• Feller/Drudi take vital win as Marciello/Boguslasvkiy recover to fourth
• Love/Bird seal Silver Cup win for HRT Mercedes-AMG, Love takes championship lead
• Boutsen VDS seals Gold Cup teams crown, Panis/Di Folco on the brink of drivers' title after victory
Ricardo Feller and Mattia Drudi emerged victorious from a dramatic Sprint Cup contest at Zandvoort to send the Tresor Orange1 duo to the top of the standings with just one race remaining.
The #40 Audi started from pole and came home at the head of the pack, yet this does not begin to tell the story of an especially dramatic 60-minute encounter. Indeed, there was action from the word go as Feller was challenged for the lead by title rival Raffaele Marciello (#88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG), who very nearly forced his way past at Gerlachbocht.
Marciello then found himself under pressure from a fast-starting Albert Costa (#69 EFR Ferrari) but fought off the Spanish driver and refocused his attention on Feller. Marciello got alongside the Audi, but on a track still damp from recent rain showers the Mercedes-AMG lost traction and slithered into the gravel. He did well to keep the car out of the barriers but could not help plummeting down the order.
A safety car was deployed moments later due to a turn 1 incident that ended the season-long points-scoring run of the #11 Comtoyou Racing Audi. When the green flag flew 10 minutes later Feller led from Costa, Andrea Caldarelli (#60 VSR Lamborghini) and Laurin Heinrich (#44 CLRT Porsche). Marciello was 14th and quickly set about atoning for his earlier error.
Feller and Costa remained in close company throughout the opening stint, while Caldarelli was passed by the impressive Heinrich. A little further back Fred Vervisch (#12 Comtoyou Racing Audi) held off Dries Vanthoor (#32 Team WRT BMW) for sixth, while Valentino Rossi moved the sister #46 BMW from 15th on the grid to run ninth.
When the pit window opened the leading #40 Audi stopped early, while the #32 BMW did the same in an effort to find clean air. However the Tresor Orange1 crew lost time during its service, meaning that when Costa brought the #69 Ferrari in and handed it to Thierry Vermeulen, the young Dutchman was able to exit ahead of Drudi.
Ultimately running long proved to be the better tactic, proven by the #25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi leaping to third spot and the #88 Mercedes-AMG vaulting to fourth after some fine recovery driving from Marciello and a stellar pit stop from Akkodis ASP. A full-course yellow was enforced shortly after the pit window closed due to two stricken cars; this ultimately became a safety car, which withdrew with just over 10 minutes to run.
Again, there was immediate action. Boguslavskiy made a slow getaway and was passed by Ayhancan Güven (#44 CLRT Porsche) and Maxime Martin (#46 Team WRT BMW). Martin was in a hurry, dispatching Güven at the final corner and then immediately drafting past Erwan Bastard (#25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi) for third.
Güven attempted to do the same a few corners later, but contact on the run to Scheivlak sent both he and Bastard spinning off the track. Boguslavskiy had a front-row seat for this hair-raising moment and did well to avoid contact, moving the #88 Mercedes-AMG back up into P4.
Out front rising star Vermeulen was doing well to hold off Audi factory ace Drudi, but with just five minutes left on the clock a small mistake from the Ferrari driver was enough to make the difference. Drudi got alongside on the main straight and was able to stay there through the opening sequence of corners, completing the move before Hugenholtzbocht.
Four laps later the #40 Audi took the chequered flag to secure its third win of 2023 and promote Drudi and Feller to the Sprint Cup championship lead. The #69 Ferrari finished as runner-up, while Martin brought the #46 BMW home in P3 to secure a third podium of the season for himself and Rossi.
Boguslavskiy took fourth and showed good pace in doing so, suggesting that he and Marciello can still make a fight of tomorrow's deciding contest. Nicolas Baert brought the #12 Audi home in fifth ahead of Charles Weerts, ending the #32 BMW crew's chances of a fourth successive Sprint Cup crown.
Seventh overall went to the Silver Cup winners, Jordan Love and Frank Bird, who both demonstrated front-running speed in the #77 HRT Mercedes-AMG. Love made significant progress at the start to establish the advantage, while Bird was on the same pace as Weerts during the second stint. The result moves Love into a 2.5-point championship lead over Lorenzo Patrese and Alex Aka (#99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi), who came home second in class today.
The #30 Team WRT BMW was the first Gold Cup car across the line, but a penalty for a safety car procedure infringement dropped Niklas Krütten and Calan Williams down the order. This allowed the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi of Aurélien Panis and Alberto di Folco to take the win, which puts them on the cusp of securing the class crown. The teams' title is already settled, with Boutsen VDS wrapping up the prize with a race to spare.
As for the overall Sprint Cup drivers' championship, it is now a two-horse race between Feller/Drudi and Marciello/Boguslasvkiy with a gap of just 2.5 points in favour of the Tresor Orange1 crew. The teams' battle is even tighter: Tresor Orange1 has 98.5 points followed by Akkodis ASP on 97 and Team WRT on 96. Indeed, everything is in place for a thrilling decider tomorrow afternoon.
The final qualifying session of 2023 will get underway at 09:30 CEST on Sunday followed by the deciding 60-minute contest at 14:00. All of the action will be broadcast live on the GT World YouTube channel, with the pre-race coverage beginning at 13:15.