Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor were in blistering form at Misano. The #32 Team WRT Audi duo swept both 60-minute races at the Italian track, moving them one step closer to defending their Sprint Cup drivers’ title.
The Belgian duo may have been dominant, the series’ annual trip to the Adriatic coast still provided plenty of action. Indeed, Misano saw new drivers on the podium, a Pro-Am car on overall pole and an incredible final-lap duel for class victory. Here are the stories and stats from a busy weekend of sprint racing.
Vanthoor and Weerts are now the most successful driver pairing in Sprint Cup history. The Belgians have taken six wins together since first triumphing at Misano in 2019. The previous best was Laurens Vanthoor, who had taken five wins alongside both Robin Frijns and Cesar Ramos.
Remarkably, five of the six Weerts/Vanthoor wins have come at Misano. Following their maiden triumph in 2019 they added two more in 2020 to launch a successful title bid, followed by another double this season. Their only non-Misano win came in the opening race of 2021 at Magny-Cours
A perfect weekend at Misano also moved Dries to third on the all-time Sprint Cup winners list. Only his elder brother Laurens (14) and Maxi Buhk (12) have more victories.
Audi entrants topped six out of seven sessions at Misano, including five in a row from pre-event testing through Race 1. Team WRT led five of these with its #32 entry, while Saintéloc Racing paced pre-qualifying. Aston Martin prevented a clean sweep when Jonny Adam hit the front for Garage 59 in Qualifying 2.
The German brand has now amassed 43 overall Sprint Cup victories, considerably more than its closest rival. WRT has accounted for 39 of those wins and is similarly dominant among the teams.
Léo Roussel scored a maiden series podium in Race 1 by finishing third at the wheel of the #25 Saintéloc Racing Audi. The Frenchman signalled his intent by qualifying on the front row and fought with several more experienced GT racers during the opening stint to earn a breakthrough result.
A podium for the #25 Saintéloc car should not have come as a surprise: Haase had taken a top-three finish in each of his last three trips to Misano and showed well in practice. The German sealed third with a high-speed swoop past teammate and fellow Audi Sport driver Frédéric Vervisch, who took fourth to complete an excellent Saturday for the French outfit.
Six drivers and one special guest stood on the podium following Race 1. After finishing as runner-up, Maro Engel (#6 Mercedes-AMG Team Toksport WRT) was accompanied on to the second step by his young daughter Sophia, who made her first trip on to a podium with her father.
Third overall in Race 2 was a career-best result for 18-year-old Benji Goethe. Sharing with Kelvin van der Linde, the youngster absorbed pressure from teammate Frank Bird during the closing laps. Goethe’s previous best overall finish was sixth in the opening Endurance Cup race at Monza.
On a frustrating weekend for Emil Frey Racing, the ever-improving #114 Lamborghini of Jack Aitken and Konsta Lappalainen provided some optimism by fighting through the field to take seventh in Race 1, then securing fifth in the second outing.
Aitken was especially impressive at Misano. The single-seater graduate set the fastest lap in Race 1 and won the intra-team battle by jumping both sister cars on the final tour. He then qualified fourth for the second race, between established front-runners Dries Vanthoor and Raffaele Marciello, and looked at home fighting with the big guns.
JOTA showed good pace at Misano, but left without scoring the results that had looked to be possible. Ben Barnicoat and Ollie Wilkinson were fast throughout the weekend but lost fifth place in the opening contest to a pit infringement penalty. The #38 McLaren finished eighth in Race 2.
Konstantin Tereschenko delivered a star performance as the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG bagged Silver Cup honours in Race 1. The Russian driver put up a strong fight against teammate Raffaele Marciello and then held off class rival Ricardo Feller’s Lamborghini on the final tour to seal the win.
The #31 Team WRT Audi crew of Frank Bird and Ryuichiro Tomita scored a maiden Silver triumph in Race 2, a result that has looked increasingly likely in recent races. The #31 car was eliminated from Race 1 early on but started the second outing strongly with Tomita at the wheel, while Bird came close to snatching an overall podium in his stint.
Jonny Adam’s sensational overall pole for Race 2 overshadowed an equally impressive performance from Patrick Kujala, who put the #33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari second overall and at the top of the Silver Cup order. The Finnish ace and teammate Benjamin Hites clinched second in class, securing the first podium of 2021 for the German squad.
Race 2 marked the first time this season that the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini did not finish among the top-three in the Silver Cup. The car had previously enjoyed a run of seven straight Sprint and Endurance podiums, including four wins against strong opposition.
Despite having its worst weekend of the season in terms of results, the #14 Lamborghini was still the best-scoring Silver Cup car at Misano. Emil Frey Racing is 34.5 points clear in the teams’ championship, while Alex Fontana leads the drivers’ standings by an equally comfortable margin.
After being forced to withdraw from the second Zandvoort contest, Barwell Motorsport reasserted its position at the head of the Pro-Am class by winning Race 1. This represented a third victory of the season for the #77 Lamborghini of Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves.
The event’s most exciting on-track battle was without question the last-lap duel between Alex West (#188 Garage 59 Aston Martin) and Valentin Pierburg (#20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG). The Pro-Am leaders crossed the line separated by just 0.001s seconds, West just doing enough to secure a maiden Sprint Cup win.
This followed another remarkable story involving Garage 59, with Jonny Adam giving Aston Martin a maiden Sprint Cup pole in Qualifying 2 and ensuring that a Pro-Am car would start on overall pole for the first time in the short-format series. What’s more, this was the Scotsman’s first appearance at the Misano circuit.
The Pro-Am title battle looks set to rumble on to the finale. The SPS pairing of Pierburg/Baumann tops the class standings with 71.5 points, closely followed by Ramos/Chaves (68.5) and West/Adam (68). AF Corse Ferrari duo Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini are fourth on 63.5 points, still well within range on the lead.
Jonny Adam’s 1m31.687s to take pole for Race 2 was the quickest lap of the weekend, while Charles Weerts recorded the fastest race time (1m33.271s). Louis Machiels was the fastest bronze-graded driver with a 1m33.994s in Q1.
Four drivers made their Sprint Cup debuts at Misano. Jordan Love and Lance David Arnold (#40 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG) finished seventh and ninth in the Silver Cup class. Julien Apothéloz was 20th and 26th overall in the Allied Racing Porsche, while Fabien Lavergne (#66 Attempto Racing Audi) did not finish the opener and took 17th overall in Race 2. The latter was the only driver making his full Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS debut, the other three having previously raced in the Endurance Cup.
Adrien de Leener was forced to miss Race 2 after his dramatic accident at the start of the opening contest. The #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche ran wide and was launched off a kerb, leaving the Swiss driver with an injured back. De Leener has since returned home to recuperate.
The Sprint Cup returns after the summer break, with Brands Hatch set to host the series on 28/29 August. Weerts and Vanthoor are 28.5 points clear heading into the penultimate race and have an opportunity to wrap up the title with a round to spare.
Before that the focus will switch back to endurance racing and the biggest event of the year: the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. Cars will be on-track in three weeks’ time for the Bronze Test (Tuesday 27 July) which begins a packed week of action in the Ardennes, culminating in the main event getting underway at 16:30 on Saturday 31 July.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group