Text: Rick Kiewiet
Seven times MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi and teammate Maxime Martin claimed victory in the second GT World Challenge Sprint Cup race at Misano. After a start-to-finish win from Rafaelle Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy in the #88 Akkodis Mercedes on Saturday, "The Doctor" and Martin won by 4.2s in race 2. With their win in race 1 and a fifth place in race 2, Marciello and Boguslavskiy leave Misano as the new Sprint Cup leaders in the standings.
At the start of race 1 Marciello stayed in the lead while directly behind the top-3 a multi-car incident took place. Miraculously the race stayed under green and all 42 cars continued their way. Despite Altoé in the #14 Emil Frey Ferrari managed to keep up with Marciello for the best part of the first stint, the Swiss Mercedes driver managed to pull a 5 second gap just ahead of the pitstop window. Both WRT and Emil Frey waited until the very last moment to make their stop, after which they maintained in the lead, with a now 9 second gap separating them. In the remainder of the race, Boguslavskiy consolidated the gap and finished some 7 seconds in front of Lappalainen at the finish. Behind the #14 Ferrari, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts completed the podium at a respectable distance, 15 seconds behind the #88 Mercedes, having started p22 on the grid!
Most attention during race 1 went to Rossi and Martin in the #46 WRT BMW. With couple of daring overtakes from both Rossi and Martin, they worked themselves up from a 24th grid position to p8 at the finish. Showing already the race pace of the car was excellent.
Sunday turned out to be the day of Rossi and Martin. Having showcased excellent pace on Saturday during the race, Maxime Martin qualified the #46 third for race 2. Team colleagues Weerts and Vanthoor in the #32 started from pole, joined by the #25 Sainteloc Audi of Niederhauser and Bastard on the front row. No position changes after the start so Vanthoor led ahead of Niederhauser and Martin during the opening stint. Vanthoor built a considerable lead which unfortunately disappeared as snow in the sun when a safety car phase brought the field back together just before the opening of the pitstop window. WRT tried to take advantage of this by pitting both their cars right after the SC phase. This worked for the #46, as Rossi led the race right after the stops, but a stuck wheel threw the #32 back to the lower ends of the top-10.
Rossi brought the car home professionally and thereby secured his first ever victory in the GT World Challenge. After three win on his home soil on two wheels, he adds a victory on four to his palmares. Lucas Legeret finished second in the #11 ComToYou Audi while Simmenauer and Neubauer secured their first points of the season with a p3 finish in the #31 WRT BMW.