Team WRT’s Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor bounced back from a disappointing Paul Ricard 1000km to claim victory in the first race of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS at Zandvoort. The Belgians scored maximum points on Saturday while their championship rivals in the #89 Akkodis ASP Team befell trouble.
After taking the pole position in the first qualification session, Charles Weerts lead the field into the race on the tight Circuit Zandvoort.
The opening laps saw the #32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Weerts and Ulysse De Pauw in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 running just tenths apart, with right behind them Jules Gounon in the #88 Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Further back, in fourth, Aurelien Panis was forced to defend fourth place for the #25 Saintéloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 from Simon Gachet in the #11 Tresor by Car Collection Audi R8 LMS GT3.
The third man in the championship, Timur Boguslavsky, was only in 16th position after a disappointing qualifying as he made contact with Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer in the #33 Team WRT Audi, putting the Frenchman in the gravel at Tarzan.
In the Silver Cup class, Thomas Neubauer – piloting the #30 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3, was fighting with Audi compatriot – albeit with rival team Saintéloc Racing – Gilles Magnus for position eleven, while Valentino Rossi was lucky to continue the race after a high-speed spin with no further contact, but dropping the MotoGP star back in 23rd place.
Coming in at the first opportunity, De Pauw gave his second place to Gounon when the pit window opened. Panis and Gachet, meanwhile, also went for an early pit stop.
After the mandatory round of pitstops, Vincent Abril suffered had a puncture at the front right of the #112 JP Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 which caused a FCY and a safety car period later in the race.
Dries Vanthoor, aboard the #32 WRT Audi after the pitstops, could pull away after a well-controlled restart. Jim Pla was in second position in the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes, while Pierre-Alexandre Jean, Christopher Haase and Patric Niederhauser were fighting over third place. In the scramble, Christopher Haase picked off Jean and Niederhauser one by one in the final minutes of the race, scoring himself and Gachet a hard-fought podium finish ahead of the #53 AF Corse Ferrari in fourth place – winners of the Silver Cup.
Unfazed after the restart, Vanthoor raced to his second victory of the season. The win was extra valuable as championship rivals Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy finished a lowly 23rd after Marciello had to bring the #89 Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the pits with with a puncture after a contact with Mattia Drudi and going off the track. With their win and Akkodis ASP’s poor result, Vanthoor and Weerts now lead the Sprint Cup championship.
Qualifying 2 of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS at Zandvoort will start at 9:30 CEST an can be watched live on GT REPORT.
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