- Belgian duo in unstoppable form at season-opening Sprint Cup contest
- Emil Frey Racing take double overall podium and wrap up Silver Cup win
- Machiels stars as AF Corse Ferrari conquers Pro-Am
Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor launched their Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup title defence in perfect fashion with an assured victory in tonight's season-opening race at Magny-Cours.
The win continued a dominant performance from the Team WRT duo after Vanthoor topped yesterday's free practice and pre-qualifying sessions, while Weerts put the #32 Audi on pole in this evening's qualifying. They completed the job by triumphing in a race staged more than an hour after sunset, edging away from the chasing pack to win by a comfortable margin of 6.4 seconds.
Weerts maintained his advantage at the start, holding off a pair of Emil Frey Racing Lamborghinis at the head of the 27-car pack. Ricardo Feller gave chase in the #163 and remained close to Weerts throughout an opening stint during which the two young chargers traded fastest laps.
Behind them, Arthur Rougier ran third overall while maintaining the lead in the Silver Cup ahead of class rival Patrick Kujala (#33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari). In Pro-Am, Louis Machiels (#52 AF Corse Ferrari) produced a superb opening stint to move from the rear of the pack to snatch the class lead from pole-sitter Alexander West (#188 Garage 59 Aston Martin) mid-way through the stint.
With the pit window drawing near Weerts and Feller were separated by little over a second, though the leading Audi's advantage was stretched during a full-course yellow period. When the track went green once again the Emil Frey cars stopped together, with Albert Costa assuming the controls of the #163 while Alex Fontana took the wheel of the #14.
But they could do nothing about the leading Audi as the Team WRT mechanics executed the fastest pit stop of the day to send the #32 machine back out with a commanding advantage. Indeed, the job was largely complete by the time Vanthoor took the wheel, though the Belgian still had the speed to post the fastest lap of the race shortly after.
Having led by more than 10 seconds at one stage, Vanthoor eased off during the final minutes and took the chequered flag 6.468s clear of Costa, who ran a lonely stint to finish in excess of 12 seconds clear of teammate Fontana in the sister #14 Lamborghini.
The second Emil Frey machine completed the overall podium and also captured Silver Cup victory, with Rougier's performance particularly worthy of praise. The Frenchman was only drafted into the line-up earlier today and did not turn his first laps of the weekend until qualifying, but helped crew-mate Fontana to capture pole and class victory.
The #90 Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG was fourth overall and second in the Silver Cup after a standout showing from Ezequiel Perez Companc and Rik Breukers. The #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG and #99 Attempto Racing Audi were next across the line after Raffaele Marciello and Mattia Drudi battled for position throughout the second half-hour.
A trio of Silver Cup cars filled positions seven through nine, with the #7 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG completing the class podium ahead of the #33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari and the #107 CMR Bentley. The #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG rounded out the top-10, with Jules Gounon fending off Kelvin van der Linde in the #30 Team WRT Audi.
Andrea Bertolini brought the AF Corse Ferrari home for victory in the Pro-Am class, completing the excellent work that Machiels produced during the opening stint. The Italian squad beat the #20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG of Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann to the win, while the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin crewed by West and Jonny Adam occupied the third step on the class podium.
There will be little time for teams to analyse tonight’s contest, with qualifying for tomorrow’s race getting underway at 10:00 CEST. This will set the grid for the second 60-minute contest, which is set to go green at 14:40. As was the case throughout 2020, Weerts and Vanthoor will be the drivers to beat when the action resumes.