• Engel/Stolz secure third win of 2021 Sprint Cup after rapid pit stop form Toksport WRT crew
• Silver Cup still up for grabs, Attempto Racing Audi triumphs after late error costs Emil Frey Racing dear
• Pro-Am also goes to the wire after AF Corse takes victory with #52 Ferrari of Machiels/Bertolini
Both the Silver Cup and Pro-Am titles remain undecided ahead of the the final Sprint Cup contest of 2021 following a dramatic opening race at Valencia, which saw Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT seal its third overall victory of the campaign.
The #38 JOTA McLaren of Ben Barnicoat led away from pole and remained in control throughout an opening stint punctuated by two safety car periods. The first was the result of a multi-car collision on the opening lap, which eliminated the #188 Aston Martin, the #7 Mercedes-AMG and the #90 Mercedes-AMG.
Barnicoat remained in front at the restart, followed by Luca Stolz (#6 Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT), Timur Boguslavskiy (#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG) and Ricardo Feller (#14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini). The latter two swapped positions shortly thereafter, with Feller closing on the leaders while Boguslavskiy slipped into the clutches of Dennis Marschall (#99 Attempto Racing Audi).
The second safety car period was caused by Charles Weerts (#32 Team WRT Audi), who dived up the inside of Ulysse de Pauw (#107 CMR Bentley) and spun his fellow Belgian into the gravel. De Pauw was able to return to the pits but took no further part in the race, while Weerts received a drive-through penalty for his move.
Once racing resumed once again there were just two laps to run before the pit window opened, at which point Stolz ducked in from second spot to hand over to Maro Engel. Crucially the Toksport WRT crew performed one of the quickest stops of the race, sending the #6 Mercedes-AMG back out with a fighting chance of taking the lead.
Barnicoat ran long and was posting quick laps at the wheel of the #38 McLaren, but when he took his stop the JOTA squad was fractionally slower than Toksport WRT. The difference was just 2.5 seconds, but that was all it took to allow Engel to snatch the lead into turn 1. From this point on, the German ace would not face any pressure.
Alex Fontana occupied third place overall and comfortably led the Silver Cup class after replacing Feller, while Raffaele Marciello ran fourth after taking over from Boguslavskiy. This duo were able to close on Wilkinson, who had no answer to Engel's pace, with a three-car battle for runner-up spot developing over the closing stages.
At this stage Fontana needed only hold station to clinch the Silver Cup crown, but with a little over 10 minutes left on the clock the Swiss driver misjudged an overtaking attempt on the McLaren and sent Wilkinson into a spin. Marciello was forced to take avoiding action, which allowed Cristopher Haase (#25 Saintéloc Racing Audi) to slip through into second, while the AKKA ASP car assumed third spot. Wilkinson's race was run, while Fontana received a drive-through for causing the collision.
Out front Engel was untroubled and won by 8.8 seconds from Haase, who earned his second podium of the season alongside Léo Roussel, while Marciello was third in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG. Fourth overall went to the #99 Attempto Racing Audi of Marschall and Alex Aka, who bagged their first Silver Cup win of the campaign in the process. Though the German duo profited from Fontana's late error, this was nevertheless their most impressive run of 2021.
The #30 Team WRT Audi took fifth, aided by Benji Goethe vaulting 12 positions on the opening tour, followed by the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG and the #163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini. The #108 CMR Bentley earned its best finish of the season in eighth, while the #66 Attempto Racing Audi was ninth and the #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini took 10th and runner-up in the Silver Cup. Having been set to clinch the class title, Fontana was classified sixth and holds an advantage of 14.5 points over Frank Bird and Ryuichiro Tomita (#31 Team WRT Audi) ahead of the finale.
Pro-Am victory went to the #52 AF Corse Ferrari after a thrilling battle with the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini. The two were nose-to-tail throughout the second half of the race, with Henrique Chaves knowing that a pass on Andrea Bertolini would seal the title. But the wily Italian didn't put a foot wrong and sealed the win alongside Louis Machiels, giving the Ferrari duo a mathematical chance of snatching the title this afternoon.
But the odds are stacked in favour of the Barwell squad. Ramos/Chaves enter the decider on 115.5 points, followed by Pierburg/Bauman (#20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG) on 100 and Machiels/Bartolini on 99.5. Should the #77 Lamborghini finish race 2, the title will be secure.
The weekend's second contest, and the last of the 2021 Sprint Cup season, gets underway at 14:45 CET at Valencia. All of the action will be streamed live on the official series website and social media platforms, as well as the GTWorld and GTWorld Français YouTube channels.