Fanatec GT2 European Series serves up two 50-minute thrillers in Austria
Akkodis ASP claims maiden outright Fanatec GT2 Europen Series victory for the new Mercedes-AMG GT2
Nicolas Saelens and Stefan Rosina take first Pro-Am win for True Racing and KTM
RTR Projects and Jan Krabec bounces back from retirement to take Am win
Fanatec GT2 European Series history was made in the second round of the series in the sun at the Red Bull Ring this weekend, with the newest world-class brand to join the grid – the Mercedes-AMG GT2 - claiming outright victory on its first outing with the Akkodis ASP Team.
The two thrilling 50-minute races served up some sensational action in Speilberg, the home circuit for both Team True Racing and KTM. Both can celebrate with an outstanding weekend of results.
Klaus Angerhofer and Sehdi Sarmini went from last to first to claim KTM’s first Am class win on Saturday morning. Nicolas Saelens and Stefan Rosina then sealed their new driver partnership with their first outright win of the season in race two, backed up by fellow KTM team RTR Projects taking the Am honours later in the afternoon.
Akkodis ASP take debut Mercedes-AMG GT2, True Racing give KTM first home Am win
The first 50-minute Fanatec GT2 race of the weekend in Austria started and ended in dramatic fashion, beginning with a three-way drag race down to turn one led by pole sitter Henry Hassid sandwiched between the #15 and #16 True Racing KTMs.
Although the LP Racing Audi held the advantage, Nicolas Saelens was immediately on the offensive and managed to overhaul Hassid halfway round the opening lap. But the KTM had to cope with the Audi in its mirrors right up until the halfway point when an overly optimistic move knocked Saelens off the top spot and down to third.
Whilst it was Audi versus KTM for the lead, the fight for third was just as close behind them. As the #7 HRT Mercedes-AMG and PK Carsport Audi vied for position, that allowed the Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes to join the party and ultimately pass Peter Guelinckx in the #1 car.
With the lead Audi handed penalties for a start infringement and contact with the #15 car, it was all change after the mandatory pitstops. Having steered clear of any opening stint troubles, Benjamin Ricci and Akkodis ASP Mercedes found themselves leading the field on their Fanatec GT2 debut, 0.8s ahead of Stefan Rosina, now in the #15, with Anthony Beltoise in the #67 now third.
Rosina pushed hard to close the lead gap and glue the KTM to the Mercedes rear bumper, but with nothing to choose between the two, the status quo resumed right up until the single safety car period of the 50-minute encounter. Called with seven minutes remaining after the Ebimotors Am Porsche made contact with the #88 Pro-Am LP racing Audi, causing both cars to ultimately retire.
The field returned to green flag racing with just 60 seconds on the clock, triggering a single lap sprint to the chequered flag.
Ricci kept his cool to hold off both Rosina and Beltoise at the restart. But Beltoise immediately came under intense pressure from Stienes Longin, now in the #1 Audi, which in turn allowed the #17 KTM to close in. As the Audis battled door-to-door and Longin ran wide, Reinhard Kofler quietly snuck up the inside to leapfrog from fifth to third.
Although Beltoise held on to fourth at the flag, a further 10-second post-race penalty dropped the #67 down the order, in turn promoting Michael Doppelmayr and Pierre Kaffer in the #18 Audi.
Despite being knocked into a spin at the start and rejoining last, Klaus Angerhofer delivered a stellar stint and pitted as late as possible in effort to bring the #16 KTM back in the fight. The strategy played out perfectly, allowing Sehdi Sarmini to take the Am class lead from the #911 Ebimotors Porsche shortly after the pitstops.
Jorg Viebahn and Mario Plachutta completed their series debut in the HRT Mercedes with third in the Am category, despite a brief spin at the restart.
KTM take outright & Am class honours
The second 50-minute race the weekend proved a slightly calmer affair which ultimately led KTM to double class victory at the brand’s home circuit, with the honours shared between the #15 True Racing and RTR Projects entries.
With the field clean away in the Austrian sunshine on Saturday afternoon, it was another three-wide fight for the lead, this time between the pole sitting Audi of Kaffer and the #15 and #17 KTMs. The trio continued to run three abreast all the way round to turn three before Rosina managed to seize the advantage, pulling ahead of Reinhard Kofler with Kaffer third.
At ease on his home circuit, Rosina wasted no time in trying to edge a gap, but Kofler refused to let up the pressure and manage to re-close the gap approaching the pitstop window.
Behind them, the battle for third was even closer between a trio of Audis – Kaffer managing to keep the #18 LP Racing car ahead of Longin’s PK Carsport machine and team stablemate Beltoise in a fight that ran right up to the mandatory stops.
With those complete, Saelens passed Doppelmayr, now in the #18 Audi, to take the KTM back into the lead. While Saelens made good his escape, Guelinckx seized his chance to take Doppelmayr for second, and Hassid followed suit, in turn fixing the Pro-Am podium. Race one winners, Mauro and Benjamin Ricci finished off their Fanatec GT2 debut with fourth for the #61 Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes.
Things were far from decided behind them as the Am-class leader continued to push to climb the order. Chasing down Hubert Trunkenpolz, who took over from Kofler, Krabec had just enough time to take fifth overall to give RTR Projects a brilliant result after a turbo issue forced the team’s race one retirement.
Trunkenpolz hung on for fifth in class, while Stephane Ratel completed the Pro-Am top six in the #88 LP Racing Audi.
Race one class winners, Sarmini and Angerhofer finished a superb home event with second in the Am category. Viebahn and Plachutta, meanwhile, completed their debut Fanatec GT2 weekend with another third-place podium finish for Haupt Racing.
The field of 2023 now take a two-week break before heading to Dijon, France, for the third round championship battles.