With the #63 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini establishing a comfortable advantage from pole, Sunday’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS race at the Nürburgring appeared to heading towards a straightforward conclusion.
But the Endurance Cup doesn’t do simple endings. This time the plot twist came courtesy of two late safety car periods, which bunched the field up and made for a dramatic final dash for the flag. Mirko Bortolotti provided the safe pair of hands that FFF needed, steering the Lamborghini squad back to the top step of the podium despite mounting pressure from behind.
Meanwhile there were late lead changes in both the Silver Cup and Pro-Am classes, ensuring a clean sweep of wins for Lamborghini, while the biggest title on offer was wrapped up with record speed. These are stats and stories from the annual trip to Germany.
Mirko Bortolotti earned the fifth overall Endurance Cup victory of his career at the same venue where he scored his first in 2016. Andrea Caldarelli took win number four, while Marco Mapelli added a second triumph to his résumé.
The win was the second for Orange1 FFF Racing and the sixth overall triumph for the Lamborghini marque. The Italian manufacturer now has as many wins as McLaren and only trails German brands Audi, BMW and Porsche, each of which has eight Endurance Cup victories.
Though AKKA ASP and HRT completed the podium, Mercedes-AMG remains without an overall triumph since the closing round of the 2018 season. The AKKA ASP squad and its driver pairing of Marciello/Gounon know that their only path to the Endurance Cup title is by winning next month’s finale.
HRT’s podium was the squad’s first since the same event last season. The German outfit featured a revised driver line-up at the Nürburgring, with Nico Bastian standing in for Vincent Abril. This was Bastian’s maiden overall podium in the Endurance Cup and came nine years after he made his series debut at the same circuit.
Emil Frey Racing enjoyed an excellent day at the Nürburgring, a fitting reward for the team following the early accident that claimed two of its Lamborghinis at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. The Swiss squad’s Pro cars took fourth and fifth overall, while the sister #14 was eighth and clinched Silver Cup honours.
After leading the way in the Ardennes, neither Ferrari nor Audi showed winning pace at the Nürburgring. Nevertheless, strong showings from Team WRT (#32 Audi) and Iron Lynx (#51 Ferrari) ensured that the championship-leading crews took crucial points from a tough event.
Porsche, on the other hand, had the pace to fight for a podium but lost both of its Pro cars to final-hour accidents. The #22 GPX Martini Racing entry had looked especially strong, running as high as third, but crashed out with less than 30 minutes to go. Consequently, both Porsche squads have been eliminated from the Endurance Cup title battle.
The #51 Iron Lynx Ferrari crew of Pier Guidi/Ledogar/Nielsen still lead the way on 77 points, but their advantage has been trimmed to 13 over Team WRT duo Weerts/Vanthoor. Bortolotti/Caldarelli/Mapelli are now 17 points from the lead, while Marciello/Gounon are an outside bet with a 23-point deficit. The teams’ championship looks similar: Iron Lynx have 84 points, followed by Team WRT (76), Orange1 FFF Racing (66) and AKKA ASP (63).
The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS drivers’ title was decided in Germany as Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor did enough to earn the crown with two events to spare. Team WRT looks set to seal its corresponding championship at the Sprint Cup finale, while the Belgian squad could yet earn a clean sweep of overall titles.
Emil Frey Racing captured Silver Cup honours despite the #14 Lamborghini being tipped into a spin during the opening hour. Rolf Ineichen and then Alex Fontana put the squad in a position to contend for a class podium, while the late safety cars allowed Ricardo Feller to snatch the win from fellow Lamborghini outfit Grasser Racing.
This was a tough result for the Grasser squad, which led the majority of the race only to lose everything during the last 30 minutes. Tim Zimmermann was among a number of drivers to be caught out at the final chicane and suffered a spin that ultimately ended the Austrian squad’s hopes.
Attempto Racing earned a best Silver Cup result of the season by finishing second with its Audi. This follows a strong run at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa where the German squad narrowly missed out on a podium.
Toksport WRT completed the Silver Cup top-three despite receiving a 10-second penalty for the contact that caused Ineichen’s spin. Marvin Dienst was especially quick during the middle stint, making up significant time to bring the #7 Mercedes-AMG back into podium contention.
After its sensational TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa win the Madpanda Motorsport squad endured a tough Nürburgring weekend and is now out of title contention. The #90 Mercedes-AMG was classified seventh, but later received a penalty for contact with the #26 Audi and dropped two spots to ninth.
The Emil Frey Racing trio of Feller/Fontana/Ineichen are on the cusp of clinching the Silver Cup title. They lead Attempto Racing driver Alex Aka by 24 points ahead of the decider and would put the championship beyond doubt by securing the bonus point for pole at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In the teams’ standings, Emil Frey Racing leads the Attempto squad by 22 points, while Madpanda Motorsport is 24 points in arrears.
The Pro-Am class was arguably the most exciting at the Nürburgring and certainly featured the most action during the opening hours. Several squads ran out front at various stages, while the lead swapped hands twice during the final 10 minutes.
The Orange1 FFF Racing crew of Hamaguchi/Keen/Costantini sealed victory to complete a Lamborghini sweep of the overall, Silver Cup and Pro-Am classes. This was the #19 car’s first triumph since the same event in 2020.
Sky Tempesta Racing driver Chris Froggatt leads the Pro-Am standings with 88 points after taking a runner-up finish in the #93 Ferrari. With crew-mate Jonathan Hui sitting second, Froggatt’s only rivals for the title are FFF duo Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Phil Keen, who are 18 points off the top ahead of the decider.
In qualifying, the #63 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini line-up of Bortolotti/Mapelli/Caldarelli become the first crew to register three overall poles in a single season. Aston Martin squad R-Motorsport previously did so in 2018, but with two different crews.
Two drivers made their series debuts at the Nürburgring. Luca Ghiotto joined the #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini crew in place of Jack Aitken and was part of an excellent run to fifth position. Joel Strum stepped into the Allied Racing Porsche alongside his GT4 European Series duties with the same squad, running in the Silver Cup podium positions before the car was sidelined with a technical issue.
Strum was one of four drivers pulling double duty at the Nürburgring. Jim Pla split his responsibilities between two Mercedes-AMG squads, piloting the #2 GetSpeed entry alongside his regular GT4 European Series programme with AKKA ASP. Barwell Motorsport crew-mates Miguel Ramos and Adrian Amstutz joined the Lamborghini Super Trofeo field, sharing the #9 Huracán Super Trofeo EVO for Target Racing.
The Nürburgring weekend also saw a number of notable returning drivers. Two-time Endurance Cup Pro-Am champion Ahmad Al Harthy was back at the wheel of the #97 Oman Racing Aston Martin for the first time since the closing round of the 2019 campaign. He was joined by Giacomo Petrobelli, whose previous Endurance Cup outing was at Silverstone in 2014. Jake Dennis also returned for the first time since 2019, making his maiden appearance at the wheel of the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW.
During September, the Nürburgring can see rain, fog and occasionally even snow. This year, however, conditions were exceptional from start to finish. All sessions were run in sunshine and warm temperatures, with barely a cloud in the sky and no hint of rain. With Saturday and Sunday’s track activity beginning at 08:30, the sun was low enough to make for some stunning photographs.
The 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS calendar was revealed during the Nürburgring weekend, along with those for the GT4 European Series and a quartet of SRO America championships. Continuity is a key feature of each, with the only change to next year’s schedule seeing Hockenheim replace the Nürburgring.
Before that, there is still plenty to settle before the 2021 season is complete. The Sprint Cup will conclude on 24-26 September at Valencia, which represents the only new circuit on this year’s calendar. Then it’s on to a very familiar venue as Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya hosts the deciding Endurance Cup contest on 8-10 October. The overall and class titles remain up for grabs at the finale, while the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS champions are still to be crowned in the Silver Cup and Pro-Am.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group