• Crucial weekend in store at Spanish venue with titles up for grabs in all classes
• Entry list featuring 40 cars and eight brands revealed ahead of 15–17 September meeting
• Bronze Cup certain to be settled as class prepares for final Sprint event of 2023
Titles will be on the line next weekend (15–17 September) when Fanatec GT Europe travels to Valencia for the penultimate Sprint Cup event of 2023.
Circuit Ricardo Tormo will welcome a 40-car grid to contest a pair of one-hour races, with a 14:00 CEST start time scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. The 4km track on Spain's Mediterranean coast makes its third appearance on the calendar after debuting in 2021.
While there is a chance that the Overall, Gold Cup and Silver Cup titles could be settled, the Bronze Cup is certain to be decided as Valencia marks the concluding Sprint event for the class. As such this promises to be a pivotal weekend in the developing story of the 2023 season.
PRO: Tresor Orange1 aims to keep the pressure on Akkodis ASP
Tresor Orange1 reasserted its title credentials last time out at Hockenheim. The #40 Audi looked to be the outright fastest car and driver combination, with Race 1 victory boosting Mattia Drudi and Ricardo Feller's pursuit of a maiden Sprint Cup crown.
Four more Audi crews will join them at Valencia. Comtoyou Racing has enjoyed a stellar debut campaign, with both of its cars taking a podium at Hockenheim. Christopher Haase and Lucas Légeret share the #11, while Nicolas Baert and Fred Vervisch form an all-Belgian line-up in the #12.
Hockenheim also brought a podium finish for the #25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi, which enjoyed its most competitive showing yet in the hands of Patric Niederhauser and Erwan Bastard. The sister #27 crew of Chris Mies and Grégoire Demoustier will hope for a similar breakthrough this time around.
While the points gap narrowed at Hockenheim, the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG pairing of Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy maintained the lead by taking their third victory of the season in Race 2. Few would bet against a fourth winners' trophy joining the collection at Valencia.
Team WRT remains in the Sprint Cup title hunt, though its leading #32 BMW crew of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts will be desperate to boost their chances with a first win of 2023. The #46 of Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin will aim to continue a run of five consecutive points finishes, while the #31 duo of Thomas Neubauer and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer will hope to bounce back from a disappointing weekend in Germany.
The #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari was consistently quick at Hockenheim, earning a pair of strong finishes for Albert Costa and Thierry Vermeulen. Having shown well at the previous two meetings, it was a surprise not to see the #14 Ferrari of Giacomo Altoé and Konsta Lappalainen join its sister car in the lead battle. A return to the front at Valencia will be the objective for this Italian-Finnish pairing.
JP Motorsport secured its best starting position of the season last time out, but the event ended in further frustration for the #111 McLaren line-up of Christian Klien and Dean MacDonald. Garage 59 also showed pace without reward, but will have high hopes for its crew of Benji Goethe and Nicolai Kjærgaard after the latter's impressive performance at Valencia last term.
Dinamic GT heads into the weekend with serious optimism: not only did the #54 Porsche of Christian Engelhart and Adrien De Leener score a brace of top-10 finishes at Hockenheim, the duo has previously displayed front-running speed at Valencia. There is an all-new line-up at VSR, though the drivers require no introduction. The #60 Lamborghini will be shared by 2019 Sprint Cup champions Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli, who add extra star power to the Pro ranks for the trip to Spain.
GOLD CUP & SILVER CUP: Title battles narrowing ahead of Valencia contest
Thus far, the Gold Cup has been dominated by Niklas Krütten/Calan Williams (#30 Team WRT BMW) and Aurélien Panis/Alberto Di Folco (#9 Boutsen VDS Audi), who have shared three wins a piece in 2023. In what appears to be a two-way fight, the Team WRT duo holds an eight-point advantage heading to Valencia.
But the championship picture could still change if another crew hits form. As such there is added incentive for Adam Eteki/Cesar Gazeau (#10 Boutsen VDS Audi), Gilles Magnus/Finlay Hutchison (#21 Comtoyou Racing Audi) and Simon Gachet/Paul Evrard (#26 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi).
There were significant developments in the Silver Cup battle at Hockenheim. Jordan Love (#77 HRT Mercedes-AMG) now stands alone at the top, eight points clear of erstwhile leaders Alex Aka/Lorenzo Patrese (#99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi). Love will again be partnered by Alain Valente, who showed well as a last-minute call-up for the German round.
This class championship also looks likely to be a two-horse race, though a pair of podiums at Hockenheim kept the #90 Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG line-up of Ezequiel Perez Companc/Jesse Salmenautio in touch. Among the other contenders, Nova Race will field a pair of Honda entries, with Alex Frassineti joining Erwin Zanotti in the #68 NSX GT3 and an unchanged duo of Leonardo Moncini and Jacopo Guidetti in the #28. Fellow Italian squad AF Corse will chase a first class podium of 2023 with Sean Hudspeth and Nicola Marinangeli sharing its #71 Ferrari.
Baptiste Moulin and Marcus Paverud retain their place in the #119 VSR Lamborghini; in the sister #163 machine, Yuki Nemoto is joined by Maximilian Paul, who made an impressive debut last time out with Paul Motorsport. Fellow Lamborghini squad GSM AB1 completes the Silver Cup class with a to-be-confirmed driver pairing in its #18 entry.
BRONZE CUP: Titles must be decided in class Sprint finale
Following events at Misano and Hockenheim, this will be the final Sprint outing of 2023 for the Bronze Cup class. There are a host of potential champions, while the gap at the top of the standings could hardly be closer.
Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves (#188 Garage 59 McLaren) swept the Misano weekend but couldn't reach the podium at Hockenheim. In contrast, Alex Malykhin (#911 Pure Rxcing Porsche) has no wins but four successive podium finishes. Just half a point separates them ahead of the finale, where Malykhin will be joined by Ayhancan Güven.
Several other crews retain a mathematical chance, though Ralf Bohn and Robert Renauer (#91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche) are the most realistic challengers, sitting 7.5 points off the top heading into the finale. Hubert Haupt/Sebastien Baud (#79 HRT Mercedes-AMG) and Andrey Mukovoz/Dennis Marschall (#66 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi) also kept their hopes alive by sharing the wins at Hockenheim.
Six more crews will contest this highly competitive class. JP Motorsport scored a brace of Pro-Am wins at Valencia last year, which should give hope to its #112 McLaren pairing of Patryk Krupinski/Norbert Siedler. The #81 Theeba Motorsport Mercedes-AMG of Reema Juffali/Fabian Schiller showed its speed with a pole position at Hockenheim, while Akkodis ASP will also field an AMG GT3 for Eric Debard/Jim Pla.
AF Corse brings its #52 Ferrari for the accomplished duo of Louis Machiels/Andrea Bertolini, while Porsche squads CLRT (#44: Stephane Denoual/Steve Palette) and Dinamic GT (#55: Philipp Sager/Christopher Zoechling) complete a stacked 40-car Valencia entry list.
PROVISIONAL ENTRY LIST
THURSDAY 14 SEPTEMBER
• 09:00 - 12:00: Paid Test
FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER
• 11:20 - 12:40: Free Practice
• 16:20 - 17:40: Pre-Qualifying
SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER
• 09:00 - 09:25: Qualifying 1
• 14:00 - 15:00: Race 1
SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER
• 09:00 - 09:25: Qualifying 2
• 14:00 - 15:00: Race 2
• Fanatec GT2 European Series (2x 50-minute races)
• Lamborghini Super Trofeo (2x 50-minute races)
• VolRace (track shows & parade)
STATS & FACTS
• Albert Costa (#69 Ferrari) is the only Spanish competitor on the grid. The Emil Frey Racing driver was born a few hours north, in Barcelona, and now lives in Andorra.
• Madpanda Motorsport adds a Spanish team to the field. Ezequiel Perez Companc's squad is based a short distance from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
• The Akkodis ASP pairing of Marciello/Boguslavskiy can earn the Overall Fanatec GT Europe drivers' title at Valencia. Their current advantage over Drudi/Feller is 56.5 points; should they outscore the Tresor Orange1 crew by 5.5 points, they will be crowned champions with two events to spare.
• Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts also remain mathematically eligible for the Overall crown. However, they must outscore Marciello/Boguslavskiy by 27.5 points at Valencia to retain even a theoretical chance of taking the big prize.
• The overall teams' championship is also mathematically up for grabs, though Akkodis ASP will need to make significant gains over Team WRT and Tresor Attempto Racing to secure this title.
• Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli make their first Sprint Cup outing since finishing fourth at the Hungaroring in 2019, a result that secured the series title for the Lamborghini duo.
• Alex Frassineti joins the #28 Nova Race Honda line-up for his first Fanatec GT Europe appearance since 2018. The previous outing saw the Italian score Silver Cup victory at the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa.
• Classes by number: 15 Pro entries; 11 Bronze entries; 9 Silver entries; 5 Gold entries
• Series race lap record: 1m32.649s – Raffaele Marciello, #88 Mercedes-AMG (2021)