Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts secured a comfortable victory in the first of this weekend’s Fanatec Sprint races at Misano to continue their imperious form at the Italian venue.
The #32 Team WRT Audi duo now have six wins from eight starts together at the circuit, which was the scene of their maiden triumph together in 2019. Having secured pole in this morning’s qualifying session another success was rarely in doubt and they duly brought the car home to extend their lead at the top of the championship standings.
The team’s principal concern was always going to be the start. Having qualified the #112 JP Motorsport entry second on the grid, Vince Abril could count on the top-end speed of his McLaren to challenge Weerts into turn 1. But when the action got underway the Monegasque came under attack from Timur Boguslavskiy (#89 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG), allowing Weerts a clean run into the opening corner.
The safety car was deployed almost immediately to clear up a nasty collision between the #25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi and the #21 AF Corse Ferrari. It began when Eddie Cheever (#93 Sky Tempesta Racing Mercedes-AMG) tipped Aurélien Panis into a spin, leaving the #25 machine stranded in the middle of the track. Hugo Delacour could not take avoiding action quickly enough and the #21 Ferrari made heavy contact with the side of the Audi. Fortunately, both drivers were quickly out of their cars.
When racing resumed Weerts pulled clear of the chasing pack, which was led by Abril and Boguslavskiy. Fourth spot belonged to Thomas Neubauer (#30 Team WRT Audi), who had made a fine start to jump from sixth on the grid, with Silver Cup rival Pierre Alexandre Jean (#53 AF Corse Ferrari) slotting into fifth.
Weerts had built a five-second advantage by the 25-minute mark, at which point Abril, Boguslavskiy and Neubauer all ducked into the pits to make their mandatory stops. A slow turnaround from the JP Motorsports crew cost Dennis Lind several positions, while Raffaele Marciello took over the #89 Mercedes-AMG and exited just ahead of Benji Goethe in the #30 Audi.
Marciello went purple in the middle sector on his out lap, promoting Team WRT to bring Weerts in and therefore avoid any chance of an undercut. A fast stop allowed Vanthoor to take the wheel with a six-second advantage over his title rival, all but settling the outcome at the front of the field.
As such, the major interest during the second half of the race came from the battle for the final spot on the podium. After the stops Goethe found himself third in the Silver Cup-leading #30 Audi but was soon under pressure from the similar Tresor by Car Collection machine driven by Christopher Haase. With long-time Audi Sport ace Haase filling his mirrors, this would be a real test of the youngster’s progress.
While the overall podium was at stake, the #30 was under no pressure to hold on to its Silver Cup lead. Ulysse de Pauw had taken over the #53 Ferrari in P6 overall, but struggled for pace during the second half of the contest and was quickly passed by Chris Mies (#33 Team WRT Audi). Lind was the next to make a move in the #112 McLaren, before the #26 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi of Lucas Legeret demoted De Pauw to the final place on the class podium.
The gap at the head of the field remained stable throughout the second stint, with Vanthoor ultimately winning by 5.6 seconds from Marciello. The Akkodis ASP man’s consolation was the fastest lap, his sixth from seven races. Behind them Goethe did a fine job to hold off Haase, who piled on the pressure during the final few laps but could not find a way past the youngster. The #30 Audi also bagged Silver Cup honours for the first time in this year’s Fanatec Sprint campaign.
Fifth place went to the #66 Attempto Racing Audi, which enjoyed a quiet run to another strong result. Mies brought the #33 Team WRT machine home in sixth, while a post-race penalty for the #112 McLaren ensured that the #26 Saintéloc Junior Team was seventh. The #53 AF Corse Ferrari came home eighth and completed the Silver Cup podium.
Pro-Am honours went to the #188 Garage 59 McLaren of Miguel Ramos and Dean MacDonald. They now lead the class championship after a damaging day for their chief rivals, with the #21 Ferrari and the #111 JP Motorsport McLaren both failing to finish. This allowed the Garage 59 crew a relatively straightforward run to the chequered flag, with MacDonald coming home 15 seconds clear of Andrea Bertolini (#52 AF Corse Ferrari).
Valentino Rossi’s maiden GT3 outing at his home circuit ended in disappointment after a strong opening stint from the Italian driver. The #46 Team WRT Audi had made up three positions before taking its stop, but when Frédéric Vervisch emerged from the pits there was plainly a serious problem with the car’s front-left. The Belgian squad attempted to solve the issue, but the car soon retired.
Today’s result has given Vanthoor/Weerts a six-point advantage over Marciello/Boguslavskiy with three races left to decide the 2022 Fanatec Sprint title. The next will take place tomorrow, with qualifying set to begin proceedings at 09:00 CEST and the main event getting underway at 14:45. Marciello and Boguslavskiy have made race 2 their speciality this season, winning the second contest at each previous round, but beating Vanthoor and Weerts at Misano will be their biggest challenge yet.