PK Carsport Audi takes opening GT2 race spoils, re-igniting Pro-Am title fight.
True Racing KTM score first Pro-Am victory in the weekend’s final encounter.
PK Carsport by Heinz’s #81 Audi and True Racing’s #16 KTM shared the Fanatec GT2 European Series Pro-Am honours during an enthralling weekend of racing at Spa-Francorchamps on 24-25 July – the championship’s first visit to the iconic Belgium circuit.
For PK Carsport, race one victory on Saturday marked their third win of the season – a second in succession - to close the Pro-Am title gap to leaders Mark Patterson and Anders Fjordbach.
The High Class Racing duo were on the back foot all weekend by dint of rear-grid starts in both races after their Audi was forced to miss qualifying due to damage in practice after an off at Raidillon.
Race two saw a fourth different Pro-Am pairing take the top step of the podium in four events. Sahedi Samini and Stefan Rosina claimed victory from their pole-setting True Racing KTM, but not without a determined challenge from the fast-starting #5 Speed Factory Porsche.
Meanwhile, in Am, Christoph Ulrich continued the fine form that secured double pole positions in qualifying on Saturday to claim two further class victories aboard the #7 KTM.
The first put him within touching distance of the title ahead of the final race of the weekend, where the Sportec car climbed back from third to regain the lead – and claim the all-important crown – in the closing stages after losing out in the pit stops.
R1: PK Carsport Audi and Sportec KTM take significant victories at Spa
With Pro-Am championship leaders Patterson and Fjordbach forced to miss Saturday qualifying due to damage sustained in free practice, the Peter Guelinckx and Bert Longin knew they had to close the points deficit in #81 Audi, with the former starting from the very back.
Guelinckx got the #81 car’s charge off to a strong start, slotting into second behind the #7 pole sitting Sportec KTM and keeping Ulrich in his sights ahead throughout the opening stint.
Whilst the top six retained their starting order, the High Class Racing Audi was on the move, Patterson making a stellar start to climb from last to seventh on the opening tour and up to sixth ahead of the pit stop window.
Just as that was approaching, however, a heavy off for Michael Bleekemolen in the #23 Reiter Engineering KTM X-Bow at Pif-Paf resulted in a lengthy safety car period that would not only slash Ulrich’s comfortable lead, but prove pivotal for the race result.
Patterson seized the chance to gamble on an early pit stop, only for Fjordbach to get picked up by the safety car on exiting the pits. A right rear puncture further hampered their comeback charge and ultimately left the #33 car one lap down. That left Longin – now in the #81 Audi – to seize the lead from the Am class-leading Sportec Audi into La Source at the restart, then making good his escape with 10 minutes to go.
All eyes then turned to a hard-charging Michael Vergers, up two positions after passing Hans Stuck’s #24 Reiter Engineering Audi and Mauro Casadei in the #32 Target Racing Lamborghini at the restart. Not content with fourth, Vergers pushed the #5 Speed Factory Porsche on to pass the #911 Porsche for third before reeling in Am leader, Ulrich, completing the pass for second in a brave move up the inside of Blanchimont with two laps to go.
He came close to usurping Longin for the outright victory at the last, but ultimately ran out of time and the pair crossed the line three tenths of a second apart, still a season-best result for the Porsche.
After conceding only to the #81 and #5 Pro-Am class cars, Ulrich steered the Sportec KTM to a fourth Am win of the season and put himself within touching distance of the first ever GT2 European Am class crown, only needing a swing of five points heading into the final race of the weekend to secure the honours.
R2: Sarmini and Rosina take first GT2 victory, Ulrich seals Am title for Sportec and KTM
It was high drama from the start of the final GT2 battle of the weekend with the #81 race one-winning PK Carsport Audi missing its P3 grid slot and starting from the pit lane. That left Vergers to make an immediate move on the pole-sitting #16 KTM for the lead into La Source.
Although out front, the #5 Speed Factory Porsche was unable to pull out any more than a 1.9 second gap before a safety car period for the stricken #88 LP Racing Audi with 36 minutes to go demolished his advantage. And, with an extra two seconds compensation time to serve in the compulsory pit stops, Sarmini was able to take over from Rosina and claim the lead, which he retained to the flag.
Whilst the lead battles played out, the #33 Audi was on a charge from last to third in the space of three laps and looked to join the lead battle after Vergers ran deep into the Bust Stop chicane. Fjordbach temporarily took second until Rosina reclaimed the place at Les Combes ahead of the safety car.
All that hard work looked to have come undone at the restart, however, when the #33 slowed and made for the pits with a suspected issue. Slick work from the High Class crew, however, ensured Patterson was able to take over and bring the Audi home in a very respectable third.
Having recinded third to the hard-charging #33 Audi with only his Am title in mind, Ulrich’s #7 KTM came under pressure from Stuck and a run wide at Bruxelles temporarily let the #24 KTM through, but Ulrich carried enough momentum to regain the place before both cars pitted in unison.
The longer stop for the Sportec car by dint of the compensation penalties put Ulrich a fair wedge behind Kris Rosenberger, now in charge of the #24 Reiter KTM. Head down, Ulrich picked off Leoardo Gorini’s Porsche for second before a brave move around the outside of Rosenberger at Les Combes was enough to secure the crown.
A late retirement for the #5 Porsche, then in the hands of Aurelijus Rusteika, with a puncture and possible brake fire down the end of the Kemmel Straight brought out the red flags, bringing the contest to a premature end. But it mattered not to Ulrich, who goes down in history as the first-ever driver to win a title in the Fanatec GT2 European Series.
Although the Am championship is concluded, the Pro-Am fight will go down to the wire and the final round at Circuit Paul Ricard, France on 1-3 October.