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GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE NURBURGRING WEEKEND ROUNDUP

Dinamic Motorsport took a commanding win in Sunday’s six-hour race at the Nürburgring to put Porsche back on the top step of the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS podium.

The Italian squad was largely untroubled at the front of the field, but there was no shortage of action further back. This was particularly true during the final two hours of competition, which brought a busy weekend in Germany to a dramatic crescendo. These are the key stories and statistics that emerged from the Endurance Cup’s return to the Eiffel Mountains.

Christian Engelhart’s victory means he joins six other drivers who have won four or more Endurance Cup races. This was his first series win with Porsche and came on the same circuit that he secured his maiden triumph in 2016.

Sven Müller and Matteo Cairoli both recorded their first wins in the series on Sunday. Müller was making his seventh start, while Cairoli took victory in only his second Endurance Cup event.

Dinamic Motorsport becomes the eighth team to win multiple Endurance Cup races and the first to do so with Porsche machinery. In total the German marque now has five series wins, drawing level with Lamborghini and Mercedes-AMG. Only Audi, BMW (both eight) and McLaren (six) have more.

Porsche is the form brand at the moment. The 911 GT3-R has taken three Endurance Cup wins since the start of the 2019, while no other brands has more than one victory during the same period.

HRT took third spot at the Nürburgring to secure its maiden Endurance Cup podium on home turf. The #4 Mercedes-AMG was rarely far from the action, with Vince Abril, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel all having to fight for the final result. Stolz pulled off what was arguably the move of the race when he passed both the #12 Porsche and #32 Audi with a perfectly planned and executed manoeuvre.

The #31 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry of Mirko Bortolotti, Kelvin van der Linde and Rolf Ineichen endured a penalty for exceeding driver time and a spectacular spin during the middle stages of the race. With this in mind a fourth-place finish was a useful result and keeps Bortolotti and Van der Linde top of the Endurance Cup drivers’ standings.

K-PAX Racing scored its maiden Endurance Cup points with a sixth-place finish for its battle-scarred #9 Bentley. Jordan Pepper showed excellent pace in the first stint before Alex Buncombe continued the forward momentum during the middle stages of the race, while Andy Soucek drove to the finish and was in the thick of the action. K-PAX will be back in the U.S. to contest the Indianapolis 8 Hour next month before returning to Europe for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

GetSpeed Performance also scored its first Endurance Cup points on Sunday by finishing in seventh position. The German squad had a considerably shorter trip home than K-PAX, with its base located just a few kilometres away from the Nürburgring in Meuspath.

Post-race penalties for the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi and the #99 ROWE Racing entry saw KCMG’s Porsche classified eighth in the final result, followed by the Sainteloc car and the #69 Optimum Motorsport McLaren. KCMG therefore registered points in its first Endurance Cup outing with the 911 GT3-R and has revealed plans to take a pair of cars to the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

With the leading contenders for both Ferrari and Lamborghini hitting problems during the final hour, this was the first Endurance Cup race since the 2018 Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km in which there was no Italian machinery among the overall top-10.

After Barwell Motorsport beat Garage 59 to Silver Cup honours at Imola, the result was reversed at the Nürburgring. The fight for victory was intense, with the #78 Barwell Lamborghini crawling all over the #159 Aston Martin during the closing stages. James Pull held off Patrick Kujala to secure a win on his return to the series by just 0.242 seconds. Such was this pair’s dominance that the third-placed Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG was a lap down

Not that the Madpanda crew was disappointed as they scored a maiden Endurance Cup podium. Ezequiel Perez Companc’s team also had to contend with a drive-through penalty, making the final result even more satisfying. Romain Monti was competing with the squad at the Nürburgring, joining Perez Companc and Patrick Assenheimer in the #90 Mercedes-AMG.

The class title battle is close, with Garage 59 drivers Andrew Watson and Valentin Hasse-Clot a single point clear of the #78 Barwell crew of Kujala/Schandorff/MacDowall. Garage 59 newcomer Pull is third having missed the Imola season opener, followed by Perez Companc and Assenheimer.

While two squads have dominated the Silver Cup thus far, the Pro-Am battle is considerably more open, with none of the podium finishers from Imola among the top three at the Nürburgring. Having clinched last year’s Pro-Am title in the Sprint Cup, Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Phil Keen scored their maiden Endurance win on Sunday and now lead the Endurance standings. They were joined at the Nürburgring by Elia Erhart, who took class victory on his series debut.

Saturday night’s qualifying saw GPX Racing score its first Endurance Cup pole and the third for Porsche. Drivers Dennis Olsen and Thomas Preining also clinched top spot in qualifying for the first time, while Romain Dumas took his second pole.

Making only his second appearance in the series, 22-year-old Preining delivered the best lap of qualifying, posting a 1m54.001s in the final segment to secure pole for his crew. The race was all but over the #40 crew after the first few hundred metres, though Preining showed his pace again by setting the fastest lap (1m55.979s).

There were a number of new additions to the grid at the Nürburgring, including series debutant JP Motorsport (#111 Mercedes-AMG). KCMG and Herberth Motorsport both ran Porsches in their first starts this season, while ROWE Racing added an extra 911 GT3-R for its home event.

Bentley factory driver Alex Buncombe extended his record for the most starts in Endurance Cup history at the Nürburgring. Last weekend’s event represented his 43rd participation in the series and his first for K-PAX Racing. The American squad ran the three most experienced drivers at the event, with Andy Soucek joining Buncombe in the #9 and Maxime Soulet aboard the #3. Both drivers (Soulet and Soucek) entered their 39th Endurance Cup events.

At the other end of the spectrum, six drivers made their GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS debut this weekend: Jonathan Cecotto, Joel Camathias, Thomas Drouet, Elia Erhart, Patryk Krupinski and Simona De Silvestro. What’s more, Nelson Panciatici had his first Endurance Cup outing following his Sprint debut at Misano.

Eight drivers pulled double duty at the Nürburgring. Jonathan Cecotto, Dorian Boccalacci and Alex Aka ran in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, while Valentin Hasse-Clot, Gilles Vannelet, Timothe Buret, Joel Camathias and Martin Konrad all contested the GT4 European Series. The latter only competed in race two, substituting for an unavailable driver in the SRT Mercedes-AMG.

The 2021 calendar was revealed on Friday, confirming a return to 10 events next season. Eight venues are confirmed thus far, all of which were present on this year’s original schedule. Two further circuits will be announced during the coming months.

Significantly, the dates for next year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa were revealed, with the Belgian endurance classic returning to its traditional slot on 29 July–1 August. The season’s marquee race has been part of the calendar each year since the Endurance Cup was launched in 2011.

GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS is back in action this weekend, with a pair of Sprint Cup contests running at Magny-Cours. This will be the first time the series has raced at the French track since it staged an Endurance race in 2011. It will share the bill with the FFSA French GT Championship, with a total of eight different series tackling 19 races over the course of the event.

Track action begins on Friday 11 September with free practice (14.35) and pre-qualifying (21.15). A new weekend format for Sprint events will see both qualifying 1 (14.40) and race 1 (22.15) take place on Saturday, followed on Sunday by qualifying 2 (08.30) and race 1 (13.45).

The battle for the combined GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS title is heating up as the season approaches its halfway mark. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT duo Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts currently lead with 64.5 points, closely followed by AKKA ASP drivers Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy (62 points) and another WRT man, Kelvin van der Linde (61 points). All will be in action at Magny-Cours with an eye on securing this year’s big prize.

Source. SRO Motorsports Group

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