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GTWC: Barcelona Sprint Cup preview

Text: Rick Kiewiet

Images: SRO Media

Barcelona hosts the finale of the GT World Challenge Sprint Cup with the eight, ninth and tenth race of the season this weekend. In the remaining races, the titles in the Pro, Silver and Pro-Am cup will be decided. Who still has a chance of winning the title? Find it out below.

Catalunya has been on the calendar since 2016. The first year it was a one-hour race, preceded by a qualifying race, the years after it was an Endurance Cup race lasting for three hours. This year it plays host to the Sprint Cup, with no less than three one-hour races. Next year, it's back on the Endurance Cup calendar.

Except last year, all editions have been won by a Mercedes. In 2016 and '17 the races were won by the AKKA ASP team, 2018 Black Falcon took the honors. In 2019, Albert Costa, Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli took the checkered flag in the Orange FFF Lamborghini Huracan.

Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor head to Barcelona as championship leaders with already 2 race wins under their belt. They have scored 60.5 points this season and cherish a 6.5 point lead towards runner-ups and reigning champions Maro Engel and Luca Stolz in the HRT Mercedes. Not a big lead, if you consider there are still 52.5 points up for grabs and Engel and Stolz skipped the last round in Zandvoort due to Covid-19 considerations. Add up that over the years only two Audi's managed to grab even a podium spot (3rd in 2016, 2nd in 2017) and you know the young Belgians are up for a challenge.

Maro Engel and Luca Stolz already won this race in 2018, together with Yelmer Buurman in the Black Falcon Mercedes. Together with their experience of winning a title and the fact that Mercedes always seems strong here, they have a good shot at the championship if they can defeat the Audi of Weerts and Vanthoor.

With AKKA ASP, Mercedes has another iron in the fire to hunt for victory. The team already won two races on Spanish soil back in 2016 and 2017, and drivers Boguslavskiy and Marciello (back in the car after having missed the Zandvoort outing) have finished on the podium in all three Sprint Cup events so far (win in R2 Misano, 2nd in Magny Cours R2 and 3rd in Zandvoort R2). Consistency has proven to be the key to the championship before, and they (or actually Boguslavskiy, Marciello missed Zandvoort) are only 13 points behind the leading duo.

But a half point ahead of Boguslavskiy are Ryuchiro Romita and Kelvin van der Linde. After scoring pretty good points in Misano with a 2nd place in race 1 and good points in race 2 and 3, Magny Cours was a bit disappointing with a 5th and 6th place. But in Zandvoort the duo scored its first victory of the season in the tricky conditions in race 1. If they are able to carry their momentum to Barcelona, they also have a good chance of winning the title.

The final 'realistic' title contestants are Arthur Rougier and Christopher Haase in the #25 Sainteloc Audi. While not having won a race this season yet, consistent point finishes and podiums in Misano (R2 and R3) and Zandvoort (R2) brought their points total to 46.5, one meager point behind Boguslavskiy.

Mathematically, drivers all the way down to p11 in the standings still have a chance of winning the title. These include the duo Costa - Altoè and Siedler - Grenier in the Emil Frey Lamborghinis. Their form in Zandvoort combined with the fact that Lamborghini won the last race on this track, especially make Costa and Altoè in the #163 car with 34 points an interesting outsider for race wins and the title.

In the Silver Cup the battle of the championship is mostly between the #26 Saintelc Audi of Simon Gachet and Steven Palette on one side, and on the other side the #90 Madpanda Mercedes of Companc and Jefferies. Gachet and Palette already scored three class Poles, three class wins (of which the one in Magny Cours was even an overall win) and a second place in Zandvoort. Companc and Jefferies didn't win a race yet, but have scored points in all races this season. They are 19.5 points behind the French Audi duo.

Outsiders or maybe even favorites for race wins are Aurelien Panis and Thomas Neubauer in the #15 Tech 1 Lexus. Even though they scored several Poles, in the race they are chased by bad luck every time. In Zandvoort, the race finally came their way and the duo managed to take their first class win in race 2.

The Pro-Am championship seems to have almost been decided. Eddie Cheever and Chris Froggatt in the Sky-Tempesta Ferrari defend a 29 points lead to the AF Corse Ferrari of Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini. Cheever and Froggatt have already won 4 races this season and finished second in the other 3, so Machiels and Bertolini have their work cut out for them to win the championship.


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