It was a successful start of the 2023 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup season for Team WRT at Brands Hatch, as the squad took three overall podiums and one Gold Cup win. It will be a memorable weekend also because Valentino Rossi signed his first Fanatec GT podium by finishing second together with Maxime Martin in race two, while reigning champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts netted two third finishes. Niklas Kruetten and Calan Williams scored their maiden win in the Gold Cup in race two, finishing at an impressive seventh position overall.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse was very happy at the end of the weekend: “There are podium finishes that taste as sweet as victories, and the ones taken here are of that kind. This was our first sprint race with the new BMW M4 GT3 and we had a very positive outcome. Everybody did a great job; the drivers were fantastic and the pit stops, perfect. Obviously, Vale was very happy with his first podium, and I feel very proud that he conquered it with us and in a sprint race. I also want to stress the great weekend of our young guys in the Gold Cup, who won race two taking a great seventh overall. On the whole, we lacked top-speed pace with respect to some of our competitors, and we will have to focus on improving in that area.”

It was not an easy start to the weekend for the BMW M4 GT3s, as they were struggling with pace and remained in the second third of the time sheets of the two free practice sessions. In qualifying for race one, things got better for car #32, with Charles Weerts qualifying fifth, while Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (#31), Valentino Rossi (#46) and Calan Williams (#30) took 18th, 20th and 21st on the grid, respectively.

Race one, with no major incidents and no yellow periods, was a typical Brands Hatch race, with almost no possibility to overtake. Weerts stabilized in sixth position after the start, while Simmenauer was able to climb to 17th and Williams was running 21st, fourth in the Gold Cup. The four cars maintained those positions up to the pit stop, with Weerts and Rossi pitting in lap 19, one lap earlier than their teammates. Timely and perfect pit stops allowed Vanthoor to be third at the beginning of the second stint, with Neubauer 14th right ahead of Martin and Kruetten. The Belgian reduced significantly the gap with the two leaders but positions did not change for any of the Team WRT cars.

After post-race one decisions, Maxime Martin got promoted from fifth to third on the grid of race two, while Kruetten also gained a position up to eighth, with Vanthoor 13th and Neubauer 21st.

At the start of race two, Martin managed to fight for the lead but couldn’t materialise, and kept very close to the leaders in the first part of the race, while Vanthoor climbed up to ninth after swapping positions with Kruetten, and Neubauer was 15th. In lap 14, shortly before the opening of the pit stop window, the safety car had to intervene to allow the recovery of a car from the gravel trap. At the restart, Neubauer managed to gain one position.

Vanthoor and Neubauer dived into the pits as soon as the window opened, followed later by Martin and Kruetten. Another perfect pit stop allowed Rossi and Weerts to be in second and third at the beginning of the second stint, while Williams was seventh and leading the Gold Cup and Simmenauer dropped to 18th after suffering a spin. The closing laps remained uneventful for Rossi and Williams, while Weerts had to fight to retain his third position, and Simmenauer finished 15th despite being sent off-track by a rival.

Valentino Rossi (#46): “I am so happy about this second position and first podium! We got close some times last year and in Monza at the start of the season, and finally, it came. We all did a good job, the team, myself and Maxime, who put a mega lap time in qualifying. The pit stops were perfect, and the result is this podium, which is even more rewarding, as Sprint Cup races are more difficult.”

Maxime Martin (#46): “To finish second is of course a very good result. I had a clean start [to race two] and could stay in third position. The pace was good and improved after the safety car. We had a very good pit stop and Vale did a fantastic stint, bringing the car home safely. It’s the first podium for Vale and the first in Sprint for me, so we are very happy and I think we can aim at more good results during the season.”

Dries Vanthoor (#32): “A double podium is a very good result, and, honestly, more than what we expected after qualifying, when we were hoping to be in the top five. In race two, I had a good start and later the safety car helped a bit, but it’s really a team effort, with the boys doing great pit stops in both races. Looking at the whole season, the Sprint Cup will be a good challenge for us, but this weekend proves that if we fight hard, prepare well, and don’t give up, we can do well.”

Charles Weerts (#32): “I am very happy with the result. Honestly, I did not think we could take two podiums today, but we did a great job and could extract the maximum out of both races. I want to thank the mechanics because they did a super job in the two pit stops. We are now second in the standings, not far from the top, and that is great news.”

Calan Williams (#30): “It’s a great way to start the season in the Sprint Cup, with a win. I’m really happy with that, the team did a great job all weekend and the car was great. We showed we have the pace on track and in the pit stops, and that allowed us to have these great results.”

Nicklas Kruetten (#30): “We didn’t know what to expect since neither Calan nor I had raced here before, but I felt comfortable with the car since free practice one and we only had to do some set-up adjustments. In the high-speed corners, the car was really very good. For race two, I qualified strong, we managed to have a clean race, the team made a perfect pit stop and called us in at the right moment. That’s how we won the race and I think that if we keep going like this, we will have more opportunities this year to win races and hopefully the title.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup – Round 1
Brands Hatch, United Kingdom, 14 May 2023

Race 1 results:

1. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG GT3) 42 laps

2. Drudi-Feller (Audi R8 LMS) + 0s616

3. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) + 3s683

4. Légeret-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) +27s432

5. Lappalainen-Altoè (Ferrari 296 GT3) +28s251

14. Neubauer-Simmenauer (BMW M4 GT3) +58s883
15. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) +59s241
16. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) +59s703 (4th in Gold)

Race 2 results:

1. Drudi-Feller (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 41 laps
2. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) + 3s769
3. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) + 4s659
4. Goethe-Kjaergaard (McLaren 720S GT3) + 5s317
5. Légeret-Haase (Audi R8 LMS GT3) + 7s692
7. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) +15s108 (1st in Gold)
15. Neubauer-Simmenauer (BMW M4 GT3) +45s259