The journey to Magny-Cours for the second round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS Sprint Cup yielded another win (in Race 1) for Team WRT and Dries Vanthoor-Charles Weerts and a handful of good points despite the ups and downs lived by the four cars of the Belgian squad.

Car #33 of Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and Christopher Mies scored points in both races but the 4th place in Race 2 left some bitterness, as a penalty put the Frenchman and the German down from the podium. The other home hero, Thomas Neubauer, together with Benjamin Goethe, harvested two P4 in the Silver Cup that bring useful points, while the weekend of Valentino Rossi and Frédéric Vervisch was made challenging by an accident in Q1. Still, the pair recovered well to take P11 in Race 2, where Vale showed again progress and good pace.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse assessed the weekend so: “We had a bit of everything this weekend, and performance-wise, we were not the top car but I understand that the Audi being a new evolution, it takes some time to find the right BoP. Saturday, car #32 had a perfect race and the crews did a wonderful job all weekend, today it was car #33 showing the best pace, but the penalty cost it two positions. It was a more difficult outing for our car in the Silver Cup and for car #46 after the incident in Q1, but again, it recovered well, with Vale improving constantly.”

Since the beginning of the weekend, the Audi R8 LMS proved competitive on the technical French track, with Team WRT putting three of its cars in the top-6 in pre-qualifying. The qualifying session for Race 1 saw Charles Weerts taking P2 and first row, after conceding the pole position only in the closing minutes, with Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer qualifying 9th and Benji Goethe 15th (6th among Silver Cup cars). It was a more difficult session for Valentino Rossi, who was 15th when he lost the car at high speed in the Grande Courbe and hit the barriers laterally. Eventually, car #46 closed the session in P22.

At the start of Race 1, Charles Weerts was a little bit surprised by the early kick-off of the poleman and lost the benefit of the front row, passing third through turn 1, while Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer kept 9th and Benjamin Goethe gained four positions in the initial phases to take P11. Valentino Rossi immediately started fighting at the back of the grid and with a couple of brilliant moves, gained positions up to P19. Shortly after, Simmenauer dropped to P11, right in front of Goethe, while it took a few more laps for Weerts to regain second after a great duel with Gilles Magnus. 

Pit stops proved to be decisive, with cars #32 and #33 stopping in lap 16, one lap before the two other WRT cars. The stop of the former was incredibly fast and allowed Dries Vanthoor to narrowly take the lead when the rivals pitted. From then on, the Belgian tried to build a sufficient gap, eventually winning by 3 seconds ahead of Marciello. Christopher Mies managed to make it to the points, by finishing 9th, with Thomas Neubauer crossing the line in P11 and fourth in the Silver Cup. Frédéric Vervisch was able to recover further positions on the narrow French track, despite car #46 having to serve a 10-seconds penalty at the pit stop for having to use an extra set of tyres after the morning accident.

Qualifying for Race 2 saw Dries Vanthoor taking P3 despite having touched the barriers in the early phase of the session, with Christopher Mies in 6th, Fred Vervisch in 9th and Thomas Neubauer in 13th.

At the start, Vanthoor found himself on the outside line and was forced to put the wheels in the gravel to avoid contact, dropping to 14th, while Mies rose to 3rd and Vervisch kept P9. Also down the order fell Neubauer, 23rdin the first lap. From there, it was a recovery race for car #32, which thanks to another great stop, was sixth at the beginning of the second stint, a position that Weerts could not further improve. The best-placed WRT car, #33 of Mies and Simmenauer, climbed one position up to P2 at the pit stop, with the young Frenchman resisting well to the attacks of more experienced rivals. Unfortunately, a 10-second penalty for unsafe release meant a final P4. Valentino Rossi, like in Brands Hatch, had a great stint, showing good pace and finishing right off the points, in 11th position, while Goethe secured another P4 in the Silver Cup. 

Dries Vanthoor: “Race 1 was great but tough, as Marciello was catching me and putting pressure. I was as quick as I could, but we were on the maximum. Once again, the pit stop was amazing, a big thanks to the guys because, without that, we wouldn’t have won. Today wasn’t a great day, due to my mistakes, starting from the one in qualifying. Luckily, the team got the car back in order, but it was a messy start, I went into the dirt and lost it, and after that, P6 was the best we could obtain.”

Charles Weerts: “Overall, a decent weekend, we took the first Sprint Cup win of the season, and we qualified once in first row. Unfortunately, Race 2 was not what we could have expected, but still, we take some points, mainly because of the very good job in the pit stop, so a huge thanks to the boys.”

Benjamin Goethe: “It wasn’t an ideal weekend, my qualifying on Saturday wasn’t that good, but we managed to recover up to 4th. In Race 2, again 4th, the pace was good throughout the weekend but results could have been better, hopefully we will be luckier in next races.”

Thomas Neubauer: “Another difficult weekend, where we could not show the pace we have in the bank… Today, I got surprised at the start and ended up in the gravel, then there was a contact as I rejoined and we were last, but could recover and Benji did a great job to finish fourth.”

Christopher Mies: “Race 1 was more difficult, we had a good pace but it is very difficult to overtake here. Today, starting 5th, it was easier, I had a good start and could take 3rd, and J-B gained one position. It was a pity to get the penalty, but rules are rules. In the end, we can be happy with the weekend, as we showed a very good pace.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer: “Race 1 was good, although I did a couple of mistakes in the first laps and lost a couple of positions, but we had a strong pace and could recover. In Race 2, Chris did a great job in the first stint, it was unfortunate to get the penalty and lose the podium, but there are a lot of positives, the pace and the car were strong and it’s a big improvement compared to Brands Hatch.”

Frédéric Vervisch: “Race 1 was difficult because we started from the back and had the penalty to serve at the pit stop, but the pace was good and Vale showed a big improvement, making also a few overtakes. The start of Race 2 was very messy, hopefully we didn’t lose positions but it is very difficult to overtake here. In the end, no points but it’s all part of the journey of improving and gaining experience. When we’ll manage to qualify better, both of us, I think we can aim at the top-5.”

Valentino Rossi: “Race 1 was difficult. Unfortunately, we had to start from the back, because I did a mistake in qualifying and we couldn’t do better than P22. The race itself wasn’t so bad, I enjoyed it and there were some battles and overtakes. My pace was improving lap by lap. Race 2 also was tough, although we started more upfront. The target was the top-10 and we finish right off, in P11. I struggled a bit with the warmth, the car was more difficult to drive and I also lost some time in a fight with one of the Porsches.”

Fanatec World GT Challenge Europe powered by AWS - Sprint Cup Round 2
Magny-Cours, France – 13-15 May 2022

Race 1 results

1. Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) 37 laps
2. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG) + 3s138
3. Gachet-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) + 8s924
4. Panis-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) +13s685
5.Drudi-Ghiotto (Audi R8 LMS) +23s702
9. Simmenauer-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) +34s249 (4th Silver)
11. Goethe-Neubauer (Audi R8 LMS) +38s480
13. Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +53s407

Race 2 Result

1. Boguslavskiy-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) 37 laps
2. Götz-Pla (Mercedes AMG) +13s683
3. Panis-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) +19s651
4. Mies-Siemmenauer (Audi R8 LMS) +23s146
5. Jean-De Pauw (Ferrari 488) +25s010
6. Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) +25s345
11. Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +50s202

Photo: Michele Scudiero