Vanthoor & Weerts win season-opening Sprint Cup GT World Challenge Europe

Vanthoor & Weerts win season-opening Sprint Cup GT World Challenge Europe

Vintage performance from drivers and team secures victory for #32 BMW
Superb fifth-place overall finish earns Silver Cup win for #10 Boutsen VDS Mercedes-AMG 
Gold Cup victory on debut for LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler by OneGroup Audi 


Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts launched their bid for a fourth Sprint Cup title in perfect fashion with a perfectly executed victory in today's opening race Brands Hatch. 

 

It marked the 14th career win for the #32 Team WRT BMW pairing and had all the hallmarks of their championship campaigns: a strong opening stint from Vanthoor, a stellar pit stop, and a composed performance from Weerts. 

 

Their main opposition came from the #14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari, which started from pole in the hands of Ben Green. The Brit made a perfect start and was able to build an immediate gap as Vanthoor tried to overhaul second-place starter Mattia Drudi (#7 Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin). The BMW ace made a move stick, only for Drudi to find a way back past just a few corners later. 

 

But, after briefly dropping back, Vanthoor was soon on the attack again, executing a brilliantly planned move on the Aston Martin into the final corner before pulling away on the straight. The remainder of the opening stint was a game of cat and mouse, with Vanthoor making minor progress only for Green to respond. 

 

With the leaders so closely matched it was clear that the pit stops would be the deciding factor. Both ducked in almost as soon as the window opened, setting up a decisive head-to-head between the two sets of mechanics. The Emil Frey Racing service was quick, but with Team WRT producing the fastest stop of the race it was the #32 BMW that emerged just ahead of the #14 Ferrari. 

 

Weerts now had crucial track position over Konsta Lappalainen, but the Finn was in no mood to let a maiden win slip away without a fight and matched Weerts for pace throughout their stint. The pressure only let up during two safety car periods, both of which were caused by problems for Comtoyou Racing.

 

The first followed an unfortunate incident involving Nicolas Baert, who had taken the #7 Aston Martin from Drudi and was defending third place from Lucas Auer (#48 Winward Racing Team MANN-FILTER Mercedes-AMG). The Belgian ran wide and struck an advertising board, the ensuing debris then becoming lodged in the front of the car and forcing Baert to park at Druids. 

 

The second interruption was caused by Mattise Lismont spinning the #21 car into the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend. This came with just a few minutes left on the clock, setting up a one-lap dash to the chequered flag. Weerts was again equal to anything Lappalainen could throw at him, while the Finn also had to deal with pressure from Auer in the third-placed Mercedes-AMG.

 

Weerts took the chequered flag six tenths clear of Lappalainen, who held a similar gap over Auer. Thereafter, the order was shuffled by post-race penalties. At the finish, the next two positions were occupied by the #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi and the #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari, but the former was punished for causing a collision on the opening lap while the latter was caught speeding in the pit lane. 

 

This moved the #159 Garage 59 McLaren up to fourth, the same position it had occupied before being hit by the #69 Ferrari. Fifth overall went to the #10 Boutsen VDS Mercedes-AMG, which claimed a brilliant Silver Cup win with Aurélien Panis and César Gazeau sharing the controls. The French duo led from start to finish and were rarely under pressure on their way to securing class honours. 

 

The #6 LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler by OneGroup Audi came home sixth overall and claimed Gold Cup victory on its series debut. Max Hofer took the start before handing over to Luca Engstler, who made significant progress during the final minutes. The #30 Team WRT BMW finished seventh overall and second in Silver, followed by the #111 CSA Racing Audi which also claimed runner-up in Gold. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari was ninth (P3 in Silver), while the #99 Audi completed the top 10 following its penalty. 
 


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