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GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE ZANDVOORT WEEKEND ROUNDUP

Zandvoort produced a significant twist in the story of the Sprint Cup season as Emil Frey Racing’s double victory fired the Lamborghini team into title contention and placed an unexpected name at the top of the drivers’ standings. 

Ricardo Feller has been in magnificent form this term and is rapidly emerging as a new star of GT racing. Over the weekend, he and the Emil Frey Racing squad took on the biggest names in the Sprint Cup and emerged with a clutch of silverware. 

Feller and teammate Alex Fontana took a commanding race 1 win before the sister Lamborghini of Albert Costa and Norbert Siedler triumphed in the second contest, but results alone tell only part of the story. Here is the complete picture of a rollercoaster weekend on the North Sea coast. 

Feller and Fontana did not simply win race one: they dominated it. Fontana slowed on the run to the chequered flag, masking the full extent of the #14 Lamborghini’s advantage, but the Swiss driver was some 15 seconds clear with a few minutes left on the clock. 

By winning on Saturday, Feller and Fontana became only the third Silver Cup crew to record an overall Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS victory. The other two are AKKA ASP (Mercedes-AMG) at Brands Hatch in 2019 and Saintéloc Racing (Audi) last season. It is perhaps noteworthy that both of those squads would go on to be crowned Sprint Cup champions in their class. 

The #14 Lamborghini backed up its opening race triumph with second overall and another Silver win in Sunday’s contest, earning a seriously impressive result from 16th on the grid. 

By winning race two, Emil Frey Racing became the first team to sweep a Sprint Cup weekend since AKKA ASP at the final round of the 2019 season. The last time that two different cars from the same stable swept a weekend was Team WRT at Brands Hatch in 2018. 

Sunday’s triumph gave the experienced Norbert Siedler his first Sprint Cup win since Misano in 2015. On that occasion, the Austrian driver shared a Rinaldi Racing Ferrari with Marco Seefried, who also went on to win with Emil Frey Racing.

The Swiss squad now has three straight victories at Zandvoort, Costa having taken last year’s second outing alongside Giacomo Altoè. This means Emil Frey Racing has more Zandvoort wins than any other squad, while Lamborghini is the most successful brand at the track with four wins from 10 races.  

While the second race was sweet for Emil Frey Racing, it was a bitter result for AKKA ASP after its #88 Mercedes-AMG dominated the opening stint from pole. Raffaele Marciello was 10 seconds clear of his nearest challenger when he handed over to Timur Boguslavskiy, who looked set to complete the run to victory before an electrical failure halted their charge. 

The demise of the #88 Mercedes-AMG ended a run of four successive wins from pole position, the #163 Lamborghini having qualified fourth. The last time that a car triumphed from lower than this was race 2 at the Nürburgring in 2019, when R-Motorsport won from 5th with its Aston Martin.

Race 1 saw CMR finish on the overall podium at Zandvoort for the second season in succession with its Silver Cup car. Pierre-Alexandre Jean was at the wheel on both occasions, while Ulysse de Pauw enjoyed a breakthrough result in only his second weekend of GT racing. The #107 Bentley was fifth overall and repeated its Silver Cup result in race two, capping an excellent weekend in the Netherlands.

Race 1 also saw Team WRT take fourth overall and third in the Silver Cup, while the Toksport WRT duo of Oscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka finished fifth overall in the #7 Mercedes-AMG and yet still missed out on the class podium. With the #87 AKKA ASP car next to take the chequered flag, a record five Silver Cup cars finished in the overall top-six.

With a pair of class podiums and strong overall finishes in both races, Team WRT’s #31 Audi of Frank Bird and Ryuichiro Tomita enjoyed an excellent weekend at Zandvoort. Tomita was already an overall race winner at the circuit, but the result marks a significant step forward for Bird in his second full season of GT racing. 

The #32 Team WRT Audi banked valuable points in race 2 despite receiving a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. This broke a run of disappointing results at Zandvoort for reigning champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles, who had finished 12th, seventh and seventh in their previous three outings. 

Barwell Motorsport (#77 Lamborghini) took Pro-Am honours in the opening race thanks to Miguel Ramos making a winning pass on Louis Machiels (#52 AF Corse Ferrari). Henrique Chaves secured class pole for the second outing before Ramos was required to leave the circuit for personal reasons. 

SPS Automotive Performance took top spot in race 2 to break a long run of podiums without a win. The #20 Mercedes-AMG crew of Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann had scored six runner-up finishes and six P3 results before finally securing the breakthrough triumph. What’s more, they lead the Sprint Cup standings and have climbed to second in the combined Pro-Am classification.

The #88 AKKA ASP crew left Zandvoort as Pit Stop Challenge winners for performing the fastest combined stops across both races. The French squad also took the award at Magny-Cours, though in that case it was the #89 car’s mechanics.

Emil Frey Racing’s speed at Zandvoort is backed up by the results, with Ricardo Feller’s pole lap in qualifying 1 (1m33.586s) proving to be the outright fastest time of the weekend. Albert Costa set the fastest lap in race 1 (1m34.856s), while race 2 saw Feller go quickest (1m35.346s).

From a competition standpoint the weather did not play a major role in this year’s event, but there was a significant downpour at Zandvoort on Friday evening and another during the early hours of Sunday morning. The latter left the track damp for qualifying 2, but both races were run in dry conditions.

Attempto Racing expanded its line-up for the Zandvoort event by adding a third Audi to the grid. Jusuf Owega joined its driver roster, partnering Chris Mies in the #66, while Dennis Marschall made his first start for the team alongside Alex Aka after missing the Magny-Cours opener.

There were a number of other tweaks to the driver line-up at Zandvoort. David Perel was on duty for Rinaldi Racing, replacing Patrick Kujala in the #33 Ferrari, while Nelson Panciatici took over from Benjamin Lessenes in the #108 CMR Bentley. Both drivers compete for their respective teams the Endurance Cup. 

Markus Winkelhock contested his first Sprint Cup race with Team WRT since finishing second at the Nürburgring in 2017. The German ace has remained close to the Belgian squad and was on Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli duty for them during last season’s finale at Kyalami. 

Two drivers were on double duty at Zandvoort. Miguel Ramos competed in Lamborghini Super Trofeo, sharing with Squadra Corse junior Kikko Galbiati, and won race 1 in the Pro-Am class. Jim Pla drove in the GT4 European Series and took race 2 honours from pole alongside regular Endurance Cup entrant Jean-Luc Beaubelique. 

From Zandvoort, all 15 teams and the majority of the drivers will travel directly to the Belgian Ardennes to undertake the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa test days. Beginning on Tuesday at 09:00 CEST, there will be 16 hours of running across the two days as competitors prepare to tackle the season’s marquee race (29 July–1 August).

The next Sprint Cup event takes place at Misano (2–4 July) and will see the short-format championship contest its fifth and sixth races of the 2021 campaign. Feller leads the overall drivers’ standings by half a point from Vanthoor/Weerts, while Emil Frey Racing and Team WRT are level at the top of the teams’ classification. As it reaches the half-way point, the championship could hardly be closer. 

Source. SRO Motorsports Group

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