Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: SRO Media.
Maro Engel and Luca Stolz gave TokSport Mercedes their maiden victory in only their third race for the team. They withstood the pressure from the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes, yesterday's winners Weerts and Vanthoor in the #32 WRT Audi, and Ben Barnicoat and Ollie Wilkinson in the #38 JOTA McLaren. Silver Cup honours went to Jim Pla and Konstantin Tereshenko in the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes, while Barwell Motorsport secured the win in the Pro-Am Cup.
The best medicine against the disappointment of a retirement, is by taking pole in the very next session. And so, Maro Engel stormed to p1 in early Sunday morning's qualifying session. Just like yesterday, the #163 Emil Frey Lamborghini, now in the hands of Albert Costa, laid claims to p2. Another recovery from a slightly disappointing race yesterday came from the JOTA squad as Ben Barnicoat missed out on the front row by only 0.014s and started from p3. Alongside him, yesterday's winner Dries Vanthoor in the #32 Audi. Pole in the Silver Cup, also just like yesterday, went to the #14 Emil Frey Lamborghini with now Alex Fontana behind the wheel. Marciello was 6th in the #88 Mercedes.
Success for Garage 59 as Jonny Adam put the #188 Aston Martin on Pro-Am pole. More remarkable was, that he qualified 12th overall. That was no less than eight places ahead of the next Pro-Am contestant.
Maro Engel had a great start of the race, dictating the tempo and immediately creating a gap towards Costa. A couple of places behind him, Fontana, Jean and Pla fought for the lead in the Silver Cup. The Lamborghini of Fontana won the first battle while Pla in the Mercedes plowed through the gravel and dropped to p11.
Barnicoat in 3rd sneaked and peaked a little behind Costa in the opening stages of the race, but didn't find a way through past the Lamborghini. The top-5, Engel, Costa, Barnicoat, Vanthoor and Marciello, stayed close together in the first part of the race. Just before the opening of the pit window, Barnicoat was suddenly practically on Albert Costa's bumper. When they got to the next corner, it appeared that the Lamborghini had suffered a left rear puncture as is spun out.
Of the leaders of the race, only Fontana in the #14 Emil Frey Lambo came in immediately when the pit window opened to hand the wheel over to Arthur Rougier. Maro Engel followed a lap later. Barnicoat now led the race in the #38 JOTA McLaren and took his stop in the last part of the window, Vanthoor and Marciello waited as long as possible to change rubber.
Luca Stolz now in the #6 Mercedes showed tremendous pace in his first laps on new tires. Because even though the stop from the JOTA team was only 0.6s slower than the TokSport crew's, the #38 McLaren with now Ollie Wilkinson in the cockpit rejoined some 4 seconds behind the Mercedes. Furthermore, a lap later he found Boguslavskiy (#88 Mercedes) and Charles Weerts (#32 Audi) who stopped a lap later, also ahead of him.
Immediately after the pit stop window closed, a Full Course Yellow (FCY) was called to recover the Audi of Benjamin Goethe. The Safety Car came on track two laps later.
Racing resumed with just under 15 minutes to go. Stolz managed to immediately walk away from Boguslavskiy in 2nd, but 2 laps later the second FCY of the race was called. The Garage 59 #159 Aston of Tujala drove into the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes of Umbrarescu and both stranded in the gravel. The Safety Car came on track again to guide the field towards the restart that took place three minutes before the flag.
In the final sprint to the finish an intense fight broke out for p2 between Boguslavskiy and Weerts. The decision came during the last time through the hairpin: despite extreme defending from the Russian, Weerts managed to squeeze his Audi on the inside of the Mercedes. Marciello didn't allow him enough space and came in contact with the Audi, but Weerts managed past nonetheless and secured p2. Boguslavskiy had to settle for p3. Wilkinson came very close to the podium, but didn't find a way past the Mercedes in the last couple of corners.
This all couldn't bother Luca Stolz who took the checkered flag with a gap of almost 3 seconds to Weerts. The Silver Cup was won by Tereshenko and Jim Pla in the #87 Mercedes (p5 overall) who profited from a late and very good pit stop (42.622s), that gave them the lead after the pitstop window. They managed to defend the lead in the second part of the race, helped by the lengthy safety car phases in this part. Barwell Motorsport secured the win in the Pro-Am cup in only the second race with the new driver duo Ramos and Chaves.
Next race in the GT World Challenge Europe is a round in the Endurance Cup: the 1000km of Paul Ricard in the last weekend of 30th of May.