Costa, Altoè clinch maiden victory
Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè clinched their maiden GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup victory in the second race at Zandvoort, leading a one-two finish for the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini squad.
The Swiss outfit had locked out the front row in qualifying, but their path to victory was by no means simple. The pair were split into turn one as Kelvin van der Linde in his Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car passed Costa to slot in behind poleman Norbert Siedler, while Felipe Fraga (AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG) and Jules Gounon (CMR Bentley) completed the top five.
The leading cars ran in close proximity throughout the early stages before a crucial sequence of events unfolded shortly before the 20-minute mark. First, Van der Linde launched an ambitious attack on Siedler and slid into the gravel after leaving his braking too late. The Audi was quickly back on the circuit but dropped behind the Lamborghini of Costa, who got alongside teammate Siedler and completed a pass.
Further back Dries Vanthoor had stormed through to third place, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine coming alive after a slow start to the race and relegating the recovering Van der Linde to fourth. His progress would be crucial as the contest developed.
Van der Linde stopped early, handing over to Ryuichiro Tomita, while Siedler gave the Emil Frey machine to Mikaël Grenier. Costa ran two laps longer in the #163 car before Altoè took the wheel and, after another two laps, Vanthoor became the final front-runner to stop.
The Belgian had made the most of the extra time on-track and, thanks to a quick turnaround from the WRT crew, Charles Weerts was able to exit the pits just ahead of Altoè. There was little to separate the two teenagers over the following 20 minutes, with Weerts holding off the Lamborghini driver despite heavy pressure.
But there was another twist in the tale as the #32 WRT Audi was placed under investigation for a pit-stop infringement. Shortly after, the all-Belgian crew was handed a drive-through that would be converted into a 30-second post-race penalty. Altoè was therefore able to take a comfortable win ahead of team-mate Grenier, giving the Emil Frey squad a maiden Sprint Cup win and its first one-two finish in GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS competition.
Tomita came home third, completing a profitable weekend alongside Van der Linde after taking victory in this morning’s opening race. Arthur Rougier finished fourth in the Sainteloc Racing Audi, completing a remarkable comeback after teammate Christopher Haase was left facing the wrong direction at turn one, while Timur Boguslavskiy brought the AKKA ASP Mercedes home fifth.
Sixth spot went to the Silver Cup-winning Tech1 Racing Lexus. Thomas Neubauer and Aurélien Panis have shown strong pace all season and finally took a result to match, holding off the Toksport WRT Mercedes-AMG to capture class honours. The Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG and CMR Bentley were next, while the #32 WRT Audi was ultimately classified 10th.
Pro-Am honours went to the Sky Tempesta Racing‘s Ferrari. Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III scored their fourth win of the season and the team’s sixth from seven races by holding off the #52 AF Corse Ferrari. The #20 SPS Automotive Mercedes-AMG was third having led the opening stint, with Nick Foster running as high as fifth overall.
Today’s results have set up a thrilling title showdown at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which will stage a trio of races next month (9-11 October). Weerts and Vanthoor lead the way, but their advantage over teammates Tomita and Van der Linde is just half a point heading into the decider. The HRT Mercedes-AMG crew of Maro Engel and Luca Stolz are just four points off top spot, despite skipping the Zandvoort weekend, while AKKA ASP, Sainteloc Racing and Emil Frey Racing also retain a shot at the title. A dramatic showdown is in prospect as the quick-fire Sprint Cup campaign reaches its climax.
Race 2: 1. Giacomo Altoè/Albert Costa (Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Emil Frey Racing) 37 laps, 1:00:23.597; 2. Arthur Rougier/Christopher Haase (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Sainteloc Racing) 17.168; 3. Timus Boguslavskiy/Feliper Fraga (Mercedes-AMG GT3) 24.896; 4. Aurelién Panis/Thomas Neubauer (Lexus RCF GT3 – Tech 1 Racing) 25.817 (Silver Cup winner); 5. Oscar Tunjo/Jusso Puhakka (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – TokSport WRT) 26.385; 6. Nelson Panciatici/Jules Gounon (Bentley Continental GT3 – CMR) 28.735; 7. Charles Weerts/Dries Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 29.630; 8. Pierre Alexandre Jean-Hugo Chevalier (Bentley Continental GT3 – CMR) 35.396; 9. Jim Pla-Benjamín Hites (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – AKKA ASP) 36.011; 10. Mikaël Grenier/Norbert Siedler (Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Emil Frey Racing) 43.040; 11. Ryuichiro Tomita-Kelvin Van der Linde (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 43.523; 12. Chris Froggatt/Eddie Cheever III (Ferrari 488 GT3 – SKY-Tempesta Racing) 49.058; 13. Louis Machiels/Andrea Bertolini (Ferrari 488 GT3 – AF Corse) 56.578; 14. Finlay Hutchinson/Nicholas Schöll (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Attempto Racing) 57.386; 15. Ezequiel Perez Companc/Axcil Jefferies (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Madpanda Motorsport) 57.750; 16. Robin Rogalski/Romain Monti (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – TokSport WRT) 1:09.110; 17. Rolf Ineichen/Rik Breukers (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 1:18.534; 18. Valentin Pierburg/Nick Foster (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – SPS Automotive Performance) 1:21.478; 19. Lee Mowle/Phil Keen (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – ERC Sport) 1 lap.
Not classified: Tommaso Mosca/Mattia Drudi (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Attempto Racing) 12 laps; Steven Palette/Simon Gachet (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Sainteloc Racing) 11 laps; Jusuf Owega/Hamza Owega (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgain Audi Club Team WRT) 10 laps.
Fastest lap: Aurelién Panis (Lexus RCF GT3 – Tech 1 Racing) 1:35.091, on lap 21.