Lamborghini claims victory and podium in Barcelona GT World Challenge Europe
Lamborghini recorded a second GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup race victory in the season finale at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Emil Frey Racing’s Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè coming out on top in the first of three races at the Spanish venue. It brings to an end a strong Sprint Cup season for the Swiss team, who returned to the series after winning the International GT Open title with Costa and Altoè last season.
Costa and Altoè arrived in Spain seventh in the Sprint Cup standings, knowing that race wins were crucial if they were to stand a chance of taking the title come Sunday evening. The pair began the weekend strongly by qualifying third on the grid for a damp opening race on Saturday behind the sister Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo car of pole-sitters Riccardo Feller and Mikaël Grenier.
Feller led off the rolling start as Altoè got the jump on the Haupt Racing Team Mercedes of fellow title contenders Maro Engel and Luca Stolz to grab second place as the field negotiated Turn 1 for the first time. Altoè was forced to shortcut the chicane on lap one and fell behind #89 Mercedes and settle for third during the opening stint before switching over to Costa at the mandatory driver-change pit-stop.
Feller did likewise with Grenier and the #14 Huracán re-joined ahead of Costa who had leapfrogged the Mercedes for second place. Knowing that the #163 was in title contention, Grenier moved aside for Costa in the closing stages, handing the #163 victory by just over one-tenth of a second following a late full course yellow period.
In Race 2, Costa put the #163 on pole position following a superb lap in the Sunday morning qualifying session and duly led away off the line at the start of the race as well. The Lamborghini was by far the fastest in a straight-line and Costa used this to his advantage in the opening stint, pulling a comfortable margin to the nearest challengers. Altoè took over at the pit-stops and extended the gap to second place by the end, winning on the road by a little over seven seconds.
Unfortunately, an infringement during the pit-stops meant that the race stewards handed Altoè and Costa a 35-second post-race penalty, due to the Frontal Head Restraint (FHR) not being correctly positioned before leaving the pits. The penalty dropped them to 16th in the final result. It was a bitter blow for the duo, who had closed to within 2.5 points of the lead of the Sprint Cup lead heading into the final race.
With nothing to lose in Race 3, both the #163 of Altoè/Costa and the #14 of Grenier/Feller gave it everything in the final one-hour encounter, with Feller setting the fastest lap to finish third, with Altoè and Costa fifth.
Lamborghini must now dust itself off and prepare for the jewel in the crown at the end of October, as it embarks on the 24 Hours of Spa at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
Although the event will be run behind closed doors, the 24 Hours is set to be one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the motor racing calendar, with Lamborghini fielding eight cars for the endurance classic on the weekend of the 23-25th October.