It took only two races for the new BMW M Team WRT partnership to step up to the highest spot of the podium. The BMW M4 GT3s of the Belgian squad signed an authoritative and resounding one-two victory in the Kyalami 9 Hour, the second round of the 2023 Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli.

Car #32, entrusted to local hero Sheldon van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts led from lap nine to the chequered flag, closely followed by car #33 in the hands of Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin. The two line-ups now lie in 2nd and 4th, respectively, in the Driver standings, while BMW is a tied leader in the Manufacturer ranking.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse was a happy man after the race: “Two wins with double podiums in our first three races with the BMW M4 GT3s if we count the 24 Hours of Dubai: it’s not a bad start of the season! In Bathurst too, we had a good race, we just missed some top speed, and now we are fighting at the top of the Intercontinental GT Challenge standings, both in the Driver and Manufacturer rankings. I am very happy with how things went here at Kyalami, it was a faultless race by everybody, and it was close racing throughout the race, either car could have won.”

The team worked intensively in all the sessions leading to qualifying, to perfectly fine-tune the balance of the cars on this demanding track. In qualifying, which involved all six drivers, car #32 was able to take second-fastest securing a spot in the first row, with car #33 being third-fastest.

It was a hot start to the race, with temperatures reaching over 30°C and the opening laps were closely-fought. Sheldon van der Linde lost P2 to teammate Augusto Farfus but was able to retrieve the position in lap six, and three laps later, he stole the lead from the Gruppe M Mercedes, which was to be passed by Farfus shortly after. The three top cars pulled away, remaining very close to one another.

Charles Weerts and Philipp Eng took the wheel of the two BMW M4 GT3s at the first pit stop, followed by Dries Vanthoor and Maxime Martin at the next pit stop. The first half of the race was pretty uneventful, with the BMW M Team WRT cars firmly in command and separated by a gap that never exceeded five seconds. Following a double stint by Weerts and Farfus, the race slowly entered into twilight and then total darkness, but with no major changes. The two cars performed even better and increased their advantage over competitors, given also the technical issues that hit their main rival. The only safety-car period of the race came in the last hour and spiced the final laps, as gaps were wiped out and van der Linde had to defend P1 from teammate Maxime Martin. The order though, did not change.

Sheldon van der Linde: “Every time I come home, I seem to do well! It’s my third time at the Kyalami 9 Hour and my third podium… there must be something about being in South Africa! The race was not as easy as it looked, we were largely on our own and that’s when you have to focus more, so I really tried to concentrate on each lap. It’s a great result, big respect for BMW and the team.”

Dries Vanthoor: “It was a great weekend for all of us. We really worked on the race pace since the start of the weekend and it paid off. It was close in the last 20 minutes, after the yellow, but all went well. We bounced back after Bathurst, we are improving at every race, which is good as the European season is about to start. Personally, this weekend I felt much better with the car, I sense I am adjusting to it more and more, which is good for me and for the team.”

Charles Weerts: “I am very happy for this first IGTC win for the team with the new car and for me personally. In 2020, here at Kyalami, we lost the race to BMW at the very end, so it’s nice to take a revenge and to do it with a BMW! It was a great job from everyone, and I am very pleased to see I am getting more and more comfortable with the car, it is actually very nice to drive.”

Philipp Eng: “It was a great experience to race with Team WRT for the first time, cooperation has been outstanding and so is the result, and it is always a pleasure to race on a track like Kyalami. We had a perfect race since the start, with no issues, no mistakes, no contacts… so it was a great weekend.”

Augusto Farfus: “The team executed everything perfectly and we obtained the best result possible. We knew ahead of the race that we had a good package, and everything was great: pace, pit stops and strategy. We were top of the game and I cannot think of another team than BMW M Team WRT to make this happen. It’s a very good start of the season, and very good for the championship.”

Maxime Martin: “For the team, one-two is definitely the best result we could have. We finish P2 but we had a very clean race, showed great pace, we were on the same strategy as the sister car, and there was little more we could have done. We can all be proud, it’s the best result for BMW and the team.”

Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli – Round 2
Kyalami 9 Hour, South Africa – 23-25 February 2023

Race Result
1. S.van der Linde-Vantoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) 306 laps
2. Eng-Farfus-Martin (BMW M4 GT3) + 1s778
3. Drudi-Feller-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) + 3s052
4. Aka-Marschall-Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS) + 1 lap
5. Gounon-Habul-Mettler (Mercedes AMG) + 2 laps