° Akkodis ASP duo keep their cool to secure 30th Sprint Cup triumph for Mercedes-AMG
° Boutsen VDS takes Gold Cup with Panis/Di Folco, Silver honours for Love/Bird in HRT Mercedes-AMG
° Star performance nets Bronze Cup victory for Garage 59 McLaren of Ramos/Chaves
Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy scored Race 1 victory at Misano this afternoon, elevating the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG pairing to the top of the Fanatec GT Sprint Cup standings.
Starting at the head of a record 42-car field, Marciello eased in front of the #14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari of Giacomo Altoè when the lights went out. There was drama behind as contact sent the #126 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini of Loris Spinelli sliding off the circuit, while Nicolai Kjaergaard (#159 Garage 59 McLaren) and Gilles Magnus (#21 Comtoyou Racing Audi) were also caught up in the incident. Fortunately, however, the race was able to remain green.
Marciello took longer than usual to pull away from the field, with Altoè keeping the pressure on the Mercedes-AMG driver during the first part of the stint. It was not until shortly before the half-hour mark that the leader could really stretch his legs, pulling five seconds clear of the Ferrari ahead of their mandatory stops. The #188 Garage 59 McLaren held third overall during the opening stint, with Henrique Chaves doing a superb job at the wheel of the Bronze Cup standout.
Marciello's five-second advantage gave Akkodis ASP a useful cushion during the pit window, and their cause was aided further when the chasing Emil Frey Racing Ferrari was delayed during its stop. This allowed Boguslavskiy a nine-second advantage at the start of his stint, followed by Konsta Lappalainen in the #14 and the #12 Comtoyou Racing Audi of Nicolas Baert. Chaves handed over to Miguel Ramos, who slipped down the order after meeting the minimum pit time required for Bronze runners, though he comfortably held the class lead.
The biggest mover at this stage of the race was the #32 Team WRT BMW. Charles Weerts had made some progress from 22nd on the grid, while slick pit work and several Bronze Cup cars falling back allowed Dries Vanthoor to begin the second half of the race in sixth spot. The Belgian would prove to be the star of the stint, quickly passing the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi for fifth before setting his sights on a very unlikely podium.
Vanthoor's next target was the #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari of Thierry Vermeulen, who he passed with four minutes left on the clock. He rapidly closed on to the rear of Baert, who was on for a maiden series podium in the car he shares with Fred Vervisch. But with three-time Sprint Cup champion Vanthoor in his mirrors the youngster had his work cut out. In trying to defend he briefly lost control of the car, which was all that was required to allow Vanthoor to make the move for P3.
At the front Boguslavskiy managed the stint perfectly, maintaining a comfortable gap over Lappalainen on his way to victory and a return to the top of the Sprint Cup standings. The Emil Frey Racing driver was 7.461s behind at the chequered flag, securing his first podium in the series and a first for the new Ferrari 296 GT3. Vanthoor was a remarkable third, the #32 having made up 19 positions from its starting spot, with the top-five completed by the #12 Audi and the #69 Ferrari.
Sixth overall went to the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi, which claimed Gold Cup honours thanks to Aurélien Panis and Alberto Di Folco. This was a comfortable win, with their nearest challenge coming from the #30 Team WRT BMW that placed 11th overall. It was a similar story in the Silver Cup as Jordan Love and Frank Bird took a polished victory, the HRT duo finishing four places clear of fellow Mercedes-AMG squad Madpanda Motorsport.
Garage 59 took a deserved Bronze Cup triumph, the #188 McLaren ultimately coming home 13th overall with Ramos behind the wheel. The accomplished amateur driver battled against the heat to complete the job started by Chaves, finishing an impressive eight spots clear of the #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche. It was a sweet win for the British team, which had shown sensational pace this season without taking a result to match.
Despite the record grid, the race did not require a safety car and proved remarkably clean. There were plenty of on-track battles, however, including Valentino Rossi kicking up a cloud of dust to move his #46 Team WRT BMW ahead of the #11 Comtoyou Racing Audi. Rossi was relieved by Maxime Martin, who found himself embroiled in a long-running battle with the same car and the #60 VSR Lamborghini during the second stint.
With Saturday's action complete, attention turns to Sunday's programme. Qualifying 2 is scheduled to begin at 09:00 CEST, followed by Race 2 at 14:00. Both sessions will be streamed live in English, French, German and Italian on the GT World YouTube channel.