Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: SRO Media
Both races at this weekends GTWC Sprint Cup round at Magny Cours were won by title favorites: race 1 on Saturday became a prey for reigning champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, the second race on Sunday was won by Marciello and Boguslavskiy, just like the second race on Brands two weeks ago.
Two years after his first pole position in the Sainteloc Audi at the very same circuit, Simon Gachet claimed his second pole in Q1 for the Saturday race in the #11 Tresor by Car Collection Audi. He led an Audi 1-2-3 in which Charles Weerts in the #32 WRT Audi completed the front row and Gilles Magnus in the #26 Sainteloc Audi claimed p3 and pole in the Silver Cup.
At the start, Magnus managed to overtake Weerts who was then stuck behind his brand colleague and saw Gachet build a lead of over three seconds. When Magnus ran wide during the first corner section, some 15 minutes into the race, Weerts saw an opportunity to overtake at the hairpin.
A quick stop from the WRT crew, Weerts handed over the wheel to Vanthoor a lap earlier than Gachet did to Haase, and a slight mistake of the latter on his pit exit, provided p1 on a platter to Vanthoor.
Haase quickly had to shift his attention to Raffaele Marciello in the #89 AKKODIS ASP Mercedes storming up towards his rear. The Swiss driver, who took over the wheel from Boguslavkiy, closed a gap of about 6 seconds in a matter of minutes. Haase managed to keep Marciello behind for a couple of laps, but with 10 minutes to go, the Mercedes had the better exit out of the hairpin and passed the Audi at the following quick right-left combination.
Vanthoor in front had built a big enough lead to be out of reach for Marciello and took the checkered flag with a 3 second lead. Haase took the final podium spot. No less than 5 cars out of the top 6 were Audi's with the #25 Sainteloc car of Panis and Niederhauser in p4, Drudi and Ghiotto in the second #12 Trésor by Car Collection Audi in p5 and Magnus and Baert in the #26 Sainteloc in p6, which consequently also gave them the victory in the Silver Cup.
Sunday turned out to be more of a Mercedes kind of day. In qualifying, Mercedes, no better yet, AKKODIS ASP locked out the front row with the #89 of Marciello ahead of the #88 of Maxi Goetz. Niederhauser was third and best Audi driver with yet another stellar qualifying performance, ahead of the #32 WRT Audi of Vanthoor who'd caused a red flag during qualifying with a spin into the barriers.
Marciello obviously didn't have much of a problem defending his lead from team colleague Goetz, but behind it all went wrong for Dries Vanthoor. He went wide and through the gravel at the first left-hander and only managed to rejoin the track in p14. At the front, Marciello built a lead over Goetz and was never seen again, after the stop, teammate Boguslavskiy followed his example to finish with a lead of over 10 seconds to Pla in the other AKKODIS ASP Mercedes. On track, the #33 WRT Audi of Mies and Simmenauer finished 2nd, but they were given a 10 second time penalty for an unsafe release at the pitstop, dropping them to p4.
Eventually, Panis and Niederhauser completed the podium despite a 5-seconds penalty for driving into Goetz.
After their troubles in the opening lap, Vanthoor and Weerts recovered to p6, just behind Silver Cup winners Ulysse de Pauw and Pierre-Alexandre Jean in the #53 AF Corse Ferrari.
Marciello and Boguslavskiy leave the French countryside with 11.5 points lead over Weerts and Vanthoor, 56.5 over 45. De Pauw and Jean follow at a respectable distance at 32.5 points.
Next up is the second round of the Endurance Cup, with the 1000km of Paul Ricard 3-5 June.