Updated: Sep 26, 2021
Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: SRO Media, Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours
The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe circus landed in the middle of nowhere this weekend to have their season opener at the former French F1 track Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours. The first race started an hour after sunset on saturday at 22.25 local time and so was held in the dark. Title defenders Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts took a dominant win with pole position, fastest lap and the victory.
WRT youngster and title defender Charles Weerts left no doubt about his intentions to defend his title with Dries Vanthoor this year. Being fastest in all practice sessions he also managed to take pole in the #32 Audi R8. Right behind him were 2 of the 3 Emil Frey Lamborghini's: Feller in the #163 completed the first row. Arthur Rougier, in his first session in the #14 after stepping in for Siedler who suffered an injury from a crash in free practice, was not only 3rd on the overall grid, but also grabbed pole in the Silver Cup.
Patrick Kujala in the #33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari, also competing in the Silver Cup, took up the second spot on the second row. Ezequiel Perez Companc in the #90 Madpanda Motorsport made sure that 3 out 5 cars in the top 5 were from the Silver Cup. Other title favorites like Luca Stolz (#6 TokSport Mercedes) and Timur Boguslavskiy (#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes) started from p6 and p8 respectively.
Ollie Wilkinson in the JOTA Sport McLaren 720S didn't have the best qualification of his career, he started the race from p22. Another slight disappointment was the grid position of the winning team of the 3hrs of Monza: the #54 Dinamic Porsche of Christian Engelhart and Adrien de Leener started only 23rd.
The race got underway in quite an orderly fashion: except the pass of Stolz on Perez Company, the status quo was maintained. 5 laps into the race, Charles Weerts opened a 1 second gap to the Lamborghini of Feller, who had about the same margin towards Rougier behind. Kujala in the Rinaldi Ferrari and Stolz in the AMG could also follow the tempo, then there was a 3 second gap towards Perez Companc who led the rest of the field.
Towards the pit stops, Feller in the #163 Lamborghini had crawled back up to the gearbox of the #32 Audi of leader Charles Weerts.
Just before the opening of the pitstop window, we saw the first Full Course Yellow (FCY) of the race to recover the WRT Audi of Frank Bird from the gravel. The moment it ended, the pitstop window opened.
Both Emil Frey Lamborghini's came in immediately, making it pretty hectic for the team. Kujala and Stolz came in a lap later. Weerts waited quite a bit longer to hand over the wheel to Dries Vanthoor. This proved to be the slightly better strategy, as after the stops, the gap between Vanthoor and Costa in the #163 Lamborghini was now almost 9 seconds. Fontana, who took over the #14 Lamborghini was third but now had the#6 TokSport Mercedes of Maro Engel, previously in the hands of Luca Stolz, enlarged in his rear view mirror. Both were some 17 seconds behind leader Vanthoor.
Great battles were fought between Alex Fontana and Maro Engel for p3 and Mattia Drudi and Raffaele Marciello for p6. Marciello came out on top and took p6, while the battle for p3 was decided by what seemed a left rear puncture and following retirement for the #6 Mercedes of Maro Engel.
All the skirmish behind couldn't bother the leader Dries Vanthoor who took the win unchallenged in the #32 WRT. The gap towards Albert Costa in the #163 Lamborghini at the finish was just over 7 seconds. Alex Fontana in the other Emil Frey Lamborghini with startnumber 14 took p3 and thereby also the win in the Silver Cup. Andrea Bertolini and Louis Machiels secured the victory in the Pro-Am cup for AF Corse Ferrari.
Ben Barnicoat managed to steer the JOTA McLaren over the finish at p13, just behind Jack Aitken in the #114 Lamborhini. The Aston Martins of Garage 159 finished p15 and p22, Barwell Motorsport couldn't climb higher than p23.