For the second time this weekend, Marcel Fässler and Dries Vanthoor claimed victory at the Hungaroring to drag themselves closer to the title fight at the top of the Blancpain Sprint Cup championship.
The pair’s success ended a weekend of domination for Audi, with the German marque having lead the time sheets in seven out of the eight sessions.
Despite coming under intense pressure from the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini of Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti and fellow Team WRT pairing Jake Dennis and Pieter Schothorst, Fässler and the vastly less experienced Vanthoor kept their cool in uncomfortable heat in the Hungarian capital.
Former series leaders Vincent Abril and Steven Kane saw their day end prematurely after a recurring brake problem forced the #7 Team Bentley M-Sport into the garage inside the first quarter of the race, ceding more points to Bortolotti and Engelhart in the overall picture.
Fässler staves off early pressure
Engelhart made it hard for Fässler at the start, the German looking punchy into the first corner, but the Swiss was not to be bothered, holding his line and the lead through Turn 2 and up the hill. Keen to make ground, Frank Perera pinched third from Schothorst in a bold move around the outside of Turn 2.
An early spin from series debutant Martin Kodric in the #42 Strakka McLaren, alongside contact between Felix Seralles and Jules Szymkowiak in an all Mercedes battle saw an early appearance for the Safety Car for three laps as the field took a collective calming breath to compose itself.
Just as he did five laps prior, Engelhart tried his luck again at the restart, having a look towards the outside of Fässler’s R8 LMS, but once more, the 41-year-old was not to be spooked. Yet the Audi’s stubbornness did nothing to deter Engelhart, as he continued to swarm all over the gearbox of Fässler as the pit window approached. Sensing an opportunity, Engelhart pitted at the earliest possible opportunity, along with Schothorst in the third placed Audi.
Frijns on the charge
However, his plan backfired – Bortolotti inheriting the car and losing out to swift work from the Audi crew, Dennis taking a net second place from the Italian. And a worse fate befell Maxi Buhk when Perera brought the #84 car in. A delay on the front right wheel dropped the German to a lowly sixth position, behind a gaggle of Audis, including Zolder winner Will Stevens.
As Fässler effortlessly passed the wheel over to Vanthoor, with Dennis in second, Robin Frijns was keen to secure a podium washout for Audi, trying an adventurous move on Bortolotti at Turn 1, but running out of road and gifting the place back to the Lamborghini.
The blip aside, Frijns was soon back on the charge – yet found himself stifled by the nature of the Hungaroring. Dennis found himself in the same boat, staying within a second of the cool Vanthoor, but never close enough to give the Belgian something to think about.
The two held station for the final minutes – Dennis and Frijns briefly coming under investigation for potential pit-stop transgressions, both events waved away by race control.
There was no match for Audi this weekend, as many expected.
Pro-Am: Ferrari equally dominant
As was the case yesterday, the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 of Alexander Mattschull and Daniel Keilwitz took the honours in Pro-Am, with Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo van Dam’s yellow and blue liveried Kessel Racing Ferrari following them home in second, well clear of the third placed AKKA ASP Mercedes of Jules Gounon and Jean-Luc Beaubelique, who enjoyed a more successful day this time around.