Summer holidays are over and racing resumes also for the International GT Open contenders, who head to Austria for the fifth round of the season. The stop at the Red Bull Ring, in the beautiful natural setting of the Styrian Alps, is always one of the most appreciated, especially when blessed by late summer weather.
The 4.318-km track once known as the Österreichring will open the final stretch of a season, characterized by a high number of entries (31 cars are expected to be in action in Austria) and a close fight at the top of all three categories. No doubt that the various title bidders will have that in their minds as they take the track around the charging bull statue!
PRO: ONE LITTLE POINT …
The fight for the overall title cannot be closer. At the very top of the standings lies the Optimum Motorsport McLaren of Sam De Haan and Charlie Fagg, who have shown great momentum in all circumstances and taken two race wins so far. Still, they have the smallest advantage, one point (86 vs 85) over the Motopark Mercedes of Diego Menchaca-Marco Siebert. The Latin American duo has won one race but has proven extremely consistent.
Third, but twenty points away from the top, is the Eastalent Racing Audi of Simon Reicher-Christopher Haase, always with the front-runners but still chasing their maiden success. The Austrian outfit will certainly be extra motivated to go for their first success on home soil.
The list of potential race winners in the Pro category, though, is long. Oregon Team has recovered brilliantly from a poor start of the season taking two wins with Max Paul-Pierre Louis Chovet, with teammates Pietro Perolini-Daan Arrow also in constant progress.
Young talents are also performing well in the category, thanks to Nicola Marinangeli-Riccardo Agostini, in the AF Corse Ferrari 296, and Reece Barr-Mikaeel Pitamber, in the SPS Mercedes, while the third GetSpeed Performance car that debuted at Ricard will see this time US youngster Anthony Bartone joining Aaron Walker. The Lionspeed GP Porsche 991.2 of Patrick Kolb, fresh from a maiden podium finish, is always a key contender too, with Austrian star Richard Lietz back in the driver line-up.
PRO-AM: THE CHASE TO THE LEADERS IS OPEN
In Pro-Am, the class with the most cars, the situation is currently favorable to Marco Pulcini and Eddie Cheever, in their AF Corse Ferrari 488. The duo has three race wins to his credit and leads by 13 points. In second position, tied and certainly not having said their last word are the SPS automotive performance Mercedes of Dexter Müller-Yannick Mettler (1 win) and the Kessel Racing Ferrari 296 of the two Nicolòs, Rosi and Schirò.
Six brands are represented in the Pro-Am class, with Ferrari completing its ranks with the 296 of Kessel Racing driven by Frédéric Jousset-David Fumanelli and the 488 of AF Corse entrusted to Laurent de Meeus-Jamie Stanley.
McLaren will be present with the usual line-up, with the Greystone GT car in the hands of the Proctors father-and-son, Stewart and Lewis, and the Optimum Motorsport car entrusted to Andrew Gilbert-Fran Rueda, fresh from their first class win at Ricard.
As customary, Bonaldi Motorsport defends the colours of Lamborghini with its two Huracans for Sanporn Jao Javanil-Milos Pavlović and Sandro Mur-Martin Kodrić, while Audi can rely on the reigning class champions of Olimp Racing, Marcin Jedlinski-Karol Basz, and Mercedes on the GetSpeed car of Steve Jans-Axel Blom, currently fourth in the standings.
AM: MOTOPARK BACK IN THE LEAD
The fight is close also in the Am class, where only two points separate the first two in the standings. Heiko Neumann and Timo Rumpfkeil, with three race wins, have retaken the lead in their Motopark Mercedes, ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari of Jean Claude Saada-Conrad Grunewald.
Others are still in the race, starting from Giuseppe Cipriani, in the Lambo of Il Barone Rampante, and local heroes Ernst Kirchmayr-Philipp Baron, in the Baron Motorsport Ferrari. Both are tied, only 11 points behind the leaders.
Only one further point down is the other AF Corse Ferrari (a 296) of Alessandro Cozzi-Giorgio Sernagiotto, with the Italian squad entering also a 488 for Gino Forgione-Andrea Montermini.
A brand new Ferrari 296 will be debuting as the new car of Olimp Racing for the par Stanislaw Jedlinski-Krystian Korzeniowski, with regulars Kiki San Nana-Adam Osieka in the GetSpeed Mercedes and Jahid Fazal Karim-Pascal Bachmann sporting the sole and art-livered Aston Martin of Street-Art Racing completing the field.