High Class Racing Audi pair seal inaugural Pro-Am title with victory under the lights.
Pro-Am and Am title winners celebrated as curtain falls on inaugural season
Ulrich wins opening race, Gorini takes maiden Am win in action-packed finale.
Mark Patterson and Anders Fjordbach put in a champion’s drive to wrap up the Fanatec GT2 European Series Pro-Am title to round out the series’ inaugural season at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Starting from pole position in the #33 High Class Racing-run Audi with an extended 17-point margin after out-scoring chief title rivals Peter Guelinckx and Bert Longin in the opener, Fjordbach’s pace in the first stint was devastating.
The Dane set fastest lap upon fastest lap to build up a mammoth 40-second lead heading into the pit window, and from thereon in Patterson nursed the car to the finish to wrap up the title in this, his last full-season programme of racing.
There was also an opportunity to celebrate Am champion Christoph Ulrich, plus first-time race winners Auto Vitesse courtesy of a debut win for the #63 Lamborghini Huracan in Cedric Leimer and Julian Piguet’s charge, as the curtain came down on a successful debut season for SRO’s latest innovation in GT racing.
R1: Ulrich becomes first outright Am winner, Auto Vitesse victorious on debut
Ulrich put in a blistering opening stint and then fought back after serving ten seconds of compensation time in the pit stops to become the first Am winner to seal victory overall in the opening race.
Starting from pole position, the #7 Sportec Motorsport KTM X-BOW made good its escape in the opening exchanges and boxed one lap into the pit window with an advantage just shy of ten seconds, before emerging behind the #63 Lamborghini in Julien Piguet's charge.
The Swiss racer wasted little time in re-claiming top spot on the road and capitalised on the early stages of a mechanical problem for Piguet into the chicane to annex the race lead, and from there he went unchallenged at the head of the field.
Piguet's ailment gradually allowed a rapid Anders Fjordbach to close, and the #33 High Class Audi looked to have completed a thrilling comeback from a pit lane start to seal the Pro-Am honours, only for a red flag after a broken suspension and heavy impact for Michael Vergers at Turn 1 in the #5 Speed Factory Racing Porsche to bring out the red flags, and halt the contest two minutes prematurely.
With the countback rule applied, Piguet, who had pulled off to the side on the main straight to retire moments prior, was handed a reprieve, and ensured Auto Vitesse would mark their debut in the series with victory in Pro-Am.
High Class, therefore, had to settle for second, but crucially out-scored PK Carsport, third, to extend their championship lead to 17 points heading into the finale.
Kris Rosenberger made a bold move at the first corner to put the #24 Reiter Engineering KTM into the runner-up spot in Am and, although the car slipped back as the Pro-Am runners hit the front in the second stint, Hans Joachim Stuck was able to bring the car home second, the seventh time the pair have finished just shy of a maiden victory.
Huilin Han marked his debut in the category with the final spot on the rostrum, the Chinese driver piloting the #32 Target Racing Lamborghini he shares with Jaromir Jirik to third spot.
R2: Fjordbach and Patterson make history under the floodlights
If there were any pre-race nerves in the High Class garage, Fjordbach quickly put them to bed at the start of the series’ first ‘into the night’ event, blasting away from pole position and building his advantage with a series of fastest laps straight out of the box.
There was drama further back as, in contrast to the opener, Ulrich found himself facing the wrong way after contact of the apex of Turn 2, the #7 Sportec KTM sent into a half-spin, then forced to retire without completing a tour due to the damage.
That initially put Longin up into second, but the Belgian was unable to make any ground into Fjordbach’s advantage, with the task of overhauling the points leaders then made even harder after Piguet made a move stick to annex second place in the Lamborghini.
Although the order would be shuffled around outright in the pit stops, the top three in class finished in that order, enough to see Patterson and Fjordbach crowned by 27 points in the provisional final standings.
It was Gorini who rose through the pack to assume second on the road, the LP Racing Porsche taking an emphatic maiden win among the Am runners to end the campaign on a high note.
Cyril Leimer made it a podium finish in each class for Auto Vitesse, completing a superb debut weekend in the category for the team with second to Gorini, 24 seconds adrift at the chequered flag.
In what has often been a silver-laden season, Kris Rosenberger and Hans Joachim Stuck rounded out the year in third, ‘Strietzel’ making some early progress up the order before handing over to the Austrian to bring the #24 KTM home to round out the final rostrum of the season.
Anders Fjordbach: “It was a pretty challenging weekend. We had a little miscommunication in the first race, so we started from the pit lane. That made things a little more exciting than they had to be!
“Everything came together here in the night race. I have a lot of experience in 24-hour races and the way you need to manage the tyres. But at the end, I’m just happy that Mark can celebrate his last full season as a champion.
“There’s no doubt that High Class Racing is the most prepared team whatsoever. Everything is under control, there’s never everything left in any doubt, it just runs so smoothly. It makes the task so much easier for Mark and I, and the Audi has been a tremendous car to drive.”
Mark Patterson: “I’m trying to process it all. My first thoughts are for the ‘Great Dane’ – can you believe the lap times that Anders Fjordbach extracts from this car?! He’s so skilled, not just as a driver but as a coach, I’m very proud of how well we’ve worked together.
“I was making sure we made zero mistakes, we had a little understeer, and the tyres were going off, so it wasn’t the easiest but still very comfortable for me.
“I’ve known High Class Racing for a long time in, we’ve done a lot of races together and they put the same effort into this as anything else. This championship is going to grow, I promise you – at least fifty-percent next year, and then another fifty-percent the year after.”