Tomita/Van der Linde win in changing conditions
Ryuichiro Tomita and Kelvin van der Linde gave Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in race one at Zandvoort, sharing the podium with Silver Cup pairs Pierre Alexandre Jean, Hugo Chevalier (Bentley) and Steven Palette, Simon Gachet (Audi).
The result owed a great deal to Tomita’s choice of rubber. The Audi crew started from third on the grid with a set of Pirelli’s rain tyres fitted to their Audi, while both front-row qualifiers elected to begin with slicks. The track was already damp and became considerably wetter when a shower hit the Dutch track, which proved disastrous for pole-sitter Mikaël Grenier (Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini) and second-place starter Jim Pla (AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG).
Both quickly dropped down the order as the wet-shod cars found vastly better traction around the 4.2km circuit. Tomita surged into the lead almost immediately and was joined at the front by Giacomo Altoè in another Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini, who climbed from 10th on the grid to run second throughout the opening stint, never falling far behind the leader.
But there was drama to follow when Altoè’s rear left tyre delaminated on the pit straight shortly before the Italian had been set to make his scheduled stop. The Lamborghini driver was forced to limp around for an entire lap at reduced speed, ending the victory hopes of another Emil Frey Racing entry.
Tomita handed over to Audi factory ace Van der Linde, who looked typically assured at the head of the field. The real action was taking place behind him, where a pair of impressive Silver Cup runners were battling for the second step of the overall podium. Chevalier came off best in the CMR Bentley, passing Gachet (Sainteloc Racing) with 20 minutes left on the clock.
There was yet more drama behind as a gaggle of cars fought over position, including the top Pro-Am runners. The class lead changed hands on several occasions with first Andrea Bertolini (AF Corse Ferrari) and then Nick Foster (SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG) holding the advantage. But in the closing stages it was Eddie Cheever III, in the SKY-Tempesta Racing Ferrari, who moved into the lead after a back-and-forth battle with Foster’s Mercedes. While they were competing for class honours, Jules Gounon (CMR Bentley) and Thomas Neubauer (Tech1 Lexus) were also involved in a multi-car scrap for position.
This was in stark contrast to Van der Linde, who took victory by a commanding 30 seconds from Chevalier. The French driver captured a fantastic result for his CMR squad, as well as a maiden class win alongside teammate Jean. Gachet took third overall and class runner-up in the car he shares with Palette. Albert Costa was fourth in the Emil Frey Racing entry, despite struggling with damage to the rear of his Lamborghini following the earlier tyre blowout. Jules Gounon took fifth, followed by the Madpanda Motorsport Mercedes-AMG, the Tech1 Lexus and the Attempto Racing Audi of Mattia Drudi. The Pro-Am leaders completed the top 10, with Cheever taking a third win of the campaign alongside Chris Froggatt and the ERC Sport Mercedes-AMG of Lee Mowle and Phil Keen securing a season-best finish.
Despite the challenging conditions the race was impressively clean. Just one car failed to finish, while the only full-course yellow period was called to remove Altoè’s shredded tyre from the track.
Race 1: 1. RyuichiroTomita/Kelvin Van der Linde (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 34 laps, 1:00:46.967; 2. Pierre Alexandre Jean/Hugo Chevalier (Bentley Continental GT3 – CMR) 30.091 (Silver Cup winner); 3. Steven Palette/Simon Gachet (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Sainteloc Racing) 35.951; 4. Giacomo Altoè/Albert Costa (Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Emil Frey Racing) 37.147; 5. Nelson Panciatici/Jules Gounon (Bentley Continental GT3 – CMR) 46.589; 6. Ezequiel Perez Companc/Axcil Jefferies (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Madpanda Motorsport) 54.454; 7. Aurélien Panis/Thomas Neubauer (Lexus RCF GT3) 57.924; 8. Tommaso Mosca/Mattia Drudi (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 1:02.026; 9. Chris Froggatt/Eddie Cheever (Ferrari 488 GT3 – SKY-Tempesta Racing) 1:06.988 (Pro-Am winner); 10. Lee Mowle/Phil Keen (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – ERC Sport) 1:08.078; 11. Timur Boguslavsliy/Feliper Fraga (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – AKKA ASP) 1:12.933; 12. Charles Weerts/Dries Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 1:17.055; 13. Oscar Tunjo/Jusso Puhakka (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – TokSport WRT) 1:19.236; 14. Valentin Pierburg/Nick Foster (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – SPS Automotive Performance) 1:23.767; 15. Jusuf Owega/Hamza Owega (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 1:34.699; 16. Louis Machiels/Andrea Bertolini (Ferrari 488 GT3 – AF Corse) 1 lap; 17. Finlay Hutchinson/Nicolas Schöll (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Attempto Racing) 1 lap; 18. Jim Pla/Benjamín Hites (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – AKKA ASP) 1 lap; 19. Mikaël Grenier/Norbert Siedler (Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Emil Frey Racing) 1 lap; 20. Robin Rogalski/Romain Monti (Mercedes-AMG GT3 – TokSport WRT) 2 laps; 21. Rolf Ineichen/Rik Breukers (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) 2 laps.
Not classified: Arthur Rougier/Christopher Haase (Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Sainteloc Racing).
Fastest lap: Jules Gounon (Bentley Continental GT3 – CMR) 1:37.105, on lap 34.