Endurance Cup battle ready to resume with 44-car field set for Nürburgring contest

Endurance Cup battle ready to resume with 44-car field set for Nürburgring contest
  • Penultimate stop on Endurance Cup calendar brings 44 cars to historic German venue
  • Iron Lynx Ferrari leads battle for Endurance Cup crown after TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa win
  • Ultra-close class battles in Pro-Am and Silver Cup 

The battle for the Endurance Cup will take centre stage this weekend (3-5 September) when Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS travels to the Nürburgring for a three-hour race on the German venue’s 5.1km GP-Strecke layout.

The annual trip to the Eifel mountains comes just seven days after the Sprint Cup season resumed at Brands Hatch and represents the penultimate stop on the Endurance Cup calendar following a thrilling TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.

The 44-car entry list features significant representation from German manufacturers Audi, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche, but it is Italian powerhouse Ferrari that currently tops the overall standings. Lamborghini will also provide strong opposition, while British marques Aston Martin, McLaren and Bentley add further depth of the grid. 

With a variety of Endurance Cup teams’ and drivers’ titles still too close to call, the Nürburgring weekend promises to deliver a highly competitive three-hour race at a crucial phase in the 2021 season.

Iron Lynx the team to beat after famous Ardennes triumph

There is everything to play for in the battle for the overall Endurance Cup crown, but the advantage is clearly with Ferrari squad Iron Lynx following its memorable victory at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.

By taking maximum points from the blue riband race, the #51 crew of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Come Ledogar moved into a 15-point lead at the top of the Endurance Cup standings and are well placed to add the title to their win in the Ardennes. They will be joined by the sister #71 Ferrari, which features Antonio Fuoco and Callum Ilott alongside new addition Alessio Rovera. 

Team WRT represents the most serious threat to Iron Lynx with its #32 Audi, which finished a close second at Spa and has been a front-runner throughout the 2021 season. Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts have already sealed the Sprint Cup title and are joined by fellow factory driver Robin Frijns as they chase down the Endurance leaders.

Audi will be represented by two more Pro cars: Saintéloc Racing will chase its first Endurance Cup podium since 2017 with Christopher Haase, Adrien Tambay and Alexandre Cougnaud in the #25 machine, while Attempto Racing will contest its home event with Christopher Mies, Mattia Drudi and Nicolas Schöll. 

AKKA ASP was a strong contender for TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa victory with its Mercedes-AMG, only for its charge to be halted by a technical failure on Sunday morning. The French squad is still in the hunt for the title, but with a 25-point deficit to the leaders it will require a strong conclusion to the season from Raffaele Marciello and Jules Gounon, who are joined for the upcoming event by Felipe Fraga. Mercedes-AMG can count on an all-German line-up at HRT, where longstanding crew-mates Maro Engel and Luca Stolz will be joined by Nico Bastian.

The #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche won at the Nürburgring last term and its crew of Christian Engelhart, Matteo Cairoli and Klaus Bachler are frequently among the leading contenders for victory. GPX Racing led the standings ahead of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa but a disappointing run in the Ardennes leaves the crew of Earl Bamber, Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet some way adrift of the lead. Nevertheless, both Porsche squads remain title contenders.

Orange1 FFF Racing also retains an outside shot at the crown. The #63 Lamborghini of Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli has started each of this season's Endurance Cup races from the front row of the grid, so their pace is in no doubt. They are joined in the Lamborghini camp by Emil Frey Racing, which will deploy its #163 machine for Albert Costa, Norbert Siedler and Giacomo Altoé and the #114 for Konsta Lappalainen, Arthur Rougier and a still to be confirmed driver.

JOTA may not be in the hunt for the title, but the British outfit will travel to the Nürburgring in confident mood after giving McLaren its best-ever TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa result last month. The all-British crew of Rob Bell, Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson will once again share the controls of the 720S. 

BMW squad Walkenhorst Motorsport completes the Pro field and will look to give the M6 GT3 a winning farewell at its home event. Both of its cars feature revised line-ups: Jake Dennis and Nick Yelloly join the #34 crew alongside David Pittard, while Nicky Catsburg will complete the #35 line-up alongside Martin Tomczyk and Thomas Neubauer.

Close battles in prospect for Silver Cup and Pro-Am honours

The Silver Cup title battle is wide open, with 19 points covering the top-six crews. Swiss trio Ricardo Feller, Alex Fontana and Rolf Ineichen (#14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini) lead the way after salvaging a handful of points from an otherwise disappointing TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, but they face significant pressure from Madpanda Motorsport (Perez Companc/Breukers/Sanchez) after the Mercedes-AMG squad took a sensational victory in the Ardennes. 

The Madpanda crew leads a fleet of six Mercedes-AMG hopefuls in the Silver Cup class. Simon Gachet, Thomas Drouet and Konstantin Tereschenko (#87 AKKA ASP) are just 11 points off top spot and were winners at Circuit Paul Ricard, while Winward Racing (Ward/Grenier) and Toksport WRT (Tunjo/Dienst/Petit) are also in the hunt. SPS Automotive Performance (Love/Born/ Mettler) and HRT (Haupt/ Assenheimer/Beretta) complete the marque's impressive Silver Cup assault, with both chasing class honours on home turf. 

Team WRT leads the Audi charge with a pair of crews. James Pull and Benji Goethe are within striking distance of the championship lead and are re-joined by Stuart Hall after the Englishman was forced to miss Spa. The sister #31 machine suffered a tough event in the Ardennes but is also a potential challenger with its crew of Tomita/Bird/Eriksen, while Attempto Racing will field an all-German line-up of Aka/Hofer/Marschall.

Garage 59 captured a podium finish at Spa and, after winning this race last year, the #159 machine of Hasse-Clot/Kjaergaard/MacDowall could be a factor once again. Grasser Racing (Zimmermann/Galbiati/Schmid) represents Lamborghini, while Ferrari can count on local squad Rinaldi Racing (Hites/Varrone), which is based just 30km from the Nürburgring. Fellow German outfit Team Allied-Racing faces a rather longer journey from Bavaria to field Joel Sturm, Bastian Buus, Julien Apothéloz in the #222 Porsche, while the #107 CMR Bentley (Panciatici/White) completes a diverse Silver Cup field. 

The Pro-Am title battle also remains wide open. As it stands, Ferrari squad Sky Tempesta Racing (Froggatt/Hui/Mastronardi) leads the way having amassed 69 points, while members of both AF Corse crews are also in contention following a one-two finish at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. This weekend the #52 will be driven by Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini, while Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin share the #53. Kessel Racing adds a fourth Ferrari to the Pro-Am field for its regular trio of Kohmann/Zollo/Roda.

Aston Martin squad Garage 59 sits second in the standings and will welcome back Jonny Adam alongside Alexander West and Chris Goodwin, while an additional Vantage joins the grid as Oman Racing makes its first Endurance Cup appearance since clinching the Pro-Am title in 2019. Regular drivers Ahmad Al Harthy and Charlie Eastwood are joined by Giacomo Petrobelli, who returns to Endurance Cup action after a seven-year absence. 

A pair of Lamborghini squads also remain in the hunt for the Pro-Am crown. Barwell Motorsport will chase class honours with full-season pair Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves alongside Leo Machitski, while Orange1 FFF Racing retains its #19 crew of Hamaguchi/Costantini/Keen.

The highly experienced Boutsen Ginion outfit will fly the flag for BMW with its #10 crew of Ojjeh/Liebhauser/Klingmann. A trio of Mercedes-AMG squads complete the Nürburgring grid, where GetSpeed (Scholze/Grotz/Pla), SPS Automotive Performance (Pierburg/Baumann/Konrad) and RAM Racing (De Haan/Collard/Schiller) will all be chasing a first class podium of 2021. 

Busy weekend includes latest virtual-meets-reality contest in Fanatec Esports Arena

The Nürburgring weekend officially begins on Friday with a one-hour bronze test getting underway at 16.50 CET. Saturday will be about preparation, with free practice (08.30) and pre-qualifying (12:55) both running for 90 minutes, while the main action takes place on Sunday. Qualifying gets underway bright and early at 08.30 and the all-important three-hour Endurance Cup contest goes green at 14:45.

The on-track support package includes the GT4 European Series, TCR Europe and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, the latter appearing alongside Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS for the final time in 2021. The event will also feature the penultimate round of the inaugural Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series campaign. The 60-minute Assetto Corsa Competizione race forms part of a packed Saturday, with qualifying set for 18:10 and the race following at 18:45. As ever, the action will take place on-site at the Fanatec Esports Arena. 

All of the competitive action will be streamed live on the official series websites and social media platforms, as well as the GTWorld and GTWorld Français YouTube channels. It promises to be a thrilling weekend as the gladiators of GT racing do battle in the Eifel mountains.