Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy survives late Emil Frey Racing onslaught
• Marciello/Boguslavskiy take narrow win to establish important points cushion with three races remaining
• Audi sweeps Gold and Silver classes thanks to Comtoyou Racing and Tresor Attempto Racing
• Tresor Attempto Racing takes Bronze win to set up title-deciding Sunday
Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy took another step towards the Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup title with a nail-biting Race 1 victory at Valencia.
The Akkodis ASP crew survived intense late pressure from the #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari, which closed to within less than four tenths of the #88 Mercedes-AMG but could not find a way past on a dramatic final lap.
From the beginning, the Ferrari squad looked the most likely to prevent Akkodis ASP from securing its fourth win from as many Sprint Cup meetings. Marciello took the start from P2 but was immediately swamped by Thierry Vermeulen in the #69 machine and the sister #14 of Konsta Lappalainen.
Marciello fought back, shaking off the attentions of Lappalainen and then re-passing Vermeulen a few corners later. He did so just before the Safety Car was deployed following a clash that left the #30 Team WRT BMW and the #10 Boutsen VDS Audi stranded at Turn 1.
When racing resumed Dennis Marschall was able to control the opening stint in the #40 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi. The German driver was in fine form, though as a Bronze Cup entrant his car would need to serve a minimum pit stop time, effectively removing it from the battle for overall victory.
As such, once Marciello had completed his stint and handed the controls to Boguslasvkiy, the #88 held a seven-second lead at the head of the order. Albert Costa took over the #69 Ferrari in second, followed by Nicolas Baert (#12 Comtoyou Racing Audi) and Mattia Drudi (#40 Tresor Orange1 Audi).
Costa immediately began taking chunks out of Boguslavskiy's lead. A little way back, Drudi overhauled Baert for third spot, though the time lost in doing so may well have cost the Tresor Orange1 crew a shot at victory.
So it became a straight fight between the Mercedes-AMG and the Ferrari. The latter was especially quick in sector 1 as Costa threw the 296 GT3 around the Valencia circuit. Boguslavskiy didn't make a mistake, though the Ferrari kept finding time; only once did Costa run wide and fall back from the Mercedes-AMG.
As the clock ticked down so too did the gap. Crossing the line to begin the final tour, Costa was on Boguslavskiy's tail and pushing hard. The Spaniard gave it everything on home soil, though he couldn't quite get alongside the leader to test Boguslavskiy's resolve in a braking zone. The Akkodis ASP man held firm, winning by just 0.380s.
The #40 Tresor Orange1 Audi came home third. This keeps Drudi and Ricardo Feller in touch with the championship-leading #88 crew, though the gap is back up to 16.5 points. Fourth spot went to the #11 Audi of Christopher Haase and Lucas Légeret, who continued their fine run of finishes and received yet another masterful pit stop from the Comtoyou Racing squad. The #32 Team WRT BMW of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts finished a solid fifth from 15th on the grid.
Next across the line were the #12 Comtoyou Racing Audi, the #14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari, and the #46 Team WRT BMW, which demonstrated its speed by setting the fastest lap of the race in the hands of Maxime Martin. The #159 Garage 59 McLaren was ninth, while the final position in the overall top 10 went to the #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi, which clinched Silver Cup honours thanks to Lorenzo Patrese and Alex Aka.
The #99 took over the lead from season-long rival HRT (#77 Mercedes-AMG) during the pit window. Patrese was chased by Alain Valente during the second stint, but the Italian teenager hung on to take an important win.
There were significant developments in the Gold Cup, too, particularly with the championship-leading #30 BMW retiring on lap 1. Victory went to the #21 Comtoyou Racing Audi of Gilles Magnus and Finlay Hutchison, who triumphed from pole with a comfortable gap over the #26 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi. The #9 Boutsen VDS Audi was third, moving Alberto di Folco and Aurélien Panis into a narrow points lead.
Having controlled the opening stint so well, Marschall handed the #66 Audi to Andrey Mukovoz with a comfortable lead. He brought the car home to take Bronze Cup victory, closely followed by Alex Malykhin (#911 Pure Rxcing Porsche) and Miguel Ramos (#188 Garage 59 McLaren).
With tomorrow representing the final Sprint race of the season for the Bronze Cup contenders, an epic decider is in prospect. Malykhin leads the drivers' standings by just two points from Ramos and Henrique Chaves, while several other crews – including today's class winners – also remain in the hunt.