• #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG triumphs as three brands occupy the overall podium places
• Boutsen VDS leads Audi sweep in Gold Cup with #9 of Panis and Di Folco
• Commanding Silver Cup win for Tresor Attempto Racing with #99 Audi of Aka and Patrese
Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy launched their 2023 Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup title bid in perfect style in today's opening race at Brands Hatch, which saw the Akkodis ASP duo secure a lights-to-flag victory aboard their #88 Mercedes-AMG
The win represents their sixth as a duo and ensures a maximum score after Marciello earned the bonus point for pole position in Saturday's qualifying session. The Swiss made a commanding launch when competition got underway, sweeping in front of second-place starter Albert Costa (#69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari) on the run to Paddock Hill Bend. The opening phase of the race was impressively clean, with the entire 29-car grid making it around the opening tour without problems.
While the front-row starters held position there was some early shuffling behind them. Mattia Drudi moved the #40 Tresor Orange1 Audi up a place to third, while Christian Engelhart was the big winner in the #54 Dinamic GT Huber Racing Porsche, climbing from eighth on the grid to run fourth during the early stages.
The opening stint brought a familiar sight as Marciello built a commanding lead at the head of the field. The Swiss driver could not be matched, pulling nine seconds clear by the mid-point of the race to put his squad in a commanding position. Second-place Costa was able to edge away from Drudi, who ultimately found himself under pressure from a charging Engelhart by the time the pit window opened.
As ever, the order was shuffled during this phase of the race. The #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari crew lost 10 seconds to their rivals, moving the #40 Tresor Orange1 Audi up to second with Ricardo Feller at the wheel, followed by the #32 Team WRT BMW that Charles Weerts had handed to Dries Vanthoor. The #54 Porsche also took advantage, with Adrien De Leener taking over from Engelhart in fourth.
There was no change at the front, however, as Akkodis ASP completed a quick service and swapped Marciello for Boguslavskiy. He emerged on to the track with a 15-second lead, but the second half of the race was to be a different story. Feller had a pace advantage over Boguslavskiy, often taking a second a lap out of the lead. Initially the Swiss had Vanthoor in his mirrors but soon edged away from the BMW driver and on to the rear of the #88 Mercedes-AMG.
Meanwhile, a close battle was developing over fourth spot. De Leener led the #69 Ferrari of Thierry Vermeulen and the sister #14 Emil Frey Racing entry of Giacomo Altoé, while Audi ace Christopher Haase made it a foursome aboard the #11 Comtoyou Racing machine.
Out front Boguslavskiy looked to have enough in hand, though he was made to sweat a little by heavy lapped traffic during the closing stages. Indeed, Feller had closed to within 0.6 seconds by the time the chequered flag fell, but the Tresor Orange1 driver could not prevent Boguslavskiy from taking the win. Vanthoor secured Team WRT a podium finish on its first Sprint Cup outing with BMW, crossing the line a few seconds behind Feller in third.
Fourth spot changed hands at the line. It looked to be heading the way of De Leener, but the Belgian driver suffered heartbreak when the #54 Porsche began to slow within sight of the chequered flag. Haase swept through to take P4, the German having overcome both Emil Frey Racing Ferrari cars during the closing stages. The #14 Ferrari finished fifth, followed by the #60 VSR Lamborghini, the #69 Ferrari and the luckless De Leener.
Gold Cup honours went to the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi of Aurélien Panis and Alberto Di Folco. They triumphed from class pole and claimed 10th overall, leading an Audi sweep of the class podium ahead of the #26 Saintéloc Junior Team and #10 Boutsen VDS entries. Significantly, this marks the first win of the new Boutsen VDS alliance.
Audi took Silver Cup honours, too. Tresor Attempto Racing was a commanding winner with its #99 crew of Alex Aka and Lorenzo Patrese, who finished 11th overall and nine spots clear of their nearest contenders. Nova Race enjoyed a fine start to its Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup adventure by taking runner-up spot, with the #77 HRT Mercedes-AMG completing the podium.
The second part of this today's Brands Hatch double-header gets underway at 16:10 and will see Chris Mies start from pole at the wheel of the #27 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi. Coverage will be available across a variety of free-to-view online platforms, including the GT World YouTube channel and the series' official Facebook page.