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SPRINT CUP TAKES CENTRE STAGE AS GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE PLOTS A COUSE FOR ZANDVOORT

The battle for the 2021 Sprint Cup title moves into a crucial phase next weekend (18-20 June) when Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS travels to Zandvoort for a pair of 60-minute races. 

The second of five short-format events follows a competitive opening round at Magny-Cours, where battle lines were drawn between this year’s championship hopefuls. From the bucolic countryside of central France the series now heads for the rolling sand dunes of the North Sea coast, where 28 cars will tackle a 4.3km circuit that leaves no margin for error. 

Summer may have arrived, but Zandvoort’s weather is notoriously difficult to predict. Indeed, there is always a chance that rain will sweep in from the sea and drench the circuit, while a spell of sunshine can dry the track surface just as quickly. This adds an extra challenge for teams and drivers, who must be prepared to think on their feet amid fast-changing conditions. 

The trip to Zandvoort falls during a busy period for Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, with the event quickly followed by the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa test days (21-22 June) and the season’s third Sprint Cup contest at Misano (2-4 July). A strong weekend in the Netherlands will therefore be crucial as competitors look to build momentum for the weeks ahead. 

Impressive opener makes Weerts and Vanthoor favourites for more success

Reigning champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts remain the crew to beat after the #32 Team WRT Audi duo scored victory in the opening Magny-Cours contest and a runner-up finish in race two. Zandvoort was their only lacklustre weekend in an otherwise outstanding 2020 Sprint Cup season, so there is unfinished business at the Dutch venue.

Audi has plenty more Pro firepower to call upon, including the sister #30 Team WRT car, which Benjamin Goethe will share with a to-be-confirmed second driver. Saintéloc Racing has shown strongly in previous outings at Zandvoort, taking victory in 2019 and a pair of podiums last term. Christopher Haase shares the #25 machine with Leo Roussel, while Frédéric Vervisch and Aurélien Panis handle the sister #26. 

Attempto Racing will once again field a pair of Pro cars. The Italian line-up of Mattia Drudi and Tommaso Mosca share the #99, while Chris Mies will be joined by a to-be-confirmed partner in the #66. Audi has more overall wins than any other brand at Zandvoort and looks well placed to add to its haul this season. 

Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT leads the opposition. The second-year team confirmed its title credentials at Magny-Cours, where Maro Engel and Luca Stolz claimed a commanding victory in race two. The German marque can also rely on AKKA ASP to mount a strong challenge with its #88 pairing of Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy, while the sister #89 crew of Jules Gounon and Petru Umbrarescu will look to launch their challenge after a tough opening weekend. 

Lamborghini squad Emil Frey Racing took victory at Zandvoort last term and should be a leading contender again at this season’s event. Albert Costa and Norbert Siedler form a vastly experienced duo in the #163 Huracán, while the sister #114 machine of Jack Aitken and Konsta Lappalainen has looked increasingly quick as the two youngsters adapt to top-level GT racing. 

After a slow start to the Magny-Cours weekend JOTA found its feet on Sunday, qualifying third and finishing fourth in a superb second race. The British squad will hope to maintain this form at Zandvoort with factory drivers Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson aboard the #38 McLaren. 

Dinamic Motorsport endured a tricky opening event and will look to transfer its Endurance Cup form into this weekend’s contest, where Christian Engelhart and Adrien De Leener once again share the #54 Porsche. French squad CMR completes the Pro field with its #108 Bentley, which experienced a tough weekend at Magny-Cours. The Continental showed well at Zandvoort last term, giving Stéphane Richelmi and Benjamin Lessennes hope of kick-starting their campaign at the Dutch track. 

Battle for class honours resumes in Silver Cup and Pro-Am

A highly competitive 10-car field will battle for Silver Cup honours at Zandvoort, while also looking to get among the overall points scorers. The 2021 season may still be young, but two teams have already emerged as star performers. 

Emil Frey Racing (#14 Lamborghini) and AKKA ASP (#87 Mercedes-AMG) have taken an equal share of class victories across the Endurance and Sprint disciplines this term, and with strong crews in each car they should be among the front-runners again this weekend. Swiss duo Alex Fontana and Ricardo Feller share the Lamborghini, while Jim Pla and Konstantin Tereschenko continue their partnership in the Mercedes-AMG.

The teams trying to stop them include CMR (#107 Bentley), which scored a sensational Silver Cup win at Zandvoort last season and bagged second overall in the process. Pierre-Alexandre Jean remains part of the squad and will target a similarly strong showing alongside new crew-mate Ulysse de Pauw. Madpanda Motorsport (#90 Mercedes-AMG) earned a podium at Magny-Cours and has demonstrated impressive speed with Ezequiel Perez Companc and Rik Breukers at the wheel, while Toksport WRT duo Óscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka (#7 Mercedes-AMG) also showed well at the opener. 

Ferrari is represented by two Silver Cup cars. The #33 Rinaldi Racing entry sees David Perel slot in alongside full-season driver Benjamín Hites, while Chris Froggatt and Giorgio Roda share the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing machine. Audi also has two crews vying for Silver honours, with the #31 Team WRT entry of Ryuichiro Tomita and Frank Bird joined by the #55 Attempto Racing car of Alex Aka and Dennis Marschall. Garage 59 completes the class with Tuomas Tujula and Nicolai Kjaergaard, who will chase a maiden Sprint Cup win in the #159 Aston Martin. 

The Pro-Am battle looks set to pick up where it left off at Magny-Cours, with four closely matched crews competing for class honours. Garage 59 secured a pair of pole positions at the opener, but the #188 Aston Martin of Alexander West and Jonny Adam left the French track without a race win. Having already shown impressive pace, their target will be the top step of the podium at Zandvoort.

Experience won out in the first Magny-Cours contest as AF Corse duo Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini (#52 Ferrari) added yet another Pro-Am victory to their collection, while the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini of Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves took race two honours. Both will be vying for more glory next weekend. 

SPS automotive performance scored a brace of runner-up finishes at Magny-Cours with its #20 Mercedes-AMG and occupies second place in the class standings. The pairing of Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann complete the Zandvoort entry list and, having come within a lap of victory last season, will have high hopes of securing a breakthrough win at the Dutch venue. 

Strong support package features GT, touring car and single-seater series

A busy weekend of track activity begins with free practice, which gets underway at 10:00 CEST on Friday. This is followed by pre-qualifying at 14:10, with both Friday sessions lasting 90 minutes. Qualifying for the opening race takes place at 09:00 on Saturday and will see one driver per-car tackle a 20-minute session. They will then take the start of the opening contest, which goes green at 13:30. 

The same format will be repeated on Sunday, when qualifying once again takes place at 09:00. The second driver from each crew will take part in the session and start the race, which begins at 14:30. A strong support package for the Zandvoort weekend features plenty more GT action thanks to Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the GT4 European Series, while TCR Europe and the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine add extra diversity to the programme. 

Once the chequered flag has fallen on Sunday afternoon Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS teams will begin packing up in readiness for the journey to Spa-Francorchamps. The official TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa test days will be staged on 22/23 June, maintaining the momentum at what is a particularly busy time for the series. 

Source. SRO Motorsports Group

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