It is often a cliché to say that a driver won by keeping their cool, but that was exactly what was required to succeed in last weekend’s Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe contest at Misano.
The Italian circuit experienced scorching temperatures over the course of the event, with highs of 40 degrees recorded in the area.
As such, competitors had an added challenge to face as fitness and preparation became more important than ever.
The event produced two very different winning stories. In Saturday evening’s opening race, Orange1 FFF Racing took its first European triumph thanks to Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli, while also giving Lamborghini victory on home turf. In Sunday’s second outing, 18-year-old Charles Weerts took his maiden series win to set a new record in the Blancpain GT Series – and one that is unlikely to be broken.
Here are some of the key stats and stories to emerge from a sweltering weekend on the Adriatic coast.
By securing victory at Misano, Charles Weerts became the youngest overall race winner in Blancpain GT Series history. This includes the Endurance Cup and the previous incarnations of Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe. Ironically, the man whose record he broke was his #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT crew-mate, Dries Vanthoor, who won at Hungaroring in 2017 at the age of 19. Weerts turned 18 in March of this year and is the first driver born in the 21st century to take an overall win.
Victory for the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing squad gave Lamborghini a hugely popular home win and a first overall triumph for Marco Mapelli in Blancpain GT Series competition. It was also a doubly sweet victory for Andrea Caldarelli, who took his maiden sprint-format win and his first European victory as a team principal.
Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe has resembled a contest between nations this year. The title battle is developing into a fight between Italy and Germany, while the all-Belgian pairing of Weerts and Vanthoor prevailed at Misano. Clearly, national line-ups are in vogue.
After winning race one, Caldarelli and Mapelli completed an excellent weekend’s work by taking a runner-up finish in Sunday’s second race, pushing the #563 Lamborghini crew to within six points of the championship lead.
But it is the German duo of Luca Stolz and Maro Engel that tops the table after taking third and fourth at the Italian venue. The #4 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG crew were pleased with their showing, feeling that they had maximised their potential at a circuit where they did not necessarily possess winning pace.
AKKA ASP remains unbeaten in the Silver Cup this season after wins for its #90 and #89 Mercedes-AMG machines on Saturday and Sunday respectively. This follows a double win for the #89 at Brands Hatch. The team has also won two of the three Endurance Cup races staged this season, making for an impressive Silver Cup win-rate of 85 percent.
A third win of the season has seen the #89 Mercedes-AMG crew of Nico Bastian and Thomas Neubauer establish a 31-point lead at the head of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe standings. German ace Bastian also holds a solid advantage of 22.5 points at the top of the overall Silver Cup standings as he bids to seal back-to-back titles.
While AKKA ASP has gone unbeaten thus far, it faced considerable opposition at Misano and needed a late overtake from Bastian to seal race two honours. In particular, the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin and #10 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT crews showed race-winning potential at the Italian venue and will hope to break AKKA ASP’s dominance next time out at Zandvoort.
The Pro-Am championship appears to be the most open this season, with three winners from four races thus far and no crew looking likely to dominate. Indeed, any of the five full-season entrants could yet emerge to clinch the title.
Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Phil Keen (#519 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini) top the table on 52.5 points, with the #333 Rinaldi Ferrari crew of Rinat Salikhov and David Perel seven points back. A first win of the season for the #52 AF Corse crew has kept them in contention, while the #24 Sainteloc Audi and #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG both appear close to making their breakthrough.
The #444 HB Racing Ferrari produced a dominant Am Cup showing to top every session at Misano. That meant leading the way in two free practice runs, securing a brace of pole positions and then winning both races. If that wasn’t enough, Wolfgang Triller also bagged the fastest lap in each race. All in all, it was a thoroughly impressive performance from the Austrian squad with its Ferrari 488.
The overall fastest race lap of the weekend was set by Marco Mapelli, who registered a best effort of 1m34.165s on his way to victory in race one. Local driver Mattia Drudi topped the Silver Cup class with a 1m35.126s, while David Perel was the quickest Pro-Am driver with a 1m34.839s. All of the fastest laps were set during the cooler temperatures of race one.
The results of the Misano weekend saw Mercedes-AMG further extend its advantage at the head of the global Blancpain GT World Challenge standings. The German marque has now scored 6,109 points, while rival brand Ferrari has 4,466.
It was revealed over the weekend that Misano will remain on the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe calendar for at least the next three years after a fresh deal was agreed between the circuit and the series. The track first hosted the sprint-format championship in 2015 and will have staged eight events by the time the current deal expires in 2022.
The majority of the Misano field are now in the Ardennes for two days of running ahead of the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The test coincides with the announcement that 72 cars will contest this year’s race, a new record for the GT era. The Intercontinental GT Challenge will also set a new benchmark with 28 nominated entrants.
Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe will be back on-track over the weekend of 12-14 July when Zandvoort makes its return to the schedule. The weekend kicks off on Friday 12 July with two free practice sessions, with qualifying and race one taking place on Saturday. The concluding race follows on Sunday, while an extensive support package will include GT4 European Series and Lamborghini Super Troefo.