The fantastic association between Team WRT and Audi came to an end today at Barcelona with the final Endurance Cup round of the Fanatec World GT Challenge Europe and yielded more success, as the squad conquered the overall Team title in the Silver Cup, its sixth GTWCE crown this season, the Silver Cup race win thanks to Benjamin Goethe, Thomas Neubauer and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and another podium finish (2nd) in the Gold Cup with the Arnold brothers and Ryuichiro Tomita.

The Pro cars narrowly missed the podium but had very strong races, with Dries Vanthoor-Charles Weerts-Ricardo Feller taking P4 as best Audi of the field and Nico Müller-Vale Rossi-Fred Vervisch P6. Both cars saluted the historic event for the Team WRT with donuts after the final lap.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse was as emotional as everybody in the team and among Audi representatives present after the race and before the goodbye party: “It’s the end of a great story… We would have liked a podium overall for this final dance, but we lacked a little bit of pace with respect to the front-runners and we lost time in traffic in the first stint, given our starting position. Still, both the Pro cars made a very solid race and we took more successes in the Silver and Gold Cups.It is very nice to have done this last race with the support of Chris Reinke, Sebastian Grams and so many friends from Audi that have been involved in the GT3 programme, and now is time to celebrate a long and beautiful story, and our lasting friendship.”

The weekend started with a driver line-up change in car #32, as Kelvin van der Linde, feeling unwell, had to be replaced last-minute by Ricardo Feller. The young Swiss DTM driver and reigning ADAC GT Masters champion, last raced with Team WRT in 2018.

Since the private test sessions, it appeared that the Audi had not the pace of other cars on this track, although Team WRT placed three cars in the top 10 in pre-qualifying, with #46 in sixth, #46 in seventh and #32 in ninth. In qualifying, only #32 repeated the feat, taking P7, but #46 qualified an excellent twelfth, with #30 in P15 (and second in Silver), and #33 and #31 further aback.

The start and first laps of the race, with perfect weather and in compact traffic, saw Charles Weerts running in P8 and Vale Rossi gaining two positions and defending fiercely P10, with Benji Goethe losing some ground to stabilize in P15 (3rd among Silver cars) and Robin Arnold in P38. Unfortunately, the race of car #31 only lasted three laps, after Finlay Hutchison was caught in a contact with rival, which left the car with severe damage in the back and retiring in the pits.

The first stint did not see many changes, with Weerts in eighth and stuck in traffic and Rossi showing great pace, as he retained P10 and ran in the leading group. After a first stop early in the sequence, Feller was able to gain two positions and run 4th, with Nico Müller in P8 after some dueling, and Simmenauer climbing up to P13 (2nd in Silver). Maxime Robin, on his side, climbed in to the top 10 of the gold Cup (9th).

The second wave of pit stops started in lap 67, shortly before the first intervention of the safety-car, which reduced the gaps when the race restarted 40 minutes to the end. Despite all his efforts to grab a podium finish, Dries Vanthoor finished 4th, while Fred Vervisch gained one position to finish 6th and Thomas Neubauer managed to take the win in the Silver Cup with a great move five minutes from the end, finishing 11th overall. Ryuichiro Tomita achieved a sensational charge to take a final second in the Gold Cup, climbing a dozen positions in overall.

Dries Vanthoor: “It’s a pity we finished so close to the podium we all wanted, but we did a good race anyway. The stints, the strategy, the pit stop, everything was perfect, but we had too much understeer to catch the Lambo. It’s a solid points finish and a good way to mark off this amazing partnership between Audi and WRT.”

Charles Weerts: “It was an emotional race, as it was the last race of Team WRT with Audi, we did everything we could to get at least a podium finish, but it is very difficult to overtake here with the understeer you get when you are close to the car in front. Still, it was a good race, with no mistakes, it’s a shame we couldn’t get a podium but today there wasn’t more in.”

Ricardo Feller: “It was a positive weekend overall. It was a very late call, but quite happy to be part of the team in this event that concludes a very special era for Team WRT and for Audi. We all did a very good job, but it simply wasn’t enough today to get a podium.”

Benjamin Goethe: “It is an amazing way to finish the season. My teammates and the team did a fantastic job throughout it. Here, we struggled a bit with for pace but were able to come back right behind the leading car in the Silver Cup and Thomas did a great overtake at the very end.”

Thomas Neubauer: “We started the season with a win and finish it with a win, after taking the big one in the middle. There is little that could have gone better. It was an amazing season and I thank everyone in the team for that.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer: “It is obviously a very good result, we all worked hard for it. In my stint, I went off in the gravel, I had to fight to get back into the right pace, but it worked, and it is absolutely great.”

Arnold Robin: “I am very happy to finish the season with a podium and I just want to thank everybody in the team for this amazing season.”

Maxime Robin:
“We didn’t get the podium we deserved at Hockenheim, so this one is a good revenge! It’s a nice way to finish the season and I thank everybody, the team, Ryu, my brother for a very nice championship.”

Ryuichiro Tomita: “It’s a nice way to finish the season and say thanks to everybody in the team. We get here the podium finish that we didn’t get in other races where we were more competitive… We struggle a lot with car balance in qualifying and also in the race, but things went better in the final part of the race and the safety-car came as a present from God. We were quite strong in the end of the race and managed to get the podium.”

Nico Müller: “P6 is a very good result, for sure, and the maximum we had today. We were dreaming of a podium finish, but it was not achievable today. The race was pretty calm, we stayed out of trouble, but it was clear the Audi was not the car to beat. Vale did an amazing job both in qualifying and in the first stint. He is showing how close he is getting to the top guys”

Frédéric Vervisch: “Today’s was a good race for us, P6 is a very good result under the circumstances. Vale did again a great step forward, with a very strong first stint, which was key to get the good result.”

Valentino Rossi: “I am very happy, because today’s was certainly my best stint of the season. I could gain two positions and then stay with the top guys for 30 laps, keeping their same pace even when the tyres were more consumed. It was a good race, even if we couldn’t get a podium, and it’s a nice way to finish the season.”

GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup – Round 5
Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain – 30 September – 2nd October 2022

Race results:

  1. Bachler-Picariello-Cairoli (Porsche 911 R) 97 laps
  2. Fuoco-Pier Guidi-Rovera (Ferrari 488) + 0s873
  3. Bortolotti-Aitken-Costa (Lamborghini Huracan) +09s098
  4. Vanthoor-Weerts-Feller (Audi R8 LMS) +09s670

5. Marciello-Juncadella-Gounon (Mercedes AMG) +22s168
6. Müller-Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +26s517
11. Goethe-Neubauer-Simmenauer (Audi R8 LMS) +49s310 (1st Silver Cup)
27. A.Robin-M.Robin-Tomita (Audi R8 LMS) +1 lap (3rd Gold Cup)
DNF Hutchison-Menchaca-Proctor (Audi R8 LMS) 3 laps (Damage)

Photo: Michele Scudiero / Brecht Decancq

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5 months ago

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