- Weerts/Vanthoor lead Team WRT 1-3-4 to complete Misano sweep for Audi squad
- Belgian squad takes Silver Cup honours with Bird/Tomita
- West/Adam (Garage 59 Aston Martin) bag Pro-Am victory by 0.001s in thrilling final-lap duel
Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor took a significant step towards defending their Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup drivers' title with a second consecutive triumph at Misano.
The #32 Team WRT Audi duo followed yesterday's lights-to-flag victory with a straightforward win from third on the grid in today's race. They headlined a memorable performance by the Belgian squad, which finished 1-3-4 including victory in the Silver Cup.
Pro-Am star Jonny Adam had stolen the show in qualifying by putting the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin on overall pole. The Scottish ace controlled the opening stint, defending his line into turn 1 before edging away from a chasing pack led by Patrick Kujala (#33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari).
A multiple champion in Aston Martin machinery, Adam looked very much at home out front. But with Pro-Am cars needing to meet a minimum pit time the #188 was always going to drop back after making its mandatory stop. This made the developing battle for second between Vanthoor and Kujala all the more crucial.
With 23 minutes on the clock the #32 Audi was able to get a run on the #33 Ferrari and complete the pass on the long run towards turn 13. Kujala had put up a strong defence, but in clean air Vanthoor was able to pull clear of the Finn, while Jack Aitken (#114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini) soon closed up and challenged for third spot.
Already in a promising position, Team WRT's pursuit of victory was further assisted by their pit crew, who produced the fastest stop of the race to send Weerts back out with a healthy advantage. The youngster held an eight-second lead over Timur Boguslavskiy, who had taken the controls of the #88 Mercedes-AMG from Raffaele Marciello, and was unchallenged thereafter.
Behind the leading pair Benjamin Goethe (#30 Team WRT Audi) had emerged from the pits in third position after crew-mate Kelvin van der Linde ran sixth during the opening stint, while Frank Bird took the controls of the sister #31 in fourth after a strong start by Ryuichiro Tomita.
Luca Stolz (#6 Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT) was intent on gatecrashing the Team WRT party and closed on to the rear of Bird, but the German driver was missing the straight-line speed needed to out-drag the Audi. Their battle would end in contact that sent Stolz limping back to the pits with 10 minutes remaining, though ultimately no blame was attributed to either driver.
Out front Weerts had pulled 10 seconds clear to take a commanding victory over Boguslavskiy in the #88 Mercedes-AMG, giving the #32 crew their third win of the 2021 campaign. It was also their sixth as teammates, making Weerts/Vanthoor the most successful driver pairing in Sprint Cup history.
The #30 Audi completed the podium after a strong run to the flag by Goethe, who scored a breakthrough maiden overall podium in the process. Bird and Tomita were fourth to capture their first class win and cap a near-perfect day for Team WRT. The #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini was fifth, wrapping up a back-to-back points finishes for Jack Aitken and Konsta Lappalainen, followed by the #33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari which earned Silver Cup runner-up in the hands of Kujala and Benjamín Hites.
While the overall and Silver Cup winners were largely unchallenged, the battle for Pro-Am victory concluded in thrilling fashion. Alexander West had taken over from Adam at the wheel of the #188 Aston Martin with a useful advantage, but a stellar stint from Valentin Pierburg (#20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG) brought the German driver into play.
By the final minutes Pierburg was taking chunks out of the lead and, on the deciding lap, the Mercedes was swarming all over the Aston. West remained clean and tidy until a small mistake at the final corner left him vulnerable. Their battle was decided by a drag race to the chequered flag and in an incredible photo finish West took the win by one thousandth of a second. The #20 Mercedes-AMG was a fine second, while Barwell Motorsport completed the class podium with its #77 Lamborghini.
A double victory at Misano has given Weerts and Vanthoor a commanding lead at the top of the Sprint Cup drivers' standings. The Team WRT duo have 75 points on the board, leaving them well clear of Marciello/Boguslavskiy (46.5). WRT is also well placed to defend the teams’ championship, holding an advantage of 18.5 points over Emil Frey Racing. Indeed, both titles could be settled next time out at Brands Hatch (28-29 August).
Before that, however, attention will turn towards the Belgian Ardennes with the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa now just a few weeks away. This season’s edition will take place on 29 July-1 August and is set to feature a hugely competitive field battling for victory in the biggest race of the year. Following an outstanding weekend at Misano, Team WRT will head into its home event brimming with confidence.