Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: SRO, Circuit Nevers Magny Cours.
Only a week after the Endurance Cup round at the Nürburgring, the GT World Challenge Europe, and their contenders in the Sprint Cup, set up camp in the middle of France. Former F1 track Circuit de Nevers Magny Cours hosts round two of the Sprint Cup, with two one hour races spread over the weekend: one late at Saturday evening (21.15 bst), the other on Sunday at 12.45 bst.
A couple of teams have their home race this weekend.
Winners of race 2 at Misano, the AKKA ASP team, aim to continue their strong form this season. Besides their win in the Sprint Cup, the #88 with Timur Boguslavkiy and Raffaele Marciello also had successful outings in the Endurance cup with a 3rd place in Imola and 2nd at the Nürburgring. The team is definitely expected to be a front-runner this weekend. Not only will it run the #88, it will also enter the #89 in the Silver Cup for drivers Benjamin Hites and Jim Pla.
With their base in Saint-Étienne, Sainteloc Racing could call the race in Magny Cours a race in their backyard. The Audi team, that already got good results in Misano with a 5th, 3rd and 2nd position for Arthur Rougier and Christopher Haase in the #25, is one of the favorites for overall honors this weekend. Maybe even more so in the Silver Cup, as drivers Steven Palette and Simon Gachet in the #26, already scored two wins and a 3rd place in Misano.
In the CMR Bentley, Jules Gounon and Nelson Panciatici had a pretty good debut in Misano with a 3rd place finish in race 1. Race 2 and 3 were somewhat disappointing with a p8 and a DNF respectively. However, race pace and qualifying results in Italy should give the team enough confidence to improve on race results on home soil.
The final French outfit is Tech 1 Racing. The team showed incredible pace in qualification in both Imola (7th overall) and Misano (overall pole in Race 1 and 3) even though it races in the Silver Cup. At the Nürburgring, the car driven by Thomas Neubauer and Aurélien Panis (and Timothe Buret in the Endurance Cup) was 2nd at the Silver Cup grid. Races up until now have been characterized by bad luck. In Imola, a good result fell in the water after contact with the #56 Dinamic Porsche, in Misano race 1 ended with technical issues and race 3 with a crash. At the Nürburgring, the car was 39th and last due to technical issues with the car. The speed is there, and if the car can have a trouble free race, the Lexus is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Other favorites this weekend are of course the R8s from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor in the #32 car won two of the three races in Misano, while Kelvin van der Linde in the #31, which he shares with Ryuichiro Tomita in the Sprint Cup, was part of the winning crew in Imola. At the Nürburgring the #31 and #32 were (very) slightly outpaced by the Porsches, but we will not see that brand represented at Magny Cours. It will be up to Mercedes, Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini to keep the Audi's from winning. If not the WRT team, than perhaps the Attempto Audi team, which also fields two cars in the Pro category for Mosca/Drudi (#55) and Schöll/Vervisch (#66).
Outsiders for the win are definitely the HRT Mercedes with defending champions Maro Engel and Luca Stolz, and the Emil Frey Lamborghini's of Grenier/Siedler (#14) and Altoè/Costa (#163).
From Britain, Phil Keen and Lee Mowle will the ERC Sport Mercedes AMG in the Pro-Am Cup. Keen also competes in Lamborghini's in the British GT with Barwell and the Endurance Cup with Orange 1 FFF. The only way is up for the British outfit as in Misano the team faced a couple of difficulties with the car.
Only other Brit on the grid will be Chris Froggatt in the #93 Sky Tempesta Ferrari he shares with Eddie Cheever in the Pro-Am cup.
Race 1 will take place under artificial light, as it start well after sunset on Saturday. Race 2 is held Sunday early afternoon. The races can be followed live on the YouTube channel of GT World.