Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: SRO Media
Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè took their first victory in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup in the second race at Zandvoort. Norbert Siedler and Mikael Grenier seemed to even make it a 1-2 victory for Emil Frey Racing, but after the race they were dealt a 30 second time penalty for an unsafe release at their pit stop. Charles Weerts actually crossed the finish line first in the #32 WRT Audi, but he and teammate Dries Vanthoor were penalized for a pit stop infringement, 3 minutes before the finish. They decided not to come in and have a time penalty added after the race, dropping them to p7.
Emil Frey Racing managed a clean-sweep in qualifying, as Mikael Grenier put the #14 on pole for the second race in a row. The sister car, the #163, completed the first row. Two Audi's were on the second row: winner of the first race Tomita and Van der Linde in the #31 WRT Audi were a blink of an eye faster than Haase and Rougier in the #25 Sainteloc R8. The #107 CMR Bentley with Panciatici and Gounon started 5th, ahead of the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes of Fraga and Boguslavskiy. Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers took the pole in the Silver Cup with p7 overall, while the SPS Mercedes of Valentin Pierburg and Nick Foster was the first Pro-Am car on the grid at p10.
Like race 1, race 2 would take place under constant threat of rain. When exactly it was going to fall, would at best be an educated guess. Right after the rolling start, Christopher Haase was pushed round in turn 1 by Jules Gounon in the Bentley. All cars managed to avoid him, but the German had to continue the race from the back. At the same time, Kelvin van der Linde managed to squeeze his Audi past the Lamborghini of Albert Costa to take 2nd. Fraga, Gounon, Drudi and Vanthoor followed closely. Rik Breukers led the Silver Cup from 1oth overall, Nick Foster in the Mercedes led Pro-Am from p8.
The top of the field stayed really close together through the first part of the race. At almost a third of the race distance, the top-7 was still going nose to tail. Siedler was still leading ahead of Kelvin van der Linde, Costa, Fraga, Gounon, and Vanthoor, who had passed Drudi. Nick Foster and Eddie Cheever, who were still battling for the lead in the Pro-Am Class were only 2 seconds away. Especially Giacomo Altoè made a couple of moves on Van der Linde, not shy of rubbing the side of the Audi on a couple of occasions.
Eventually, van der Linde made his move on Siedler. In the chicane, he forced his Audi alongside but missed his braking point and had to plow through the gravel. In the chaos that followed behind, Jules Gounon was also forced in the gravel and Foster closed up to the rear of Drudi. Half a lap later, Fraga was also pushed off track in turn 1 by van der Linde, who in turn was forced wide by Vanthoor. When all the dust settled a lap later, Costa had passed Siedler for the lead. Dries Vanthoor was now third in the WRT Audi ahead of van der Linde who was now 4th. Nick Foster in the Pro-Am Mercedes had sneaked up to 5th, ahead of Fraga and Cheever. Van der Linde would later be penalized with a time penalty for his moves on Fraga.
When the pit window opened, Siedler and Van der Linde came in immediately. Haase (Sainteloc), Drudi (Attempto) and Neubauer (Lexus) followed. Albert Costa brought in the #163 Lamborghini halfway the pit stop window to hand the car over to Altoè. Exactly that moment, it started raining, while most cars had already made their stop. Vanthoor, Foster and Cheever waited as long as possible to make their stop. For the leaders, this proved the right strategy as Weerts, who took over from Vanthoor exited the pit lane just in front of Altoè. Grenier, now in the #14 Emil Frey Lambo was third ahead of Tomita (#31 WRT) and Boguslavskiy (#88 AKKA ASP). For the cars further up the field, the best strategy was to come in early. With their early stops, Rougier, now behind the wheel of the #25 Sainteloc Audi that was pushed in a spin in lap 1, had made its way up all the way to p6. Aurelien Panis in the Lexus had taken over the lead in the Silver Cup with their quick stop.
In Pro-Am, Chris Froggatt in the Sky-Tempesta Ferrari had taken over the lead yet again from Valentin Pierburg, after the latter spun of track right after his pit stop.
A fight then emerged for 5th place between the #88 Mercedes of Boguslavskiy and Arthur Rougier in the Audi. After several tries, Rougier managed to take the position round the outside of the Russian with a daring move.
In the last part of the race, attention had to be divided between two battles: the one for the overall lead and the one for lead in the Silver Cup. In the battle for the lead, Altoè was never more than a few tenths away from Weerts' rear wing. Unfortunately, only minutes from the checkered flag, the fight was decided by race control as it served Weerts with a drive through penalty for starting the engine while it was still on the jacks during the pit stop. When the flag dropped, Weerts was still out on track in the lead ahead of Altoè, Grenier, Rougier and Boguslavskiy. The time penalty received after the race, dropped him to p7. Right after the race, Grenier and Siedler were dealt a time penalty as well, dropping them to p10. This handed 2nd place to Arthur Rougier and Christopher Haase in the #25 Sainteloc Audi. An incredible result for the car that fell down to the last position in the race after their spin in lap 1. Third was Boguslavskiy in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes, scoring good points for their championship bid.
In the Silver Cup, Oscar Tunjo in the Toksport Mercedes had caught up with the Lexus of Panis. But despite putting the pressure on lap after lap, the Colombian did not find a way past. And so, Tech 1 finally grabbed their first victory of the season. Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever added another victory in the Pro-Am class to their resume.
With only one round in the Sprint Cup to go the championship is all but decided. With the three races in Barcelona on 10 and 11 October, there are still 52.5 points to score. Weerts and Vanthoor lead the championship with 60.5 points, 6.5 more than Luca Stolz and Maro Engel who skipped the weekend in Zandvoort. Van der Linde and Tomita are third with 48 points, just half a point ahead of Boguslavskiy.
Re-watch the full race: