The Final Word: Brands Hatch

The Final Word: Brands Hatch

The 2024 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season is in full swing following last weekend’s opening Sprint Cup contest at Brands Hatch. 

This marked the 10th time the series had raced at the British venue and came almost exactly 10 years after the very first meeting at the circuit in May 2014. The British weather has usually been kind to Fanatec GT Europe, though after a wet Friday it seemed that 2024 might be an exception. 

But once again Brands Hatch delivered. On Saturday morning the paddock awoke to blue skies and bright sunshine, which prevailed throughout the day and continued into Sunday. This helped to ensure a fantastic attendance of 18,000 spectators, with many families among the crowds enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend. 

Fans young and old were treated to an entertaining spectacle on-track, with each class producing a different winner across two close-fought races. With the next round already on the horizon, this is the final word on the opening Sprint Cup contest of 2024. 

• Team WRT bagged the first Sprint Cup victory of the season – and the 48th in its illustrious history – after Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts executed a perfect race aboard the #32 BMW. The three-time Sprint Cup champions, who now have 17 and 14 wins respectively, will surely be in the title fight yet again this year. 

• The win owed a great deal to a lightning-fast Team WRT pit stop. Totalling 41.793 seconds from pit-in to pit-out, this was 1.2 seconds better than the next quickest, and almost two seconds faster than the rival #14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari. The #32 also made the fastest stop during Race 2, earning Pit Stop Challenge honours for Brands Hatch. 

• Race 2 went to Winward Racing Team MANN-FILTER with its #48 Mercedes-AMG. Lucas Auer was highly impressive in the opening stint, pulling well clear of fellow AMG driver Jules Gounon. The Austrian had already set his squad on course for victory by taking a commanding pole position in Saturday's Qualifying session.

• The win was Auer's first in Fanatec GT Europe. Engel earned his eighth (seven in Sprint, one in Endurance), though it was the first without long-time co-driver Luca Stolz. Winward Racing bagged its maiden overall victory in Fanatec GT Europe, while Mercedes-AMG has now amassed 33 Sprint Cup wins. 

• By adding a win to the P3 finish it scored in Race 1, the #48 Mercedes-AMG was the clear standout performer at Brands Hatch. Auer and Engel top the overall Sprint Cup drivers' standings after the opening event, 7.5 points ahead of Vanthoor and Weerts. 

• There were no wins, but Emil Frey Racing can look back on an excellent weekend. The #14 Ferrari of Ben Green and Konsta Lappalainen finished as runner-up in Race 1, while the #69 machine of Thierry Vermeulen and Giacomo Altoè matched the result in Race 2. The Swiss squad sits second in the Sprint Cup teams' standings, just two points adrift of Winward Racing. 

• Altoè and Green were on top form in Race 2. Taking the average of every driver's 10 fastest laps, Altoè emerged as the most consistently quick, with Green a close second. The latter also secured Race 1 pole aboard the #14 Ferrari, which was on course for victory before Team WRT's sensational pit stop. 

• Having secured the all-star line-up of Jules Gounon and Maximilian Götz, Boutsen VDS had high hopes for its maiden Sprint Cup event with Mercedes-AMG. The opening contest ended in disappointment when Götz retired the #9 car at the end of the formation lap, but Race 2 brought better things as the pairing finished P3. This secured the Belgian team its first-ever overall podium in Fanatec GT Europe. 

• Reigning series champion Tresor Attempto Racing made a solid start at Brands Hatch, with #99 Audi of Ricardo Feller and Alex Aka classified fourth in both races. It was initially handed a pit lane speeding penalty in Race 1, though this was subsequently rescinded. The second contest saw an impressive drive from Aka, who pushed Götz hard for the final podium position.

• Despite scoring a pair of P5 finishes, the Garage 59 squad felt that a little more was possible at Brands Hatch. Tom Gamble and Benjamin Goethe qualified P4 for both races, but opening-lap contact in Race 1 and a delayed pit stop in Race 2 denied them a potential podium. Still, there is reason to be optimistic: the #159 McLaren scored more points at Brands Hatch than at any Sprint event last term.

• While Garage 59 earned a good haul of points, Comtoyou Racing received no reward for its speed. Mattia Drudi qualified second for the opening contest and teammate Nicolas Baert was in contention for a podium when he ran wide and struck an advertising board, ending their race prematurely. 

• Series newcomer Liqui Moly Team Engstler by OneGroup was the star performer in the Gold Cup. The German squad stated before the weekend that its objective was to fight for overall points, which it achieved by finishing sixth in Race 1 and 10th in Race 2. This also ensured that Luca Engstler and Max Hofer took class honours in the opening run and runner-up in the second contest. 

• Saintéloc Racing secured Race 2 victory in the Gold Cup thanks to Paul Evrard and Gilles Magnus. The pairing had already won their class in the Endurance Cup opener at Circuit Paul Ricard (where they were joined by Jim Pla) and looked strong again at Brands Hatch. Evrard worked particularly hard to hold off Engstler in the closing stint. After climbing from the car, the Frenchman was asked about the fight: "I'm dead!" was his concise response.

• CSA Racing also showed well at Brands Hatch with a pair of Gold Cup podiums. Shared by Lucas Légeret and Simon Gachet, the #111 Audi finished as runner-up in Race 1 and third in Race 2, while Légeret earned class pole for the opening contest. 

• The Silver Cup was evenly matched at Brands Hatch. Race 1 victory went to the #10 Boutsen VDS Mercedes-AMG, which finished a superb fifth overall in the hands of Aurélien Panis and César Gazeau. The crew used its experience to manage a tricky race and pick up a fine result.  

• In the second contest, AF Corse took the win with its #71 Ferrari shared by Eliseo Donno and Tom Fleming. This is one of the most interesting line-ups on the grid, combining last year's Ferrari Challenge Europe champion (Donno) and runner-up (Fleming). Both drivers showed speed at Brands Hatch and it paid dividends in Race 2. 

• The Boutsen VDS pairing lead the AF Corse crew by 1.5 points after the opening event. Sam De Haan and Calan Williams (#30 Team WRT BMW) sit third in the standings after taking a brace of podium finishes at Brands Hatch, finishing P2 in Race 1 and P3 in Race 2.  

• The fastest lap of the weekend was set by Lucas Auer, whose 1m22.393s in Qualifying 2 could not be matched. The best racing lap was a 1m23.561s, posted by Charlie Eastwood (#51 Racing Team Turkey Ferrari) in the second contest.

• Ben Green became the first British driver to start from overall pole at Brands Hatch by topping Q1 in the #14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari. Ben Barnicoat set the best qualifying time in 2021 but was docked two places for impeding rival cars. This was also Emil Frey Racing's first overall pole since Zandvoort in 2021.

• Green's performance was not a surprise: the Brit was the fastest Aston Martin driver in qualifying at the opening Endurance Cup round at Circuit Paul Ricard. He is among a handful of drivers competing in different machinery between Sprint and Endurance. 

• The Sprint Cup continues in two weeks' time at another stalwart circuit, with Misano hosting its annual event on 17–19 May. The Italian venue will see the full field in action as the Bronze Cup makes its first Sprint appearance of 2024. 

• It will feature a unique weekend format, with both races set to take place on Saturday. The first will get underway at 14:00 while the second is scheduled for 21:00, setting up the only night race of the 2024 Sprint Cup campaign.