Stienes Longin and Nicolas Saelens clinched their maiden Fanatec GT2 European Series outright and Pro-Am victory on their series debut on Sunday, converting their first pole position into the first win of the season for the PK Carsport Audi at Imola.
The duo bounced back in style after suffering a non-finish in the season-opening race on Saturday. A super start ensured Longin took the early race lead before extending a healthy advantage ahead of the pitstop window, but the PK Carsport crew didn’t have it all their own way.
A concerted charge from Michael Vergers in the High Class Racing Audi enabled team-mate Aurelijus Rusteika to jump into the lead after the pit stops. But a perfectly executed move out of Rivazza ensured Nicolas Saelens retook the top spot with 15 minutes remaining.
The Am battle was a slightly calmer affair, with Ebi Motors’ Gianluca Giorgi improving on Saturday’s impressive second place with his first class win, finishing fourth overall.
The second Fanatec GT2 European Series outing of the weekend, however, was called short due to Kevin Weeda’s heavy off in the Brabham Automotive Factory Racing car, from which he thankfully emerged unscathed.
Thrilling second race at Imola
The second race of the 2022 season rolled out in chilly conditions at the iconic Italian circuit on Sunday morning. After an extra rolling lap to enable the field to get their tyres up to temperature, it was Longin that timed his start to perfection to place his Audi out front and make good his escape. High Class Racing’s Vergers took off in hot pursuit closely followed by Stefan Rosina’s True Racing KTM in third and Bert Longin in fourth.
As the field settled in and the Pirelli tyres got up to temperature, the #1 Brabham was the car on the move, Anders Fjordbach posting a series of fastest laps in a bid to make up for lost time after an opening lap excursion at Rivazza to run fifth. Giorgi, meanwhile, took hold of the Am class lead from the start – a position from which he was never challenged throughout the 50-minute race.
Whilst the front-runners played catch the leader, all eyes were on the three-way fight for eighth. Recovering from a rear-grid start due to a fuel pump issue in qualifying, Saturday’s outright winner Henry Hassid, followed by Angelo Negro and Leonardo Gorini began hurrying Dilantha Malagamuwa. The Sri Lankan driver mounted a stellar defence until a spin at Tosa pushed the Target Racing Lamborghini back down the order.
All seemed calm at the front until the then third-placed Stefan Rosina hit trouble in the #16 True Racing KTM, promoting Bert Longin into the top three ahead of the pit stops. Further back, meanwhile, Laura Kraihamer came out on top of a yo-yo battle with the Am leader, Giorgi. But as the pit window opened, Vergers was pulling out all the stops to slash Stienes Longin’s advantage.
And slash it he did, allowing team-mate Aurelijus Rusteika to get the jump and claim the lead following the pit stops. But the success was short lived, Saelens – now at the helm of the #11 Audi – getting the better line out of Rivazza to re-take the lead soon after.
Having taken over from Longin senior, birthday boy Peter Guelinckx was pushing hard to climb further up the podium through the late-race stages and was perfectly poised to snatch second when Rusteika ran wide with six minutes remaining.
But just as the Imola crowds were preparing for nail-biting finish, a heavy off for Weeda in the Brabham at Tamburello brought out the red flags and the race would not be re-started.
With the result counted back to the previous lap, Longin and Saelens were assured the win from Rusteika and Vergers, with Bert Longin and Guelinckx third. Giorgi remained fourth with the Am win, ahead of Weeda in the Brabham. Sixth-place finisher Leonardo Gorini also claimed Am second, with Elia Erhart and Michael Doppelmayr completing the Am podium.
The Fanatec GT2 European Series resumes action for round two at the Red Bull Ring, Austria, 20-22 May 2022.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group