It was a masterclass in race management from the Silver cup pairing of Ulysse De Pauw and Alexandre Pierre Jean to overcome a field of Pro cup entries to take a start to finish victory in race 1 of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup at Brands Hatch.
De Pauw started from pole position with the next Silver cup entry being the #26 Sainteloc Junior Team Audi of Gilles Magnus three rows back in P7. Between them was a formidable line up of Pro class cars but De Pauw and Jean proved themselves to be more than a match.
It was a clean start at the front with De Pauw in the #53 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 holding off Jules Gounon in the #88 AKKODIS ASP Mercedes AMG GT3 to emerge out of Paddock Hill bend in the lead. Unfortunately a safety car was called before the pair had got to Druids due to a four car incident behind them.
Igor Walilko in the #86 AKKODIS ASP Team found himself squeezed onto the grass on the run to the green light and as he attempted to rejoin the track he clipped the #33 WRT Audi of Jean-Baptiste Simmenaur which then took out Benjamin Goethe in the #30 sister WRT Audi. The #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche of Adrien De Leener span out attempting to avoid the trouble and whilst it did rejoin the race it went back to the pits to retire. Walilko also rejoined and receive a 10 second stop and go penalty for causing the trouble.
The restart was a repeat of the race start minus the opening corner carnage. De Pauw held the place and started to stretch the lead over Gounon. With his tyres up to temperature the Ferrari really began to stretch it’s legs and started gaining several tenths in every sector over the chasing Mercedes.
In third place Mattia Druddi wasn’t allowing the Frenchman to get away and stayed well within a second looming large in Gounon’s mirrors. Charles Weerts was just as close to Drudi but an error at Sheene Curve saw him loose 2 seconds to ease the pressure on Drudi.
When the pit stop window opened De Pauw pitted relatively early and handed the #53 Ferrari to Pierre Alexandre Jean leaving Jules Gounon to attempt to make up some of the difference before handing over to team mate Jim Pla. It would prove to be for nothing as a delay in the pitstop caused by the left rear wheel refusing to sit in place saw the Mercedes return to the track in P3 with Raffaelle Marciello in the #89 AKKODIS ASP Team breathing down Pla’s neck.
Having pitted several laps earlier, Marciello was up to speed and had already dispatched Luca Ghiotto to get himself up to P4. On colder tyres Pla had no chance and lost the place at Graham Hill bend. The frustration back in the garage was clear as Gounon saw his hard work drain away.
Dries Vanthoor in the #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS evo II was now up to second place but with the Ferrari’s tyres up to temperature, Jean was able to maintain the gap created by De Pauw. Although losing some time in traffic, the Ferrari quickly regained it in clear air but the trouble for Vanthoor was now in his rear view mirror in the form of Marciello cruising up to the rear of the Audi.
In the closing minutes with a final warning for exceeding track limits at Graham Hill bend looming over him, Jean had more backmarkers to deal with which allowed Vanthoor to close the gap. Likewise Vanthoor then had Marciello closing in but with the back markers cleared, Jean showed his confidence in the car to re-establish his lead leaving Vanthoor to fight off the attentions of Marciello who in the final run into Hawthorns looked like he might attempt a pass but ultimately was just a little too far back.
Jim Pla took fourth place ahead of Patric Niederhauser in the Sainteloc Junior Team Audi ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Christopher Haase in the pair of Tresor by Car Collections Audi R8 LMS Evo II.
The second race of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup starts at 16:45 BST (17:45 CET).
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