Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy returned fire on their Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup title rivals Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts by winning the second race of the weekend at Zandvoort.
After losing the championship lead to Vanthoor and Weerts who won from pole position on Saturday, Marciello and Boguslavskiy achieved their own 17.5-point maximum score on Sunday to bring the gap down to just half a point with two rounds to go.
Marciello put the No. 89 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo on pole for the second 60-minute race of the weekend and converted that into a clear lead during the opening stint.
The Swiss driver extended his advantage to eight seconds over the second-placed JP Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 of Vincent Abril, who was occupied with trying to keep Vanthoor behind him.
Vanthoor, driving the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, started from fourth but overtook Dennis Marschall’s No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi on the first lap.
The Belgian came close to challenging Abril on several occasions, even lightly tapping the McLaren once through the Turn 10 apex, but couldn’t find a way past.
Marciello stayed in the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG until the end of the pit window that opened between 25 and 35 minutes, whereas Abril was the first to come in and was followed one lap later by Vanthoor.
Strong laps from the leader toward the end of his stint ensured that Boguslavskiy inherited a lead of just under 10 seconds when the window closed.
The WRT Audi became Boguslavskiy’s closest threat after a slow stop for the JP McLaren brought Weerts out in second place and dropped Abril’s co-driver Dennis Lind to fifth behind Pieter Schothorst, in for Marschall, and Jules Gounon in the No. 88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes.
Boguslavskiy’s lead was quickly reduced by Weerts and then completely ripped away after 38 minutes of racing when a Full Course Yellow and safety car period was called.
This was due to the Pro-Am leading JP Motorsport McLaren stopping trackside with damage after Patryk Krupinski clashed with Luca Ghiotto’s Audi at Hugenholtzbocht.
The safety car gave Weerts a golden opportunity to attack Boguslavskiy for the win and enabled the other drivers to bunch up.
But Boguslavskiy made a good restart, gaining a few lengths on Weerts as he accelerated out of the penultimate turn, and kept the Belgian around seven-tenths of a second behind him over the remaining 14 and a half minutes to deliver the victory for Akkodis ASP.
Weerts and Vanthoor picked up 12 points for second, putting them on 74.5 points versus the 74 points that Marciello and Boguslavskiy landed on after their third win from six races.
Dutch driver Schothorst put in a strong defensive drive to earn a podium on home soil alongside Marschall, while Gounon and Jim Pla settled for fourth in their No. 88 AMG.
Abril pressured Gounon in the closing laps but was unable to improve on his fifth position.
Christian Engelhart and Adrian de Leener were sixth in the No. 54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, one place ahead of the Sainteloc Racing Audi pairing of Patric Niederhauser and Aurelien Panis.
Eighth place went to the Silver Cup class-winning No. 99 Attempto Racing Audi driven by Nicolas Schoell and Alex Aka.
Aka managed to hold off Ulysse de Pauw in the Silver points-leading No. 53 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 by just eight-tenths of a second at the checkered flag.
De Pauw and Pierre-Alexandre Jean remain fourth in the overall Sprint Cup standings but dropped to eight points behind Pla in third place courtesy of a one-point score.
Miguel Ramos and Dean MacDonald claimed Pro-Am honors in their No. 188 Garage 59 McLaren, after benefiting from Krupinski’s woes in the JP Motorsport car.
MacDonald pursued Klien during the opening stint and the pair ran fifth and sixth overall before their cars’ mandatory 62-second pit stops dropped them behind several Pro and Silver Cup contenders.
Ramos had a clean second stint to finish 15th overall and claim his and MacDonald’s second Pro-Am win of the year.
Andrea Bertolini and Louis Machiels were second in class, while their AF Corse teammate Cedric Sbirrazzuoli moved into the Pro-Am points lead by finishing third alongside Stefano Costantini.
A notable early retirement from the race was the No. 11 Tresor by Car Collection Audi which encountered a broken damper.
There was also an incident on the formation lap that caused the GSM Novamarine Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo to spin after contact with the No. 159 Garage 59 McLaren, which later pitted for repairs and finished one lap down.
The GTWC Europe Sprint Cup season has two more double-header rounds to go, at Misano in July and Valencia in September.
RESULTS: Race 2
Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.