Andrea Caldarelli, #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini: "The podium was our target today. We had a mega pit stop and the car was good towards the end. It's great to score another podium and collect points for the championship. In the end, we just ran out of time to fight for the win."
Christopher Haase, #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi: "In this heat, it is really cool for us to be on the podium! Simon did a great job at the end. In these hot conditions there's big tyre drop-off and you have to handle that. I think we can be very happy with what we did today."
Thomas Neubauer, #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG: "We started 19th and the best Silver Cup car was fourth on the gird, so this was a big comeback from us. We came out of the pits seventh overall and second in class, then Nico was able to make the final overtake. After a difficult race yesterday it's nice to finish the weekend like this."
Hiroshi Hamaguchi, #519 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini: To be honest, this was a very tough weekend as we have been suffering with our set-up. That carried on through all of the sessions, which was really difficult, but we managed to keep out of trouble and reach the finish."
Wolfgang Triller, #444 HB Racing Ferrari: “I did not get a perfect start, but I was able keep a close gap to the Silver and Pro-Am cars running in front of me. The car was very good, so thanks to the team for that. Before the safety car there was a big gap between me and the next Am Cup driver, but that was closed and I had to control the situation for a few laps. It was a nice race, and I felt good in the car today.”