It was not the luckiest Paul Ricard 1000km for Team WRT to say the least. In the second-longest race of the year for the Fanatec GT World Endurance Cup, only two cars of the Belgian squad made it to the finish, scoring a handful of points: Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi finished eighth overall, while Adam Carroll, Lewis Proctor and Tim Whale took fifth in the Bronze Cup.

Unfortunately, the two other cars were forced to retire whilst fighting for podium positions, in overall, in the case of car #32 with Sheldon Van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, and in the Gold Cup, for car #30 of Nicklas Kruetten, Calan Williams and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer. They suffered damage from contact and a mechanical issue, respectively.

Team Principal Vincent Vosse was disappointed after the race: “What a tough weekend for us, we have a lot to learn from it. The competition here was particularly strong, especially the Mercedes, but we still could have hoped for good results. Unfortunately, two cars were put out of contention, number #32 because of a race incident and #30 by a technical issue that we need to identify and analyse. Let’s focus now on Spa, focus on what we have to sort out and hope for better results there.”

With a field of 57 cars, it was clear that the weekend was going to be extremely competitive. On a track with very long straights, the BMW M4 GT3s struggled with top speed in free practice and pre-qualifying. Still, in qualifying, car #32 managed to take ninth on the grid, with car #46 in 20th after a puncture in Vale’s run, caused by contact from a competitor in the pit lane. Car #30 qualified fourth in the Gold Cup and car #31 in 16th among Bronze cars.

At the start, Charles Weerts climbed two positions and Valentino Rossi dropped one, with Calan Williams and Tim Whale advancing through the field. Still, the safety car was deployed at the end of the first lap following incidents at the back of the group. After the re-start, Weerts managed to pass two Ferraris and climb to fifth before stabilising in sixth place during his second consecutive stint and starting an epic battle with an Audi. Rossi had a perfect double stint climbing up to 14th, with Williams taking second in the Gold Cup and Whale making a very solid double stint, finishing eighth in the Bronze class.

In the closing moments of the second hour a first blow hit the Belgian squad, as Weerts was forced to retire following a slight contact with a Ferrari which broke the steering of car #32. Sadly, another disappointment came a few laps later, when Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, who had taken over the wheel of car #30 shortly before, was forced to stop on track, with a suspected engine issue.

The two remaining cars had a relatively quiet rest of the race. Car #46 had to serve a five-second penalty for track limits at the second pit stop, which made Augusto Farfus drop momentarily from 10th to 17th, but he then rejoined the top 10. In car #31, Lewis Proctor did the middle double stint, remaining in the Bronze class top 10.

In the final two hours, Maxime Martin climbed to eighth, which would be the final position of car #46, while Adam Carroll had a similar progression, up to fifth in class.

Calan Williams (car #30): “We definitely had good pace, fighting for second in the class in my double stint. It’s a pity to lose the car the way we did it, we are still not sure of what happened, it’s just one of these unlucky things. Now, we’re looking forward to Spa! We’ll definitely be up there in the Gold class and we’ll have another chance to show what we can do.”

Lewis Proctor (car #31): “A good weekend, we learned a lot about the car and we’ll go to Spa well-prepared. Quali was a struggle but the guys did an amazing job! Tim and Adam had very strong stints, we started 15th and finished fifth, not far from the podium. So, if we can start higher in Spa, we could definitely fight for a podium finish.”

Charles Weerts (Car #32): “The incident was unfortunate. Our two cars were side-by-side, I tried to cut back and we slightly touched. It wasn’t a big hit actually, but obviously at the wrong spot. After that, the steering didn’t work anymore. It’s a real shame as we had a good chance to achieve a strong result, but it is what it is. We’ll now focus on the next race at Spa.”

Valentino Rossi (car #46): “At the end, we finish eighth, it is not a bad result, as we started from P20. Obviously, we wanted more, but we finished in the top 10 after a good race which is good preparation ahead of Spa.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup – Round 2
Circuit Paul Ricard 1000, Le Castellet, France – 2-3 June 2023

1. Marciello-Boguslavskiy-Gounon (Mercedes AMG GT3)         183 laps

2. Stolz-Engel-Schiller (Marcedes AMG GT3)                               +9s883

3. Yelloly-Wittmann-Eng (BMW M4 GT3)                                     +17s313

4. Mies-Niederhauser-Gachet (Audi R8 LMS)                             +18s279

5. Fuoco-Serrar-Rigon (Ferrari 296 GT3)                                       +26s773

8. Farfus-Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3)                                   +1m36s709

25. Carroll-Proctor-Whale (BMW M4 GT3)                             +3 laps (5th in Bronze)

DNF Kruetten-Simmenauer-Williams (BMW M4 GT3)       +65 laps (mechanical)

DNF Van der Linde-Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3)       +55 laps (damage)