Eyebrows were raised when Kapeller crossed the finish-line in P2 at Brands Hatch, just seconds ahead of Gulf teammate and Championship contender Brumby. Will Gulf follow Marlboro to team-orders for the last three races, and what will Marlboro do? A preview towards the season finale.
WTEC. It might be way too early to focus on the fight for the championship at the top. There’s Colin Wynn (Red Bull), ripe for his first win of the season, there’s Charlie Bebb (Cambrian Sim Racing), who we can expect to add another one to his two wins this season, and there’s Joost Simkens (Den Kaap), who showed an impressive performance at Brands Hatch and could give everyone a headache for the rest of the season.
But despite that, the 7th race of the WTEC 2021 saw Team Gulf, with P2 and P3, finally in championship mode again. Brumby took P2 in the championship and closed the gap to championship-leader Gluscic, Sandro Kapeller showed his pace again and settled for P4 in the championship. And while Gulf regained momentum, Team Marlboro found themselves in trouble from Qualifying onwards. Daniele Cascardo went into the race from pole position, but saw himself pointing in the wrong direction after netcoding with Iwan Bremer. Nihad Gluscic suffered hardware-problems in qualifying and throughout the race, leaving him nothing else to do than trying to carry his Radical to the finish line.
In the end, Gulf closed the gap in the Team-Championship to 53.5 points, Brumby closed the gap to Gluscic to 7 points, and Daniele Cascardo finds himself in P3 in the Championship – for the first time of the season. With just three races left, everyone wonders what to expect from the final rounds of the season. We gave it some thoughts.
(1) Gulf’s routine
For Team Gulf it isn’t the first time to be in a fight for the championships. And they showed great strength in this environment of pressure. Taking P2 in the Team-Championship from BWT in the last race of the first season, taking the crown in the Team-Championship in the last race of the STEC 2021 against Sunoco. And Brumby’s fabulous drive to victory at Interlagos secured him the crown of the STEC.
And for the final races of the season, Brumby can count on a Kapeller that seemingly regained his strength. Not only might he give him a position here and there, there’s also the prospect that Gulf’s gem could take points from Gluscic and Cascardo again. Everything might already be put to a test at Spa this weekend.
(2) The Championship becoming even closer
Daniele Cascardo will be the one to beat at Spa. When the fbl drove in Belgium for the last time, Cascardo celebrated his first victory. He owns the track and could make up some crucial points for the championship. But, it’s a night race this time, and one can expect Nihad Gluscic to take full points for incidents again. And the last race at Spa saw the Gulfs to be strong. Double Podium strong.
Barring anything unusual, Cascardo should be able to close the gap on Gluscic by a few points, while Brumby might benefit of Kapellers pace and further close the gap to Gluscic himself.
Suzuka is a big question mark. Expect Cascardo in front, expect Brumby to be fast, expect Gluscic to be at the front. But Kapeller might not be a help for Brumby. Although the Austrian put a spot on himself when he overtook Umberto Napeleoni in the last corner of the final lap – but overall his race wasn’t one for the books.
(3) Interlagos – when finally everything is at stake!
Put everything together, and Interlagos might host a final with three drivers fighting for the crown of a championship, that lasted for ten challenging races. Gulf is strong there – not more to know than a 1-2 in the last season. Cascardo has tremendous pace there, and the new equipped Gluscic will be at the front for sure.
That leaves us with some big questions:
+ When Gluscic goes into the final race as championship-leader, will he still let Cascardo go or will we see the two Marlboro drivers in open battle for the first time of the season?
+ How would Cascardo help his teammate if the championship seems gone for him?
+ What if Kapeller qualifies and races at the front, but has nothing on stake for himself anymore? It’s said to have been a misunderstanding, that made him go side by side with a lapped Cascardo for a couple of corners at Brands Hatch.
At the end of the season the points for incidents might become decisive for the Championship. And while one can gain two points by crossing the finish line in front of his rival, a touch could make 4 points lost.
But maybe Spa will already show us where the championship battle is heading, where momentum rises and who might crack in the face of the pressure that a championship-battle poses.
Up next: Spa at night, Sunday, February 20th