Sprint Cup grid hits four-year high as 29-car field prepares to tackle Misano

Sprint Cup grid hits four-year high as 29-car field prepares to tackle Misano
  • Biggest field since 2017 set for pair of 60-minute races in Italy
  • Sprint Cup title battle heats up as championship passes halfway mark
  • Final competitive outing before TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa

The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup will move into the second half of its season next weekend (2–4 July) when 29 cars tackle a pair of 60-minute races at Misano.

Part of the schedule since 2015, the 4.2km Italian venue is synonymous with the short-format championship and has staged more Sprint Cup rounds than any other circuit. This year it will play host to the series’ biggest grid since 2017, with eight manufacturers represented on the fiercely competitive 29-car entry list. 

The annual trip to Misano comes two weeks after Zandvoort staged the second round of the Sprint Cup campaign on 18-20 June. The series will swap the unpredictable climate of the North Sea coast for the sunshine of the Adriatic, where clear skies and temperatures of up to 30°C are forecast throughout the weekend. 

Emil Frey Racing hits form ahead of home event for Lamborghini 

Zandvoort was a major success for Emil Frey Racing as a brace of victories saw the Lamborghini squad draw level at the top of the Sprint Cup teams' standings, while Ricardo Feller took a slender lead in the drivers' classification. Feller shares the squad's Silver Cup car with Alex Fontana, but there is no doubt that this pairing is capable of more overall wins. Albert Costa and Norbert Siedler have also moved into contention after taking Race 2 victory last time out, while the #114 of Jack Aitken and Konsta Lappalainen completed a fine showing with a season-best fourth place.

Italian outfit Dinamic Motorsport had looked set for a podium in the second Zandvoort contest until a steering failure sidelined its #54 Porsche. This denied Christian Engelhart and Adrien De Leener a hard-earned result, but the performance will have provided a confidence boost. A second Porsche joins the grid at Misano as Allied Racing makes its Sprint Cup debut, fielding a Pro car for young Swiss racer Julien Apothéloz and the experienced Klaus Bachler. 

Audi will once again be the best-represented brand among the Pro runners with five of its cars tackling the upcoming event. Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts (#32 Team WRT) surrendered the championship lead at Zandvoort, but with three wins from five races at Misano the young Belgians have an excellent opportunity to return to the top. Across the Team WRT garage, Kelvin van der Linde will retake his place in the #30 Audi alongside Benjamin Goethe. 

By its own high standards Saintéloc Racing has endured a tough start to the season and will hope to secure strong points at a circuit that suits its machinery. Christopher Haase and Léo Roussel share the #25 car, while Frédéric Vervisch and Aurélien Panis continue their partnership in the #26. Attempto Racing adds a fifth Pro entry for the Ingolstadt marque, which will see Christopher Mies share the #66 car with a to-be-confirmed teammate.

AKKA ASP suffered heartbreak in the second Zandvoort contest when a technical issue cost Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy a likely victory. They can put this disappointment behind them at Misano, where Marciello has scored three successive pole positions, while the sister #89 of Jules Gounon and Petru Umbrarescu will look to build on a season-best sixth in Race 2 at Zandvoort. A third Mercedes-AMG comes from the Toksport WRT stable. The #6 crew of Maro Engel and Luca Stolz need a result after a tough weekend in the Netherlands, where a seventh-place finish in Race 1 was followed by a DNF in the second contest. 

CMR enjoyed a strong Zandvoort weekend, but it was the squad's Silver Cup car that impressed, while Stéphane Richelmi and Nelson Panciatici (#108 Bentley) are still searching for a breakthrough result. McLaren squad JOTA returns to the grid after missing the previous outing and completes the list of Pro entrants. Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson share the team's 720S and will look to pick up where they left off following a fourth-place finish at Magny-Cours.

Silver Cup standouts gunning for more overall glory, competitive Pro-Am battle resumes

The trip to Zandvoort saw Silver Cup crews take centre stage with five cars among the overall top-six in the opening contest, including the victorious #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini. The impressive duo of Feller and Fontana further enhanced their status as class leaders and will be the car to beat at Misano. CMR also enjoyed an excellent weekend in the Netherlands. Third and fifth overall, not to mention a pair of runner-up finishes in class, was the reward for a mature performance from the young #107 Bentley crew of Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Ulysse de Pauw. 

Mercedes-AMG will be represented by a quartet of Silver Cup cars. AKKA ASP is the only team to beat Emil Frey Racing to class victory this term and will be looking for another strong showing from Jim Pla and Konstantin Tereschenko. Madpanda Motorsport can compete for silverware with Ezequiel Perez Companc and Rik Breukers, while the #7 Toksport WRT duo of Óscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka has frequently shown strong pace. SPS Automotive Performance adds an extra Mercedes-AMG to the grid, pairing its regular Endurance Cup driver Jordan Love with Lance David Arnold.

Zandvoort was a breakthrough event for the #31 Team WRT crew of Ryuichiro Tomita and Frank Bird, who scored a pair of class podiums at the Dutch track. They will once again compete for Silver Cup honours against fellow Audi squad Attempto Racing, which retains Alex Aka and Dennis Marschall, while Garage 59 will continue to chase a maiden podium with Tuomas Tujula and Nicolai Kjaergaard (#159 Aston Martin).

A pair of Ferrari crews complete the Silver Cup field. In the #33 Rinaldi Racing machine, Arthur Rougier becomes Benjamin Hites' third teammate from as many events. Sky Tempesta Racing has endured a difficult start to the Sprint Cup campaign and will look to rebound at Misano with Chris Froggatt and Giorgio Roda sharing the #93 car. 

The Pro-Am class has seen four closely matched cars vying for victory at each event this term. SPS Automotive Performance scored its maiden win at Zandvoort and leads the class standings heading to Misano. Having made the crucial breakthrough, Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann will now hope to extend their advantage in Italy.

Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini (#52 AF Corse Ferrari) sit second in the standings after a strong start to the campaign. By some distance the most experienced pairing on the grid, the Ferrari drivers are rarely absent from the Pro-Am podium. In terms of pace, Barwell Motorsport has been the standout with its #77 Lamborghini, and after missing the second Zandvoort contest Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves will be particularly determined to score a strong result. 

Garage 59 has shown well but remains without a win from the opening quartet of races. The combination of Alex West and Jonny Adam will look to put that right at Misano with their #159 Aston Martin. They complete the immensely competitive 29-car grid that will compete on the Adriatic Coast next weekend. 

Varied support package joins for busy Misano weekend

The Misano event will follow the established Sprint Cup schedule. After official testing on Thursday, the action begins on Friday with Free Practice (11:50) and Pre-Qualifying (17:00) both lasting 80 minutes. Qualifying 1 takes place at 09:45 on Saturday morning and will set the grid for Race 1 at 15:00. The same format will be repeated on Sunday, with Qualifying 2 at 09:00 and Race 2 at 14:00. 

The weekend will feature an especially packed support line-up that is led by the Fanatec GT2 European Series, which stages the third round of its inaugural season. There is sprint and endurance tin-top action courtesy of ATCC Touring Cars and TCR DSG Europe respectively, while Mitjet International returns to the bill having also competed at Magny-Cours. A diverse support roster is completed by domestic single-seater series FX3 and TopJet FX 2000 Formula Trophy. 

Taking place shortly after the trip to Zandvoort and the official TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa test days (22-23 June), the Misano weekend falls at the heart of a busy portion of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season. With high temperatures and a pair of races to contend with, teams and drivers alike will need be at the top of their game if they are to triumph on the Adriatic coast.