A third place finish in the Gold Cup kickstarted Team WRT’s year in the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, with Nicklas Kruetten, Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and Calan Williams finishing third after some hard-fought battles around the Temple of Speed. In the Bronze class, Adam Carroll, Lewis Proctor and Tim Whale took ninth.

On the other side of the garage, it was an unlucky start to the season for BMW M Team WRT. In the Endurance Cup, the Pro cars of the Belgian squad proved very competitive in qualifying and in the race. However, punctures ruined the final results of both cars #32 and #46 while they were in contention for top honors and even the win. Sheldon Van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, who eventually finished 6th in #32, while Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi had to retire #46.

Summing up the weekend, BMW M Team WRT boss Vincent Vosse, commented: “First of all, congratulations to ROWE Racing for their success today. It certainly was a challenging weekend, but the positive side is that our Pro cars were fighting at the front and that we were in a position to challenge the sister cars of ROWE, which has more experience than us with the BMW M4 GT3. That’s already an achievement. Then there were these two punctures and it was just unfortunate because they both appear to have been caused by debris. I am very happy with the great work by the team and the good results in the classes of cars #30 and #31, and was impressed by the pace of Vale in his stint. It may come as a surprise to some, but not to us. All in all, there were a lot of good things, the result is disappointing and I am disappointed, but I can’t say it was a bad weekend. Now, heads down and onto the next one!”

It was not an easy start to the weekend for all the BMW teams, as all the M4 GT3s struggled in free practice. The good work of the engineers and the necessary adjustments made by the technical bureau of the championship led to a more balanced situation on Sunday morning, but this is where other problems intervened, as an electrical glitch hit the circuit’s system, forcing the cancellation of the third qualifying session. The grid was established on the results of an average of Q1 and Q2 times, with car #46 of Farfus, Martin and Rossi making it to the first row and car #32 of Van der Linde, Vanthoor and Weerts right behind, as third-fastest. Car #30 of Kruetten, Simmenauer and Williams qualified sixth in the Gold Cup and car #31 of Carroll, Proctor and Whale ninth among Bronze competitors.

The start of the three-hour race was quieter than expected, considering the 55 cars on the grid, but it wasn’t long before the safety car had to be deployed following contact at the back of the grid. Valentino Rossi, now in third, remained just ahead of Sheldon van der Linde, while Lewis Proctor and Nicklas Kruetten were both second in their classes, lying in strong positions overall, 15th and 16th, respectively. After the restart and another full-course yellow period, Rossi, who had put in a ultra-impressive run, held strong in third, achieving the fastest lap of the race’s first stint, but a small error at the first chicane in lap 28 made him drop to 14th. The car was the first one to come in for the regular pit stop, in lap 31, but Augusto Farfus had to return to the pits after a few laps following a high-speed puncture. The car sustained diffuser damage and retired.

Car #32 ran second in the second stint, with Charles Weerts within a second from the leader, while Calan Williams, running ninth overall, was fighting hard to keep the lead in the Gold Cup, losing it only late in his stint. Podium hopes were lost for car #31 within the first set of stops, as the car controller of a rival team stood in the path of Lewis Proctor, impeding an optimal pit stop and the crew lost 30 seconds repositioning the M4 GT3. Tim Whale was then kept busy, as he battled hard to remain within the top-ten of the Bronze Cup. In the meantime, at the front of the race, traffic allowed the leader to take some breathing space ahead of Weerts, but the gap went back to a little over a second at the beginning of the final hour, with Dries Vanthoor at the wheel. Unfortunately, the Belgian was also a victim of a puncture, a slow one in this case, having to make an unscheduled stop in lap 65. Vanthoor was denied the chance to fight for the podium, but charged back in his usual style to take sixth. In the Gold Cup, Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer fought to retain a podium finish third, while Adam Carroll climbed back up the order to ninth in the Bronze Cup.

Nicklas Kruetten, #30: “Overall, a positive weekend. I started 15th, there was a lot of pressure in the opening laps but was happy to keep up with the Pro cars in front of me. Later, we struggled a bit with the car, we need to understand what happened, but a podium finish in the first round is a good result.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, #30: “It was nice to go back racing and was happy to work with my new teammates. Together, we did a good job and could get a podium finish. There is still work to do and things to improve, but overall it is a very positive start of the season.”

Calan Williams, #30: “Obviously, finishing on the podium is nice but I think we had the potential for more. From my side, I still have a bit of work to do, in terms of race pace management, and that will be my priority going into the next races.”

Lewis Proctor, #31: “I was very happy with qualifying this morning, we showed good pace. Obviously, I knew it was going to be a tough journey, as I had never been to Monza and had to learn the track in one session. Unsurprisingly, the race was a bit of a struggle, with some overdriving, but also a lot of valuable things learned for the rest of the season and some valuable points.”

Charles Weerts, #32: “The week did not start well for us, we lacked pace, but then things went in our direction. We had a good qualifying and stayed up there in the front during most of the race. In my stint, I had to cope with traffic but I stayed close to the leading BMW and we always were in contention for a top result. Unfortunately, there was the puncture at the end, but that’s racing.”

Valentino Rossi, #46: “It’s a bad result, but a good weekend, as we proved that we are strong and have good potential. We had a good qualifying and a good first part of the race. Unfortunately, I did a small mistake at the first chicane when the stint was almost over and lost a lot of time before I could put back first gear after falling in neutral. Then there was the puncture and the race was over, it’s a shame because we had the potential for a good result.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup – Round 1
Monza, Italy, 21-23 April 2023

Race results:

  1. Eng-Wittmann-Yelloly (BMW M4 GT3) 94 laps
  2. Harper-Verhagen-Hesse (BMW M4 GT3) +13s557
  3. Bortolotti-Caldarelli-Pepper (Lamborghini Huracan) +20s183
  4. Mies-Niederhauser-Gachet (Audi R8 LMS) +20s699
  5. Feller-Drudi-Marschall (Audi R8 LMS) +36s875

6. Van der Linde-Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) +44s961
12. Kruetten-Simmenauer-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) +1m04s881 (3rd in Gold)
29. Carroll-Proctor-Whale (BMW M4 GT3) +1 lap (10th in Bronze)
DNF Farfus-Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) 30 laps (damage)

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10 months ago

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