Saelens & Longin return to winning ways to regain Pro-Am lead, Hassid edges closer to Am title

Saelens & Longin return to winning ways to regain Pro-Am lead, Hassid edges closer to Am title
  • Saelens & Longin return to the top step of the Pro-Am podium and standings in race one 
  • Hassid takes Am win number five and edges closer to title
  • Race two coming up from Valencia at 17.20

Nicolas Saelens and Stienes Longin returned to race-winning form in the first Fanatec GT2 European Series race of the weekend at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Valencia. The PK Carsport Audi duo earned their fourth victory of the season in Spain this morning to return to the top of the Pro-Am standings with just three races remaining.

Henry Hassid, meanwhile, extended his Am class lead with a fifth win of the season in the LP Racing Audi, leaving him with a shot at sealing the championship in race two this afternoon. 

PK Carsport Audi back on top

As the field got clean away for the first race of the penultimate round of the season, it was polesitter Elia Erhart that got the drop to take the LP Racing Audi into the lead and make good his escape. With Filip Sladecka and Nicolas Saelens following suit, the top three order remained unchanged until the pitstop window as they pulled a gap from the pursuing field.

The battle to watch was the fight for fifth, with Kevin Weeda in the Brabham Automotive Factory Racing BT63 GT2 Concept coming under intense pressure from Peter Guelinckx and Henry Hassid, producing a thrilling three-way battle for much of the opening stint. 

Guelinckx was the first to try and find a way past Weeda, but a premature planting of his right foot resulted in a spin and drop of two places for the #81 PK Carsport Audi. That paved the way for Hassid to attack and finally make a move stick against Weeda’s stellar defence, just ahead of the pitstop window.

With the driver changes and compulsory pitstops complete, the order began to reshuffle. The Brabham was the first to make its move with Anders Fjordbach charging from ninth to fifth, only for a track limits penalty to drop him back to sixth.

Whilst Erhart stayed out as long as possible, #11 PK Carsport car was among the first to pit, giving Stienes Longin the chance to close down the leaders. Chipping away at the Audi’s advantage, Stienes found a way past Michael Doppelmayr, now installed in the #18 car, to take up the lead.

Stefan Rosina, now in the #15 KTM, and Pirri in the #88 Audi immediately followed suit but hopes of a three-way fight to the flag were dashed when Rosina had to take a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with the #17 KTM earlier in his stint. Longin would remain unchallenged whilst Pirri enjoyed a clear run to the #88 car’s best finish of the season so far.

In a hectic final 15-minutes, attentions turned to the Am battle. As Doppelmayr relinquished to Bert Longin’s Pro-Am Audi for third overall, Hassid seized his opportunity to take win number five, passing the #18 Audi with just over eight minutes remaining. Hassid still had to fight for overall position to the flag, however, first with pressure from High Class Racing’s Michael Vergers and then, in the closing moments, from a recovering Rosina who nipped through to fourth overall.

With Hassid holding on to fifth, Fjordbach had to settle for sixth, whilst Vergers recovered to sixth after a track limits incursion. After leading for the opening stint, Erhart and Doppelmayr finished eighth, whilst Leonardo Gorini and the #16 KTM of Kris Rosenberger and Sehdi Sarmini completed the top 10.

The second race of the weekend takes place at 17:20, streamed live via the website or GT World on YouTube.