Just five points separate the Fanatec GT2 European Series Pro-Am title protagonists heading into the final double-header of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard next week, 16-17 October.
Nicolas Saelens and Stienes Longin in the PK Carsport Audi currently hold the advantage over True Racing by Reiter Engineering’s Stefan Rosina heading into the final foray of the season in the South of France.
With drop scores – the lowest points-scoring round for each entrant – also to be considered in the championship points tally, this could be a title battle that goes down to the very last laps of the season.
We caught up with the current championship leaders, Saelens and Longin as they prepare for their biggest battle of the season so far.
You’ve had an incredible Fanatec GT2 European Series season. How does it feel to be taking the Pro-Am title fight to the final round?
Nicolas Saelens (NS): “We would have never expected that at the start of the season. We knew how high the level of the Fanatec GT2 European Series was, and we were aiming for podium finishes and maybe a top three position in the standings. But we did well, had some good races, and here we are!”
Stienes Longin (SL): “It’s exciting, isn’t it? That final meeting is in the back of my head all time, I think about it every day. It’s also the first time in my racing career that things are so clear-cut, that we only have one option to clinch the championship. Agreed, it’s the most difficult of all options possible, but it’s the only one.”
Indeed, you lead Stefan Rosina by five points heading to Paul Ricard, but there’s dropped scores to take into account. Have you calculated what you need to do in France to seal the title?
SL: “Win both races, I think. And with the current rules, especially the penalty seconds applied during the pitstops, that is everything but easy. We will have to make up for lost time on track, that is the only way to do it. Hard, but not impossible.”
NS: “And it gets even harder if you look at the characteristics of the Paul Ricard circuit. That’s a real power track, such as Spa. But in the Ardennes our car had a tough time following the KTM. I only hope the cars are more evenly matched this time.”
SL: “To be honest, Le Castellet is not really at the top of my list of favourite tracks. Don’t get me wrong, they have excellent facilities, but layout-wise I prefer circuits like Imola, Valencia or the Red Bull Ring. It won’t stop me performing well at Paul Ricard, though.”
What’s been the secret to your consistency and success this year, to put you top of the leader board?
SL: “We did not put any pressure on ourselves. Had a good and calm preparation, and focused on getting a good set-up for the car, to be able to race hard during the whole of the race. Because you have to be able to push if you want to end up in front.”
NS: “Due to our lack of experience in the championship – we’re both rookies in GT2 – we knew that a thorough preparation would be key. We did everything possible to get to know the tracks, from simulators to footage of onboard cameras. And we kept in shape as well, of course.”
With a championship crown within reach, does this change the way you approach the event?
NS: “Not really. We keep our feet firmly on the ground. We are ready for the challenge and we’ll try to perform as strong as possible.”
SL: “Our preparation for the races was already pretty strong, as Nicolas said. Maybe we’ve just added one or two percent of more detailed work for the upcoming final round, but nothing major. We’re ready, whatever comes our way.”
Keep following the news here and across the Fanatec GT2 European Series social media channels to find out if Saelens and Longin can clinch the Pro-Am title in the season finale, 16-17 October at Circuit Paul Ricard.