Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Text: Rick Kiewiet
In a weekend in which a large share of the racing world couldn't take its eyes of Zandvoort and Max Verstappen, the penultimate round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup was held at the Nürburgring. The 3 hour race on the GP layout of the Green Hell, was not only won, but dominated by Lamborghini, securing pole position and victory not only overall, but also in the Silver and Pro-Am Cup. The Italian trio Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti and Marco Mapelli finally took the checkered flag first after three attempts this season in which they all battled for the win but missed out. In the same time, after securing the Sprint Cup title in Brand Hatch last week, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts also secured the GT World Challenge Europe overall title. Joined in Germany bij LMP2 24h Le Mans winner Robin Frijns instead of regular Kelvin van der Linde, their p7 finish gave them enough points to crown themselves champions with two events to go.
For the third time in four Endurance Cup rounds, The #63 Orange 1 FFF Lamborghini topped the charts after qualifying. In Monza and Paul Ricard, Mapelli, Bortolotti and Caldarelli had also put the car on Pole, only in Spa they missed out. Alongside them was the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes of Marciello, Gounon and Fraga. The GPX Martini Racing Porsche of Campbell, Jaminet and Bamber was third.
Leaders in the Endurance Cup championship and winners of the 24hrs of Spa, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar (who also just won the GT Pro category at Le Mans) and Nicklas Nielsen started 9th in the #51 Iron Lynx Ferrari. Weerts, Vanthoor and Frijns started 12th in the #32 WRT Audi.
Pole in the Silver Cup was also for a Lamborghini, Schmidt, Galbiati and Zimmerman drove the fastest combined lap time in the #16 GRT Huracan.
Ahead of the race, the #38 JOTA McLaren was withdrawn as Ollie Wilkinson was not fit to race due to the injuries sustained in his crash at Brands last week. And so 'only' 43 cars took the start, at which Mapelli successfully defended his position and led the field through the first turns.
During the first two stints of an hour, first Mapelli and then Caldarelli created a comfortable gap to the pursuing #88 Mercedes of about a second or twenty. Bortolotti, who was the last to take the wheel, had a more challenging final stint, with numerous safety car periods that brought the field back together.
First, with forty minutes left on the clock, the Pro-Am Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 stopped at the final chicane and was stuck. Ten minutes after the restart, both Jaminet in the #22 GPX Porsche and Antonio Fuoco in the #51 Iron Lynx Ferrari, spun off at the Schumacher S over the gravel and marbles on track and hit the barrier to the left. Another FCY and following Safety Car was called to clean all the dirt off the track.
In the remaining minutes, Bortolotti had enough buffer in both time and back markers to fend off Gounon in the #88. The final step of the podium went to Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Nico Bastian in the pink #4 HRT Mercedes.
During the first two hours of the race, the Lamborghini's of GRT (#16) and Emil Frey (#14) battled for the lead in the Silver Cup. In the final hour Feller (#14) managed to force his way past Zimmerman who later crashed out in the final chicane.
In Pro-Am, Phil Keen took the win with his teammates Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Stefano Constantini. Mere minutes before the finish, Keen first lost the lead to Fabian Schiller in the RAM Racing Mercedes, but the German later went wide several times in the Schumacher S and lost the lead to Keen again. The #93 Sky-Tempesta Ferrari of Chris Froggatt, Jonathan Hui and Rino Mastronardi then also managed by and took 2nd in class.
The Endurance Cup final is set to take place the second weekend in October (8th - 10th) at the Circuit de Barcelona, Catalunya in Spain.