Text: Rick Kiewiet
Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts striken back with their second victory of the weekend after the AKKA ASP Mercedes' win earlier on Sunday. After yesterday's win, a blistering pit stop from the mechanics and an incredibly fast out-lap from Vanthoor brought them the lead. The rest of the podium was also claimed by Audis, nicely shared between teams. Christopher Haase and Arthur Rogier took 2nd for Sainteloc, while Mosca and Mattia Drudi came in third for Attempto.
Thomas Neubauer's pole position on Saturday proved not to be an incident. The young Frenchman from Paris, with only one race experience in a GT3 car prior to this season, put his #15 Tech 1 Lexus RCF on pole for race 3 yet again. A trio of Audi's followed, led by Tommaso Mosca in the #55 Attempto, than Rougier in the #25 Sainteloc and Weerts in the #32 WRT R8 LMS. Both Lamborghinis from Emil Frey Racing were 5th and 6th, ahead of Boguslavskiy in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes, Gounon in the #107 CMR Bentley, Tomita in the other WRT Audi and Luca Stolz completed the top-10 in the HRT Mercedes.
The start of race 3 was somewhat similar to race 1. Neubauer managed to stay in the lead after the start, only now he was chased by a couple of Audis instead of a Bentley. Behind, Weerts managed to pass Rougier for 3rd, where a slight touch on the side wasn't shunned by the Belgian.
In the opening stages most attention went out to the battle for 6th between Altoe in the #163 Lamborghini and Jules Gounon in the #107 Bentley. After putting the pressure on for multiple laps, Gounon forced Altoe in a slight mistake in the last corner. The Lambo went too wide in the last corner, was launched on the sausage curbs there, dropping him to p10. A couple of laps later, he also managed to pass Grenier in the second Lambo.
At the head of the field, Neubauer had built up a 2.2 second gap to Mosco the moment the pit window opened after 25 minutes. The Audi trio was still together with about a second between them. Porsche Carrera Cup graduate Mosca leading the chase to Neubauer from Weerts and Rougier, In 5th was Jules Gounon, ahead of Mikael Grenier in the Lambo en the HRT Mercedes of Luca Stolz.
During the pit stops, the WRT mechanics again displayed their incredible skill. Mosca, Rougier and Stolz came in immediately as the window opened. Neubauer, Weerts and the rest of the top-10 followed one or two laps later. Afterwards, the order was completely shaken up. Dries Vanthoor was suddenly in the lead. With a pit stop that lasted only 1.03.982 he could easily pass the #25 Sainteloc Audi, whose pit stop took almost 2 seconds longer and the #15 Lexus that even took 1:16.190. This dropped the latter even to p7. The Audi trio of now Vanthoor, Haase and Mattia Drudi was now in the lead, Engel in the #4 HRT Mercedes, who also had a fast stop, was now in 4th, followed by Panciatici who took over the #107 Bentley and Kelvin van der Linde in the #31 WRT Audi.
The next part of the race was characterized by van der Linde's attempt to take 5th from Panciatici. A battle that lasted a couple of laps ended in tears. As van der Linde finally managed to put his Audi on the inside of the Bentley, Panciatici's car snapped from under him, taking Panis in the #15 Lexus who managed to go round the outside, with him. Both cars ended up in the gravel, race over. A Full Course Yellow followed.
And so, after their DNF on Saturday, an engine change that obliged them to start race 2 from pit lane and an unlucky drive-through in that same race, race 3 ended in the gravel for Tech 1 Lexus. Their are big positives to hang on to though, as Neubauer, a young rookie, managed to put the car on pole not once, but twice. With this speed, points must come eventually.
With three minutes to go, racing resumed with the field back together due to the Safety Car. Vanthoor managed to withstand the pressure from Haase to take the win. Mattia claimed the third podium spot. In 4th was the first non-Audi in the hands of Maro Engel with the HRT Mercedes. Van der Linde was 5th for WRT, followed by Marciello (AKKA ASP Mercedes), the Lambo's of Siedler and Costa and the (later disqualified) #108 CMR Bentley of Chevalier. The Owega brothers in the third WRT Audi, finished 10th and due to the disqualification of the #108 Bentley took the honours in the Silver Cup. The Pro-Am cup was won by Eddie Cheever and Chris Froggat in the Tempesta Ferrari.
The next race in the GT World Challenge is for the Endurance Cup, hosted by the Nürburgring from 4 to 6 September.
To watch the full race again, with English commentary, click here.