Akkodis ASP sealed a sensational Fanatec GT2 European Series debut by claiming an historic win for the new Mercedes-AMG GT2 in the first race of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring. In the Am class, meanwhile, True Racing’s Klaus Angerhofer and Sehdi Sarmini went from last to first to give KTM a sensational victory at the brand’s home circuit.
The first 50-minute Fanatec GT2 race of the weekend in Austria started and ended in dramatic fashion, beginning with a three-way drag race down to turn one led by pole sitter Henry Hassid sandwiched between the #15 and #16 True Racing KTMs.
Although the LP Racing Audi held the advantage, Nicolas Saelens was immediately on the offensive and managed to overhaul Hassid halfway round the opening lap. But the KTM had to cope with the Audi in its mirrors right up until the halfway point when an overly optimistic move knocked Saelens off the top spot and down to third.
Whilst it was Audi versus KTM for the lead, the fight for third was just as close behind them. As the #7 HRT Mercedes-AMG and PK Carsport Audi vied for position, that allowed the Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes to join the party and ultimately pass Peter Guelinckx in the #1 car.
With the lead Audi handed penalties for a start infringement and contact with the #15 car, it was all change after the mandatory pitstops. Having steered clear of any opening stint troubles, Benjamin Ricci and Akkodis ASP Mercedes found themselves leading the field on their Fanatec GT2 debut, 0.8s ahead of Stefan Rosina, now in the #15, with Anthony Beltoise in the #67 now third.
Rosina pushed hard to close the lead gap and glue the KTM to the Mercedes rear bumper, but with nothing to choose between the two, the status quo resumed right up until the single safety car period of the 50-minute encounter. Called with seven minutes remaining after the Ebimotors Am Porsche made contact with the #88 Pro-Am LP racing Audi, causing both cars to ultimately retire.
The field returned to green flag racing with just 60 seconds on the clock, triggering a single lap sprint to the chequered flag.
Ricci kept his cool to hold off both Rosina and Beltoise at the restart. But Beltoise immediately came under intense pressure from Stienes Longin, now in the #1 Audi, which in turn allowed the #17 KTM to close in. As the Audis battled door-to-door and Longin ran wide, Reinhard Kofler quietly snuck up the inside to leapfrog from fifth to third.
Although Beltoise held on to fourth at the flag, a further 10-second post-race penalty dropped the #67 down the order, in turn promoting Michael Doppelmayr and Pierre Kaffer in the #18 Audi.
Despite being knocked into a spin at the start and rejoining last, Klaus Angerhofer delivered a stellar stint and pitted as late as possible in effort to bring the #16 KTM back in the fight. The strategy played out perfectly, allowing Sehdi Sarmini to take the Am class lead from the #911 Ebimotors Porsche shortly after the pitstops.
Jorg Viebahn and Mario Plachutta completed their series debut in the HRT Mercedes with third in the Am category, despite a brief spin at the restart.
The second and final Fanatec GT2 European Series race of the weekend is coming up at 14:45 CEST, streamed live via GT World on YouTube.