Team WRT lived another unforgettable weekend at Valencia in the finale of the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS – Sprint Cup, bringing home four more titles. For the third year in a row, it conquered the double Sprint Cup crown (Teams’ and Drivers’, with Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts) , securing also the Pit Stop Challenge, while Benjamin Goethe and Thomas Neubauer netted the overall GTWCE Silver Cup Driver title.

On Saturday, the first objective, the Drivers’ title in the Sprint Cup, was secured with a third position, after a challenging race, but the style was added on Sunday, with a sensational last lap win on a drying track by Charles Weerts.

WRT Team Principal Vincent Vosse was an extremely happy man at the end of the Spanish weekend: “Some days are and feel special, and today is one of those. I am really happy and proud of what we achieved. I want to congratulate the entire team for the sensational work and for once again securing the Pitstop Challenge title. Today’s race was also very exciting and Charles did a perfect final part doing no mistake when it was too early for slicks but being very quick when time came. We knew that going for slicks was the right call, it didn’t show for a while but it proved at the end!”

The cars proved competitive since the start of the weekend and qualifying for Race 1 yielded promising results, with Charles Weerts taking P2 in car #32, Thomas Neubauer being 7th (and 2nd in Silver) in car #30, Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer 10th in car #33, right ahead of Valentino Rossi in car #46.

In a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, Race 1 proved how difficult it is to overtake on this track. The start was extremely lively, with the group spread in all the track’s width at first corner. Weerts took a cautious approach, losing one position, but the safety-car was immediately out to rescue a car that crashed at the back of the grid. The restart saw Weerts keeping P3, with Neubauer in 7th, Simmenauer in 12thand Vale Rossi just behind. The pit stops brought no position improvement for any of the WRT cars, except #30, which rejoined in P4, and no significant changes occurred in the second stint, also marked by a safety-car period. Still, third was enough for Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts to secure the Sprint Cup Drivers’ title, as Benji Goethe finished fourth (and 2nd in Silver), Christopher Mies took the last point of P10, crossing the line right ahead of Fred Vervisch. 

Sunday was a day of great emotions. The cars qualified well on the dry, with car #32 and Dries Vanthoor again in P2, Chris Mies in car #33 tenth, Fred Vervisch in car #46 eleventh and Benji Goethe in car #30 in P15 overall and P3 in the Silver Cup. 

A violent storm broke before the race, soaking the track and making the start and first stint very difficult. Vanthoor stabilized in P3, with the three other cars involved in an exciting battle in the positions between 11 and 15. Mies eventually emerged as 9th right ahead of the pit stop, with Vervisch 11th while Goethe slid to P18. As the track was drying, Team WRT took the choice of slick tyres at the pit stop for its four cars, but with the track still very slippery, the bet worked only in the final ten minutes of the race. Charles Weerts, who was 6th thirty six seconds behind the leader, performed though a sensational come-back, taking the lead and victory three corners from the flag! The other two cars had more issues to overcome the traffic, finishing in P15 (Neubauer) and P22 (Simmenauer). The 6th position of car #30 in the Silver Cup category proved enough to secure the overall Silver Cup drivers title while car #46 was the unlucky one, as Valentino Rossi was forced to retire because of a battery issue two laps after taking the wheel.

Dries Vanthoor: “What a nice way to end the weekend and for WRT to say goodbye to Audi in the Sprint Cup after such a long and fruitful partnership. The third Sprint double title in a row is a remarkable achievement, it just shows how committed and well-prepared the team is. Race 1 was not the best or the most beautiful, but we were still able to be third and secure the title. Race 2 was great. Although I didn’t have a great start, I managed to keep the gap stable. I thought that going for slicks was a little bit tricky, but it worked. We have good engineers and Charles did a fantastic job.”

Charles Weerts: “To be Sprint champions for the third consecutive time is just insane! Consistency has been key and working with very competent people crucial. I want to thank the entire team, Vincent and my dad. In Race 1, we did the job, and Race 2 was great. It was a risky call to go for slicks, but having already won the Drivers’ title, we could afford it a bit more. Still, at the beginning of my stint, I was really wondering what I was doing there on slick tyres… But at the end I could make my way up and take the win, it’s just fantastic.”

Thomas Neubauer: “It was a good weekend but not easy. We finish third in the Silver Cup in Sprint, but we secured the overall title which adds to the Endurance one, so we can be happy. Race 1 was perfect, finishing 2nd and 4thoverall, but in Race 2, it was quite difficult because of the mixed weather conditions.”

Benjamin Goethe: “Overall, a good weekend as we take the overall Silver Cup title, although we could not finish second in the Sprint rankings. Today’s race didn’t go our way because of the slick tyres gamble, I think it was a little bit too early for us, but we had an excellent race on Saturday, finishing second and fourth overall.”

Valentino Rossi : “It was a frustrating weekend in terms of results, but I am happy with the pace and the speed we had. Race 1 was difficult because we lost the radio from the start and I was left with no messages and no information. It is very difficult to overtake on this track and we didn’t have the best of pit stops, so we just missed the top 10. We couldn’t finish Race 2 because of a technical issue, it’s a big shame because I lost the possibility of having half-hour of experience on the wet. Still, in the lap and a half that I could drive, the feeling was very good.”

Fréderic Vervisch: “A difficult weekend, on a track that proved not easy for us. I think we had the potential to do more and hopefully we can show it in the last race of the season in Barcelona. What has to be underlined is the excellent qualifying session of Valentino, he’s really making big steps forwards in this crucial aspect.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer: “Not an easy weekend. In Race 1, I had a difficult start and tried to stay out of trouble, we finished 11th but there wasn’t much more to take out from the car. Chris had a very good first stint in Race 2, but it was too early for us to mount slick tyres at the pit stop and I only could warm them up enough in the final laps.”

Christopher Mies: “It was my last race this season with Team WRT and I would have liked a better result, but I still enjoyed the weekend a lot. Today, we took a risky gamble with the slick tyres, I think for us it was a couple of laps too early. I hope to be working soon again with all the boys and girls of Team WRT.”

Fanatec World GT Challenge Europe powered by AWS - Sprint Cup Round 5
Valencia, Spain – 16-18 September 2022

Race 1 results:
1.De Pauw-Jean (Ferrari 488) 35 laps
2.Gachet-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) + 0s587
3.Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s100
4.Goethe-Neubauer (Audi R8 LMS) + 3s483 (2nd Silver)
5.Schothorst-Marschall (Audi R8 LMS) + 3s883
10.Simmenauer-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) +10s256
11.Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +10s768

Race 2 results:
1.Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) 33 laps
2.Panis-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) +1s967
3.Boguslavskiy-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) + 2s067
4.Gachet-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) + 9s254
5.Pérez Companc-Schiller (Mercedes AMG) +22s264
15.Neubauer-Goethe (Audi R8 LMS) +53s920 (6th Silver Cup)
22.Mies-Simmenauer (Audi R8 LMS) +1m15s559
DNF Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS)

Photo: Michele Scudiero