Four-way battle for overall Endurance Cup title headlines season-closing trip to Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya

Four-way battle for overall Endurance Cup title headlines season-closing trip to Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya
  • Ultra-competitive campaign concludes in Spain with three-hour contest
  • Endurance Cup titles go to the wire, titanic battle for overall championship in prospect
  • Expanded field of 47 cars includes new Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO2 and BMW M4 GT3
  • Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series set to close maiden season, GT1 Sports Club Powered by Curbstone Events ready to launch

The curtain will fall on the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season next weekend (8-10 October) when Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya stages a titanic four-way battle for the overall Endurance Cup crown.

Elite teams representing Ferrari, Audi, Lamborghini, and Mercedes-AMG will contend for the long-distance championship, while the Pro-Am and Silver Cup classes will also be decided in Spain. An expanded field of 47 cars will be on-track at the 4.7km venue, which returns to the Endurance Cup schedule this year after hosting the Sprint Cup finale in 2020. 

Sunday's race will close a season that launched at Monza before tackling the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms, the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa and last month's three-hour contest at the Nürburgring. The final reckoning will come at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where the concluding chapter of an immensely competitive Endurance Cup campaign will be written. 

Iron Lynx Ferrari leads the pack in four-way title showdown

Having clinched its first overall Endurance Cup title last year, Ferrari is well placed to add another in 2021 courtesy of Iron Lynx. The Italian squad tops the teams' and drivers' standings thanks to a dominant victory at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, giving the #51 crew of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar and Nicklas Nielsen a 13-point advantage over their nearest rivals. The Ferrari effort will be supported by the sister #71 machine, which maintains its Nürburgring line-up of Fuoco/Ilott/Rovera. 

The main threat comes from Team WRT, which has already amassed four overall championships this year by sweeping the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS and Sprint Cup titles. Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts will spearhead the #32 line-up alongside long-time factory driver Robin Frijns. Two more Audi entries come from Saintéloc Racing with its #25 of Haase/Tambay/Cougnaud and the #26 machine of Vervisch/Winkelhock/Hutchison, the latter competing as an invitational entry with the new-spec R8 LMS GT3 EVO2. Attempto Racing will close the season with Audi Sport drivers Chris Mies and Mattia Drudi joined by Steijn Schothorst, who makes his first Endurance Cup outing since 2019. 

Though they enter the decider 17 points off the top, Orange1 FFF Racing must also be considered a serious contender. Having amassed three pole positions from four Endurance Cup events the squad took a commanding win last time out at the Nürburgring and can count on a full complement of Endurance Cup champions in Mirko Bortolotti (2017), Andrea Caldarelli (2017 & 2019) and Marco Mapelli (2019). Emil Frey Racing will add two more top-tier Lamborghini crews to the field at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya: local ace Albert Costa partners Norbert Siedler and Giacomo Altoè in the #163 machine, while Konsta Lappalainen and Arthur Rougier will share the #114 with a to-be-confirmed teammate. 

AKKA ASP has the biggest gap to overcome, but history tells us that anything is possible in the Endurance Cup decider. Raffaele Marciello and Jules Gounon are 23 points back ahead of the event, with the technical failure that ended their participation in the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa a major factor in this deficit. Dani Juncadella returns to support their effort at the finale, while fellow Mercedes-AMG squad HRT will depots its all-German line-up of Engel/Stolz/Bastian.

After winning the opening two Endurance Cup events of the season it seemed certain that at least one Porsche would remain in the title fight until the finish, but while those hopes have been dashed there is still every chance of victory at the finale. GPX Racing retains the trio of Bamber/Campbell/Jaminet, while Dinamic Motorsport will count on its #54 crew of Engelhart/Bachler/Cairoli and the #56 of Dumas/Rizzoli/Pedersen. McLaren is also out of the hunt but has enjoyed strong progress this year with series newcomer JOTA. The crew of Bell/Barnicoat/Wilkinson will return to action in Spain after being forced to withdraw from the Nürburgring contest. 

The season finale will be a special event for BMW as its long-serving and immensely successful M6 GT3 model makes its final start on Sunday afternoon. Walkenhorst Motorsport will run Yelloly/Pittard/Dennis in the #34, while Catsburg/Tomczyk/Nuebauer share the #35. But just as one era ends another begins, with the new BMW M4 GT3 set to make its Endurance Cup debut in Spain. Competing as an invitational entry, the car will be overseen by BMW Motorsport and driven by the ace line-up of Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus and Jesse Krohn. 

Pro-Am and Silver Cup titles up for grabs 

While several drivers remain mathematically eligible for the title, there are only two possible outcomes in the Pro-Am battle. Chris Froggatt leads the way on 88 points, six clear of his Sky Tempesta Racing teammate Jonathan Hui. As such, Hui and Rino Mastronardi will support Froggatt as he looks to clinch the Endurance Cup crown. 

His opponents are Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Phil Keen (#19 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini), who enter the finale on 70 points. They will need to win to stand a realistic chance and will be supported in this effort by Stefano Costantini, with whom they took class victory last time out at the Nürburgring. The odds are certainly stacked in Froggatt's favour, but with a competitive 14-car field set to contend for Pro-Am honours nothing can be taken for granted.

Barwell Motorsport has already secured the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Pro-Am teams' title. The squad’s pairing of Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves hold a commanding lead of 24.5 points with 26 on offer in Spain, where they will be joined by Adrian Amstutz. The only crew that can stop them is Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann (#20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG), whose Barcelona line-up is completed by Martin Konrad.  RAM Racing and GetSpeed will also represent Mercedes-AMG at the finale, while BMW squad Boutsen Ginion will go after its first podium since 2015. 

Reigning class champion Garage 59 has slipped out of the title battle, but the #188 Aston Martin of West/Goodwin/Adam should be a contender for victory this weekend, while a second Vantage will bolster the Pro-Am field thanks to two-time class champion Oman Racing. No fewer than five Ferrari line-ups complete the class, two from regular entrant AF Corse and another from Kessel Racing. Rinaldi Racing joins for the finale with its #488 machine shared by Bleekemolen/Hook/Lauck, while the #83 Iron Lynx crew of Pin/Bovy/Gatting sees the all-female 'Iron Dames' project back on the grid after debuting at Circuit Paul Ricard. 

The Silver Cup drivers' title is the closest to being settled ahead of the Endurance finale. Emil Frey Racing trio Feller/Fontana/Ineichen lead the way on 85 points, putting them 24 clear of Alex Aka (#99 Attempto Racing Audi). The young German will be joined by Dennis Marschall and Max Hofer as he seeks to cause an upset and snatch the title. Fellow Audi squad Team WRT will have two cars on-track as it seeks to chase down Emil Frey Racing in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Silver Cup teams' standings, with the #30 of Pull/Hall/Goethe and the #31 of Bird/Tomita/Eriksen both capable of a strong result.  

CMR has regularly shown speed with its #107 Bentley and could be a contender for the class podium this weekend, while Grasser Racing (#16 Lamborghini) led much of the Nürburgring contest before hitting problems in the final stages and will be determined to end the year on a high. Garage 59 (#159 Aston Martin) was on top form when it mattered at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa and will hope for another strong run at the finale, while Rinaldi Racing and Team Allied-Racing represent Ferrari and Porsche respectively.

A contingent of six Mercedes-AMG runners complete the 15-car Silver Cup grid. Madpanda Motorsport won the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa in style and will hope for more success at its home event with Perez Companc/Breukers/Puhakka. AKKA ASP has also been a class winner, while Toksport WRT and Winward Racing have each stood on the podium in 2021. German squads HRT and SPS Automotive Performance will be determined to end the year on a high and have every chance of doing so at a circuit that suits the AMG GT3. 

Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series concludes, GT1 Sports Club Powered by Curbstone Events ready to launch

The season-closing weekend begins on Friday afternoon with the Bronze Test, which gets underway at 17:00 CEST and runs for one hour. Saturday's action consists of Free Practice (09:00) and Pre-Qualifying (13:40), both running for 90 minutes. There’s virtual competition too: at 18:20 on Saturday the final Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race of 2021 will take place in the Fanatec Esports Arena, where the inaugural teams' champion will be crowned. 

Sunday begins at 09:00 with Qualifying, which could prove pivotal in the title battle. The three-hour Endurance Cup race gets underway at 15:00, with the chequered flag set to fall on the 2021 campaign at 18:00. Further competitive action comes from GT4 European Series and TCR Europe, both of which conclude their seasons at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Porsche Carrera Cup France joins for a one-off support appearance. 

There will be added interest in the paddock thanks to GT1 Sports Club Powered by Curbstone Events. While the full entry list is set to be revealed next week, the incredible array of track-only machines is already known to include the Lamborghini SCV12, Pagani Zonda R, Ferrari FFXK, Porsche 935 and McLaren Senna GTR. The new non-competitive series will celebrate its launch by running on Sunday afternoon (12.35-13.15), while a selection of cars will be on display in the paddock. Combined with the main event, it promises to be a highly entertaining weekend as the curtain falls on the 2021 season.