It was a memorable weekend of glory for Team WRT at Misano in the second round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup, as Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin took a dominant victory in race two, in the heat of the Italian track. A historic win for the legendary Italian driver, who signed his first Fanatec GT win in front of his fans, at his home track and where he won many times on two wheels. There was more satisfaction for the Belgian squad as two other overall podium finishes were netted by Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, with a third place in race one, and by Thomas Neubauer and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, claiming third in race two. Calan Williams and Niklas Kruetten rounded the results, taking their second Gold Cup Sprint win and a second place.

Team Principal Vincent Vosse could not hide his feelings after the race: “We went through a lot of emotions this weekend, and it’s a very emotional moment now. After a frustrating first qualifying yesterday, we had a great come back in race one with cars #32 and #30, which got onto their respective podiums, third overall and second in the Gold Cup. Then this Sunday, we took pole position and a spot on the second row. We won the race with Vale and Maxime, took one more overall podium with car #31, won in the Gold Cup and won the Pit Stop Challenge thanks to our impressive crews. Misano has always been a special place for us, we have had great success here in the past, but winning here with Vale is really something different.  On a more personal note, I would like to dedicate this win to my mum, who on top of having always supported me in everything I did, is a great fan of Vale since his MotoGP days, and is very, very happy today!”

The free practice session was promising, as the four cars of Team WRT made it to the top-20, with car #32 third-fastest and car #31 ninth, but the better top speed pace of rivals materialised from pre-qualifying onwards. In the qualifying for race one, the best-placed was #32’s Charles Weerts in P22, with Valentino Rossi placing #46 in P24, and #30’s Niklas Kruetten #30 in P35, right ahead of Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer with car #31.

Race one was going to be a recovery exercise for all Team WRT drivers, and that is what they did perfectly, avoiding trouble and climbing positions, often with great moves and heated duels. Shortly before the pit stop, Weerts was already 14th, Rossi 16th, Kruetten 18th and third in the Gold Cup, and Simmenauer 25th. The pit stops were perfectly executed, in laps 17 and 18, and allowed to gain further positions, while Dries Vanthoor set the fastest lap of the race shortly after taking the wheel.

After all driver changes, Vanthoor was sixth and Martin ninth, while Williams took second in the Gold Cup, running 15th overall, and Neubauer was 18th. There were more fierce battles for all of them, with Vanthoor gaining an incredible three positions in the final laps to finish on the podium. Martin crossed the line in eighth, Williams 12th, securing second in the Gold Cup, and Neubauer 15th.

On Sunday, with temperatures nearing 40 degrees celsius and 63 degrees on track, things changed drastically. Dries Vanthoor took pole position for race two, with Martin qualifying third, Neubauer ninth, and Williams second in the Gold Cup.

Everything went well in the first part of the race, with Vanthoor building a 2-second lead overall and Martin keeping third, while Neubauer climbed up to 7th and Williams took the Gold Cup lead shortly before a safety car period right ahead of the driver changes. The pit stop didn’t go as expected for the leading #32 car, but Valentino Rossi emerged first after all changes and posted the provisional fastest lap of the race. Progressively, his gap reached five seconds, with  Simmenauer an excellent third and Weerts in ninth. Kruetten, on his side, held station in the lead of the Gold Cup. Nothing got in the way of the WRT drivers, which signed a sensational team success.

Niklas Kruetten (car #30): “It is a really positive weekend, difficult to predict after a difficult qualifying. But in the races, the set-up was so good and much better than our rivals. Today we had a difficult pit stop, but it didn’t prevent us to win. We scored very good points and we’ll try to keep it going as it is.”

Calan Williams (car #30): “The weekend started tricky in qualifying, it looked as if it was going to be a difficult weekend, but we kept working and pushing hard and in the end, second and first in the class, are very good results. It’s great, we are now leading the championship in the Gold Cup. On my side, there are still things I need to work on, the pace was good but I did a mistake during the driver change, I take responsibility for this, it’s a pity because we could have comfortably finished in the top 10 and even the top five overall.”

Thomas Neubauer (car #31): “P3 overall in race two is a positive result and a good way to finish the weekend, after the difficulties we had in qualifying and race one to find the right pace. Today, we had a good start and an excellent pit stop, thank you to the mechanics for all their good work. After a difficult start of the season, today I can finally leave a track with a smile on my face.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (#31): “It’s our first overall podium of the season, it feels very good after yesterday’s race. I am very pleased with how things went today, Thomas did a great job, the pit stop was perfect, and I just had to bring the car home.”

Dries Vanthoor (car #32): “In general, it’s been a positive weekend for us. Knowing the car, we were not expecting a lot from Misano, but we are working in the right direction and the car is improving at every race. We showed we have a very strong car, finishing third yesterday after starting from P21. I really had some fun in yesterday’s race and today, with the pole and a good first stint, we proved again that we are here. Unfortunately, a mistake in the pit stop cost us the victory, but there is nothing to complain about or anyone to blame. We still have the best crews of the whole paddock, they have helped us so many times achieve great things, and today is our turn to support them.”

Charles Weerts (car #32): “Overall, a good weekend, considering where we came from in qualifying, where we had some issues. We managed to pull out a great race one, it was a good team effort, and got a well-deserved podium. Today, it started well with the pole position, a great stint from Dries, but unfortunately, the safety car erased the gap, then we had some issues in the pit stop, which is very unusual at WRT, but it just shows that we are all human. I feel lucky to work with such amazing guys and with Dries, today we still managed to salvage some points, and so let’s move to the next one.”

Maxime Martin (car #46): “It’s definitely a fantastic weekend! We struggled a little bit yesterday but we came back in race one, with a good result. Today, I qualified well, which allowed us to stay with the front-runners, the pit stop was perfect, our crew won the Pit Stop Challenge, and Vale finished the job. For sure, if we were to choose one race to win, Vale would have said ‘Misano’, so we couldn’t dream for a better result. I am also very happy for BMW, as it is since 2015 they hadn’t won a sprint race. I was in that car, at Nogaro, with Dirk Müller, and it’s great to prove the brand is back also in sprint races.” 

Valentino Rossi (car #46): “I cannot be happier. To win here at Misano is very special. We knew we could be strong, but winning is another story! I won my first GT race at Road to Le Mans, but this is different, as this is our main championship, the level is so high and there are so many fast drivers. It all started one and a half years ago, with Vincent, with the entire WRT team, and this is a great achievement. Everybody did a mega job, Maxime, the boys, and I thank everybody and BMW. I’m enjoying the moment and let’s continue like this.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup – Round 2
Misano Adriatico, Italy, 15-16 July 2023

Race 1 results:

  1. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG GT3)            38 laps
  2. Altoè-Lappainen (Ferrari 296 GT3)                              + 7s461
  3. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3)                                 +15s909
  4. Vervisch-Baert (Audi R8 LMS)                                         +18s057
  5. Costa-Vermeulen (Ferrari 296 GT3)                                +18s438

8.   Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3)                                         +28s043
11. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3)                                +34s808 (2nd in Gold)
15. Simmenauer-Neubauer (BMW M4 GT3)                       +44s057

Race 2 results:

1. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3)                                           36 laps

2. Légeret-Haase (Audi R8 LMS)                                           + 4s743
3. Neubauer-Simmenauer (BMW M4 GT3)                        + 6s105
4. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG GT3)                  +10s644
5. Costa-Vermeulen (Ferrari 296 GT3)                                  +11s618

9. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3)                                    +16s789
12. Kruetten-Williams
(BMW M4 GT3)                                +24s562 (1st in Gold)