Text & Images: Rick Kiewiet
Two days, two races, two start-to-finish victories: both cars that currently battle it out for honors in the GTWC Sprint Cup took a win at the Dutch dunes. The race on Saturday was won by Weerts and Vanthoor in the #32 WRT Audi, on Sunday Marciello and Boguslavskiy struck back with a correspondingly commanding victory. The #46 WRT Audi, piloted by Frederic Vervisch and former MotoGP ace Valentino Rossi, who brought a lot of fans to the track, had somewhat of a disappointing weekend with a p14 and p16 at the finish of race 1 and 2 respectively.
Boguslavskiy and Marciello in the #89 AKKODIS ASP Mercedes suffered their first setback on Saturday in qualifying. The duo, that went into the weekend as (Sprint cup) championship leaders, didn't manage to get a time on the clocks that was better than 14th fastest. That while their main rivals, Weerts and Vanthoor claimed pole position for race 1. They were accompanied on the first row by Audi colleagues Gachet and Haase in the #11 Tresor by Car Collection R8 LMS. Ulysse de Pauw and Pierre-Alexandre Jean, the AF Corse Silver cup entry that we've seen at the front of the field consistently this season, qualified their Ferrari 488 on p3.
Weerts consolidated his lead at the start, but Simon Gachet lost a position to Ulysse de Pauw in the Ferrari behind him, dropping even further back in the remainder of his stint. At the stops half way, Weerts had build an almost 4 second lead to De Pauw, who was followed by the #88 Mercedes with Gounon behind the wheel. The AKKODIS ASP team beat the AF Corse in the pits, as Jim Pla, who took over from Gounon, led Pierre Alexandre Jean in the #52 after the stops.
Vanthoor, now in the #32 WRT Audi, kept Pla at bay in the remainder of the race and scored his and Weerts' second win of the season, even when a Full Course Yellow and following Safety Car brought the field back together. Behind Vanthoor and Pla though, an interesting battle for p3 emerged between Jean in the #52 Ferrari, Haase in the #11 Tresor Audi and Niederhauser in the #25 Sainteloc Audi. The battle was decided in favor of the #11 Audi of Haase, who managed to overtake Jean after the latter only just missed his breaking point right after the famous Scheivlak corner.
Boguslavskiy and Marciello managed to drive the #89 back into the top-10, only to suffer a punture minutes before the finish after contact with the #12 Tresor Audi. The necessary stop dropped the car to p23, far from points. This handed the championship lead over to Weerts and Vanthoor, who now led by 5.5 points.
In many facets, race 2 was a copy of race 1, only the leader was different. Marciello, out for revenge after their 0-score the day before, had qualified the #89 Mercedes on pole, more than half a second faster than the #112 McLaren of Dennis Lind and Vince Abril. Two Audi's took up second row: Pieter Schothorst and Dennis Marschall in the #66 Attempto Audi were a mere 0.003s faster on his home track than Dries Vanthoor in the #32. Great performance by Miguel Ramos in the Garage 59 McLaren, who qualified the Pro-Am car in p5 overall.
At the start, Marciello kept the lead and quickly opened a gap towards Abril in the McLaren. As Abril mostly had to keep an eye on his mirror where Vanthoor, who took over showed up after the start, Marciello in front didn't had much to fear from the rear. Marschall lost a place to Vanthoor, put didn't loose his grip on p4. At the stops, the #32 Audi finally found himself ahead of the #112 McLaren, though the #89 Mercedes had already taken off in the distance.
But like the day before, all gaps were reduced back to zero by a safety car phase at about three quarters of the race. In the remainder, Boguslavskiy, who'd taken over from Marciello, managed to keep Weerts in the #32 WRT Audi behind, albeit just. A slow stop had dropped the #112 JP Motorsport McLaren slightly back and gave Pieter Schothorst in the #66 Attempto Audi the opportunity to pick up the last podium spot.
After race 2, Weerts and Vanthoor now have the slightest of leads: 74.5 over 74 for Marciello and Boguslavskiy.
Next race will be held at Misano in the first weekend of July (1-3).