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GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE BARCELONA WEEKEND ROUNDUP

The 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season is in the books following last weekend’s Endurance Cup decider at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where Iron Lynx completed an outstanding year by adding the overall drivers’ title to their famous win at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. 

But this was no simple run to glory. A dominant race victory for AKKA ASP meant that the #51 Ferrari had to finish eighth or better to be sure of the drivers’ crown. During the fraught closing stages, the Italian squad clung to seventh spot and clinched the title, though Team WRT captured the teams’ championship with another late charge to the podium. 

It was a fitting way to finish such a competitive Endurance Cup season, one in which a group of elite teams has consistently fought at the front of the pack. These are the stories and stats from the decider. 

Iron Lynx secured the drivers’ crown for 2021 with its #51 crew of Pier Guidi/Ledogar/Nielsen. Of particular note, Alessandro Pier Guidi is the first back-to-back overall Endurance Cup champion. Côme Ledogar also has two titles, having triumphed with McLaren in 2016, while 24-year-old Nicklas Nielsen has his first championship. 

Consistency was key for the #51 crew, who finished all five races in the points and completed every lap. They would not claim to have had the quickest car: in qualifying their best result was eighth, while their average starting position was 10th. Indeed, the only event at which they had race-winning pace was the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. More often than not, they collected strong points through measured driving.

Team WRT snatched the Endurance Cup teams’ championship thanks to another strong run from the #32 Audi. The car has been competitive at each event this season, taking three podiums (Monza, Circuit Paul Ricard and Barcelona) and a sixth-place finish at the Nürburgring. Its only non-score came at Monza, where the #32 had been competing for the win before a puncture halted its charge. 

Amid the championship celebrations, it was perhaps overlooked that Mercedes-AMG swept all three classes on Sunday afternoon. Victory for the #88 crew of Marciello/Gounon/Fraga gave the brand its first overall Endurance Cup win since Barcelona in 2018 and the first for AKKA ASP since the same race in 2017. It was Mercedes-AMG’s sixth overall win in the series, equalling both McLaren and Lamborghini. 

Jules Gounon became the first driver to win overall with three different brands. The Frenchman has triumphed with Audi (2017 TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa), Bentley (2019 Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms) and now Mercedes-AMG.

Remarkably, this was Raffaele Marciello’s first overall win in the Endurance Cup. The Italian had scored eight podiums, as well as two Super Poles at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, before clinching his maiden victory. It was also the first overall triumph for 2019 Silver Cup champion Felipe Fraga.

AKKA ASP fell just four points short of the Endurance Cup drivers’ title and was only three shy of securing the teams’ championship. Indeed, the points it missed through a DNF at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa proved to be the difference this year. 

Dinamic Motorsport capped a strong season by finishing second at the finale with its #54 Porsche. Engelhart/Bachler/Cairoli were the fifth-best crew in the final standings, but like AKKA ASP their title chances were blunted by a low score in the Ardennes. 

The #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini was sixth at the flag, giving the returning Jack Aitken his best Endurance result of the season. Until he climbed behind the wheel for Friday’s official test sessions, the British driver had not sat in a racing car since his accident at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. 

The new Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II finished ninth overall on Sunday afternoon. As an invitational entry the car was invisible from the result, though this was nevertheless an impressive showing from the Saintéloc-run machine. The new BMW M4 GT3 also went the distance, finishing 16th. 

Emil Frey Racing clinched the Silver Cup teams’ and drivers’ titles to complete a clean sweep of the class in 2021. The Lamborghini squad previously won the same Endurance title in 2018 while running the popular Jaguar XKR. Alex Fontana was part of both title-winning campaigns. 

The Swiss outfit entered Sunday afternoon’s final race with a 24-point advantage and just 25 up for grabs, yet it briefly looked as though Alex Aka and Attempto Racing could snatch the title when the #14 Lamborghini suffered an early puncture. It was not until the second half of the race, when the Emil Frey machine moved back into the points, that the team could afford to relax.

AKKA ASP grabbed a second Silver Cup win of the season with its #87 Mercedes-AMG of Simon Gachet, Thomas Drouet and Konstantin Tereschenko. Though not in the title hunt ahead of the decider, the trio ultimately beat Alex Aka (#99 Attempto Racing Audi) to runner-up spot by a single point. 

The #31 Team WRT Audi scored its best Silver Cup result of the season by taking second place. The pairing of Frank Bird and Ryuichiro Tomita had already impressed at Sprint Cup events and delivered a polished performance alongside Endurance teammate Valdemar Eriksen.

After scoring just one point in the opening two events, the #7 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG earned a third successive podium by finishing P3 last weekend. The car started from class pole but dropped back during the middle phase of the race, then regained a podium spot during the final hour thanks to another excellent stint from Marvin Dienst. 

Based just down the road in Montmeló, Madpanda Motorsport was desperate to score a podium on home turf. A strong run was blunted by a puncture, though the team still made a big impression by handing out ‘Madpanda sticks’ to fans, many of which were visible in the grandstand during Sunday’s race. 

SPS Automotive Performance completed a Mercedes-AMG sweep by taking Pro-Am honours. This represented a maiden class triumph for the German squad and its trio of Valentin Pierburg, Martin Konrad and Dominik Baumann. 

Chris Froggatt took the Pro-Am drivers’ crown, while Sky Tempesta Racing won the teams’ championship, thanks to a fourth-place finish at Barcelona. The #93 Ferrari was in position to clinch the title throughout the race and never looked to be under serious pressure. 

Speaking afterwards, Froggatt thanked the teammates who have shared the car with him this season. In particular, Jonathan Hui only missed out on the title after being forced to skip the Monza opener due to travel restrictions. The Hong Kong racer has since made an enormous sacrifice to compete and will undertake a further 21-day quarantine upon his return from Barcelona. Though not technically champion, his efforts this season have more than warranted the title. 

Barwell Motorsport finished as class runner-up on the road and in the Endurance standings.  This completed a stellar season for the British squad, which added the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Pro-Am teams’ and drivers’ titles to the Sprint Cup championships it sealed at Valencia.

Oman Racing earned the final step on the Pro-Am podium. This was the squad’s first top-three finish since it came home second at Barcelona in 2019, wrapping up the class title in the process. 

Orange1 FFF Racing originally took overall pole on Sunday morning but was docked three positions after it was ruled that Mirko Bortolotti did not respect a waved yellow flag at turn 12 during Q1. As the penalty was applied after the session, the #63 Lamborghini crew kept the bonus point for pole. 

Following the FFF car’s demotion, AKKA ASP earned its second overall pole of the season. This gave Mercedes-AMG its ninth pole in the series, drawing the German marque level with Lamborghini. Only Ferrari has more with 11. 

Jules Gounon was the fastest man across the three qualifying sessions, posting a 1m44.528s in Q3. The best Bronze-graded driver was Manuel Lauck (#488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari) with a 1m46.242s. 

In the weekend’s Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series finale, newcomer Juuso Puhakka converted outright pole into victory to seal the virtual Silver Teams’ title for Madpanda Motorsport. The Finn was 1.5s clear of Dries Vanthoor, who collected Team WRT’s second Pro class win of the year. The Pro title was decided in favour of Emil Frey Racing last time out at the Nürburgring. Stéphane Ratel confirmed during his annual press conference that the virtual-meets-reality concept will continue next term, with points expanded to the top-five finishers on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis. 

Anyone hoping for a peaceful lunch break on Sunday afternoon was in for a shock as Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya reverberated to the sound of V12 engines. The new GT1 Sports Club Powered by Curbstone Events was on-track for the very first time, staging a demonstration run ahead of the Endurance Cup finale. This was followed by a full launch on Monday, with the entry list featuring awe-inspiring models from Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Pagani and Porsche. 

While the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season is over, many of the teams and drivers who competed on Sunday are already in the United States to contest this weekend’s Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS, the second round of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli. 

There’s significant firepower from the Endurance Cup: all 10 of the drivers who finished among the top-four in the championship will be present, including the title-winning #51 Ferrari crew of Pier Guidi/Ledogar/Nielsen. Among the teams, AF Corse, AKKA ASP, Saintéloc Racing and Team WRT will all be present at IMS. 

For those whose season is complete, there is now an opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the 2021 campaign. From Monza in April to Barcelona in October, via the TotalEnergies 24 Spa in July, there has been little time to take stock during the past six months. Indeed, it won’t be long before attention turns to a fresh set of challenges and adventures in 2022.

Source. SRO Motorsports Group

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