Team WRT’s Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor extended their lead at the top of the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup standings after being promoted to the win of race one at Brands Hatch, after a nasty crash involving Jota Sport’s Ollie Wilkinson and AKKA ASP’s Raffaele Marciello caused the race to finish under a Full Course Yellow.
GTWCE BRANDS HATCH: LIVESTREAM | QUALIFYING REPORT | BARNICOAT LOSES POLE | QUALIFYING REPORT | RACE 1 REPORT | RACE 2 REPORT | GALLERY
The crash brought to an end what had been a captivating race for both the Jota McLaren crew, and the AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG duo, with the latter losing what would have been victory with a post-race time penalty.
At the start, Ben Barnicoat grabbed the McLaren 720S GT3 by the scruff of the neck and made a rocket start from third to be right behind Boguslavskiy on the run down Pilgrim’s Drop and into the right-hander at Hawthorn. The Mercedes blocked the inside, but Barnicoat had more momentum and swept into the lead round the outside.
From there, he extended his lead to more than 15 seconds at the mandatory pitstop, the Brit benefitting from clear track to absolutely power clear while Boguslavskiy fought off the attentions of Charles Weerts in the #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS.
Handing over the McLaren to Wilkinson, the race took on the reverse dynamic, as his lead got cut into by a hard-charging Marciello.
With just under 15 minutes of the race remaining, Marciello had cut down an eight-second deficit to be right under the Jota’s rear wing and was getting increasingly wild – including dipping two wheels into the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap – in his attempts to take the lead away.
The decisive moment took place with just five minutes remaining. The train of Wilkinson and Marciello – joined by Dries Vanthoor in the #32 Audi – came across the back-marking Aston Martin and Ferrari of Jonny Adam and Giorgio Roda respectively.
Passing Adam cleanly, Wilkinson went to lap Roda at Dingle Dell with Marciello just behind the Ferrari. The Mercedes driver carried more momentum than Roda and tried to squeeze through the tightest of gaps between the McLaren and the Ferarri but made sizeable contact with the rear-left of the 720S, causing Wilkinson to spin out and hit the barriers. Such was his speed, he actually punched through the barriers and ended up on top the bank next to the trees. Thankfully he was shown walking unaided to an ambulance.
The result was a Full Course Yellow and the race finished neutralised with Maricello crossing the line first, ahead of Vanthoor.
However, a post-race investigation found that Marciello was ‘predominantly responsible for the collision’ and was given a five-second stop/go penalty, converted to a 40-second time penalty added to his final race time. That meant the AKKA ASP crew drops to 17th overall, and handed Team WRT the victory.
That penalty promoted the Toksport WRT Mercedes of Luca Stolz and Maro Engel into second in what had been a decent race for the pair regardless of their post-race promotion. Stolz battled with Boguslavskiy for the majority of the opening stint, but couldn’t find a way past on a Brands Hatch circuit that isn’t the easiest to overtake on.
Pitting the same time as a number of the front-runners, a quick stop for the Team WRT Audi of Weerts and Vanthoor allowed them to squeak ahead of the Mercedes coming out of the stops and never looked under pressure for the remainder of the race.
Emil Frey Racing took fourth on the road, but third in the final classification, after a great race for the Lamborghini Huracán duo of Ricardo Feller and Alex Fontana which also saw them win the Silver Cup category. The former pulled off one of the moves of the race to get past Pierre Alexadre Jean’s CMR Bentley Continental GT3 going into Paddock Hill Bend after a great nip-and-tuck battle between the pair. The Bentley ended up ninth at the flag but was promoted to eighth after the AKKA ASP penalty.
Behind the Lamborghini was Silver Cup rivals Team WRT, with Ryuichiro Tomita and Frank Bird benefitting from a slick stop to take fourth in their Audi R8 LMS.
Quick work in the pits was the difference for the Madpanda Motorsport entry of Rik Breukers and Ezequiel Perez Companc too, as the Mercedes-AMG GT3 moved up from the outer reaches of the top 10 to finish fifth. The late neutralisation possibly helped the pair, as that gave Breukers a reprieve from the pressure put on him by Frederic Vervisch in the Sainteloc Audi he shared with Aurelien Panis.
Barwell Motorsport continued its good run of form in the Pro-Am class, with Miguel Ramos and Henrique Chaves converting class pole into class victory in their #77 Lamborghini Huracán.
The second race of the day at Brands Hatch is scheduled to get underway at 3.45pm UK time (4.45pm CET) and you can watch it live on GT REPORT.
UPDATE: Later after the race, the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini, which won the Silver Cup, was relegated to 14th overall after the team was given a 30-second time penalty for a pit infringement where a mechanic lost grip on one of the tyres. That means Frank Bird and Ryuichiro Tomita have been promoted to third overall and the Silver Cup victory.
Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.