The #163 Emily Frey Racing car of Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè took the overall win in race one of the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The sister Silver cup car finished a strong second followed by the #88 AKKA ASP car of Timur Boguslavskiy and Rafaelle Marciello.
Saturday got underway with the pre-qualifying session allowing drivers and teams to warm up for the crucial first qualifying for the day’s race. It was the AKKA ASP driver of Raffaele Marciello that topped the session in his #88 machine and continuing the strong form that the Mercedes cars are experiencing around the Spanish Circuit.
Marciello completed the 80-minute session with a time of 1:44.964 which was set early in the session. The Mercedes driver is helping his teammate Boguslavskiy usurp the leading Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts to claim the title. The #32 Audi duo however made sure they were in the mix by setting the second fastest time despite being in a replacement car due to a crash in testing on Thursday.
Next up was the main qualifying event after the dress rehearsal. And it was a new name taking pole but in a familiar car. Ricardo Feller is standing in for Norbert Siedler this weekend at the Emil Frey team and made the perfect start. The Swiss driver grabbing pole by managing the tricky conditions despite not being in the Sprint series since 2018.
Rain began falling shortly before the 20-minute session got underway, making the first set of laps absolutely crucial. Feller posted the best time of 1:45.572s to beat title contender Luca Stolz by 0.367s in the #4 HRT Mercedes. The rain was here to stay throughout the session and actually only intensified as time progressed meaning no times changed after the opening scramble.
Charles Weerts could only manage eighth in the #32 Team WRT entry, sharing the fourth row with teammate Ryuichiro Tomita’s #31 machine. This leaves the second placed HRT in a very good position to capitalise on their title rivals low starting spot.
Pro-Am favourite; the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari earned class pole thanks to another assured performance from Chris Froggatt who can wrap up the class title in the evening race.
The race got underway relatively cleanly with the two Emil Frey Lamborghinis getting away very well but both ended up going off the track missing Turn 2 and rejoining in first and third with the pole car ahead of the fast starting Jim Pla. The Sprint Cup leaders gained three positions initially to run fifth but would lose one place to the #88 AKKA ASP car before a safety car was deployed.
The Pro-Am leader Froggatt went off at Turn 5 and got beached in the gravel meaning that the a vehicle was needed to get it out. On the restart the #32 title challenging Audi also lost a position to Arthur Rougier on the restart but was later penalised for the move as it was under the safety car.
The pit-stops saw the two Emil Frey cars exiting the pitlane with Mikael Grenier ahead of Albert Costa but the big change came from a trademark stop for the #32 Team WRT car allowing Vanthoor to come out directly behind there closest rivals in the #4 HRT car now driven by Maro Engel after Stolz took the first stint.
With twenty five minutes to go the Marciello manages to pass Benjamin Hites to move into third place and increase their points haul to go towards their title charge. Up ahead the #14 Lamborghini is being pressured by their teammates in the #163 after moving seven seconds clear of the rest of the field with twenty minutes to go.
With fifteen minutes left, the Silver Cup Emil Frey racing car relinquished the overall lead to Costa on the front straight in a move that looked very synchronised. Meanwhile a massive battle for fourth was taking place between the #89 AKKA ASP of Hites, Engel, Vanthoor and Kelvin Van der Linde. Vanthoor in particular looking very racy attempting a few moves on Maro Engel but none coming to fruition.
In Pro-Am Andrea Bertolini and the AF Corse team had been dominating since the spin from Froggatt however in the closing stages, the SPS Automotive machine driven by Dominic Baumann closed and started to pressure the Ferrari ace however a safety car was called due to a fire for Jules Gounon’s Bentley thus setting up a one lap sprint to the finish with the field bunched up. The race finished with no major changes to the top six positions with the #163 Emil Frey Racing car taking the win with the sister Silver Cup car in second overall and the Silver Cup Win. Bertolini won the Pro-Am class after an incident put the SPS Automotive car of Baumann out of the race on the last lap.
Tomorrow sees the conclusion of the Sprint Cup with two back to back qualifying sessions followed by race two and three.