This weekend saw the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup arrive at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours. The Haupt Racing Team (Luca Stolz and Maro Engel) and Sainteloc Racing (Simon Gachet and Steven Palette) took the top of the podium in race one and two respectively on what proved to be a barn stormer of a weekend.
Race one saw Luca Stolz and Maro Engel light up Magny-Cours by grabbing pole position for the first race which was started under the Magny-Cours lights. Stolz started the car and duly controlled the start and edged away from Mikäel Grenier in the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini during the opening phase of the race. Eventually the Mercedes driver was five seconds clear of Grenier by the fifteen minutes in, however his advantage was negated when the safety car was deployed due to the #52 AF Corse Ferrari finding itself in the gravel. Once competition resumed the Mercedes driver began to pull away again, while Grenier also had the edge over third-placed Charles Weerts in the #32 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
Quick work in the pit stops from the HRT crew allowed Engel to come out with a commanding leading to the total of nine seconds over Norbert Siedler, after taking over from Grenier. The experienced Austrian was able to with stand the pressure that Dries Vanthoor was piling on before breaking free of his grip and proceed to build a small advantage. Up front Engel was able to complete a fantastic winning performance from the entire HRT crew, which sees the German duo close to within just 5.5 points of the championship lead.
By finishing second, Seidler got Emil Frey Racing’s first overall podium since Circuit Paul Ricard in 2018 and its first ever with Lamborghini. He was followed by a train of five Audis, with Vanthoor emerging as the best of the pack.
The #2 Toksport WRT machine of Juuso Puhakka and Oscar Tunjo gained the Silver Cuphonours in a fine display. The crew secured its first class win after Puhakka passed the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car of brothers Jusuf and Hamza Owega with 20 minutes left on the clock.
Pro-Am honours went to the #92 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari of Jonathan Hui and Giancarlo Fisichella. The new for this weekend crew had strong pace all weekend and finished an excellent 11th overall in tonight’s race. The sister #93 Ferrari of Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III finished as class runner-up to complete a perfect day for the Tempesta squad.
Race two had a similar build up as the Silver Cup running #26 Sainteloc Audi scored a sensational pole position and Gachet made sure it wouldn’t be for nothing by holding his advantage at the start. He managed to fend off Raffaele Marciello in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, while the race one winning #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG slotted into third with Maro Engel at the wheel.
A brief safety car period ensued due to an incident at turn one at the start, but once racing resumed after Gachet was very impressive and started to break clear of Marciello. Engel, in third, took an early stop handing his Mercedes over to Stolz and once again more quick work from the HRT crew kept their car firmly in contention. Palette rejoined the track clear of the German after taking over from Gachet, as Marciello remained on-track deciding to take a later pit stop to try the over-cut.
A stunning 39.6-second stop from the AKKA ASP mechanics meant Timur Boguslavskiy could take over and exit the pits just ahead of Palette, reversing the order from the first stint. Palette now needed to apply the pressure to retake the lead, and it happened two laps later as Boguslavskiy ran wide exiting the Estoril corner, allowing the Audi to sweep past and back into the lead.
After Palette raced away, Boguslavskiy soon had Stolz pressuring him, but the Russian managed to regroup to keep the HRT driver behind.
Palette was eight seconds to the good as he crossed the line to take an emphatic win for the Silver Cup running squad and also became the second Silver Cup crew to score an overall win at a GT World Challenge Europe event. Their nearest class contenders today were Oscar Tunjo and Juuso Puhakka, who came home eighth overall in the #2 Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG. Boguslavskiy and Stolz completed the podium for AKKA ASP and HRT respectively, separated by less than half a second at the finish.
Jonathan Hui and Giancarlo Fisichella claimed another Pro-Am win as the Sky Tempesta Racing bagged another one-two finish. The #92 Ferrari led from class pole and attained a 2 for 2 record in their first weekend racing together.
As we go to Zandvoort in two weeks, Vanthoor and Weerts sit at the top of the drivers’ standings although a very strong weekend from Stolz and Engel sees them close to within 3.5 points of the championship lead. Gachet and Palette look increasingly comfortable at the top of the Silver Cup classification following their third win from five races, while Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III top the Pro-Am ranks.