The third round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup, held at the Hockenheimring, was an intense and fiercely fought one. Team WRT leaves Germany with a good harvest of valuable points, thanks to a total of five top-ten finishes, but also with the frustration of seeing competitors benefitting from a stronger pace. The biggest satisfactions for the Belgian team came in Race 1, where Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts took an overall podium (third) and Niklas Kruetten and Calan Williams signed another brilliant win in the Gold Cup, where they hold their station as class leaders.

Good work was done during the practice sessions although the BMW M4 GT3s were again confronted with a lack of top pace with respect to the front-runners. On top, qualifying for race 1 was marred with lap times deleted because of track limits. Charles Weerts in car #32 was WRT’s best performer in 10th position and #30’s Niklas Kruetten third-fastest in the Gold Cup and P16 overall. Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer in #31 and #46’s Valentino Rossi were among the ones seeing some of their times deleted, and qualified in positions 33 and 35, respectively.

The first part of Race 1 was disrupted by two yellow periods in the early stages, however it did not prevent all four WRT cars from climbing positions. After the second restart, Weerts was sixth, Kruetten seventh and leading the Gold rankings, Simmenauer 19th and Rossi, 28th. Perfect pit stops for all cars allowed further progress, with Dries Vanthoor taking third, Calan Williams sixth (and firmly in the lead of the Gold Cup), Thomas Neubauer ninth and Maxime Martin 15th. Maxime then went on to have a super strong stint, gain further positions and finish the race in eighth position, three spots ahead of Neubauer, while Williams secured the Gold Cup win and fifth overall. The attention though focused on the fierce final duel for third between Vanthoor and the Ferrari of Vermeulen, with the Belgian resisting to all the attacks of the Dutchman. In the final corner though the Ferrari managed to pass through after pushing the BMW off-track, a move that was sanctioned after the race, which reinstated Vanthoor on the podium.

Qualifying for Race 2 saw Martin and Vanthoor taking the fourth row, as seventh and eighth, with Williams in P12 (2nd in the Gold Cup) and Neubauer 17th. With a great start, Martin climbed up to fourth, but the safety car was out before the end of the first lap. When the race resumed, Martin gained one position up to 3rd, Vanthoor was 7th and Neubauer 13th, while Williams had to pit for a puncture after a contact, that cost him also a 5-second penalty. All WRT cars made early pit stops, with Weerts in fourth after all driver changes, ahead of Rossi. In the course of the stint, though, they had to concede one and two positions, respectively, finishing fifth and seventh. Simmenauer crossed the line in 11th and Kruetten was fourth in the Gold Cup, collecting more useful championship points.

Niklas Kruetten (car #30): “Pace-wise it was one of the best weekends we had so far. In Race 1, we won the class and took our best overall finish of the season. Today we were as competitive but unfortunately, there was the puncture which forced us to the back. We can still be proud of the pace and let’s carry Saturday’s momentum to the next rounds.”

Calan Williams (car #30): “A good weekend for us, especially in Race 1, with a class win and a great overall result. We had good pace the whole weekend but today there was this contact resulting in an extra pit stop, and in a Sprint race you can’t recover 40 seconds…”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (#31): “It was a quite difficult weekend, we tried our best to improve the situation during the races, but this time it didn’t really work today. Now, head up, let’s try to improve our weak points and focus on Valencia.”

Dries Vanthoor (car #32): “In general, a disappointing weekend, we never had a chance to fight with the others. We took some good points, we can be happy about that, we took the maximum out of the situation. Still, it’s disappointing, we lacked the speed. So, on to the next one.”

Charles Weerts (car #32): “It was a tricky weekend, with no pace at all. We still take some points, with a third yesterday and a fourth today. It’s really difficult to race when you are off pace with other manufacturers, the only thing you can do is to maximise the points you can score and we are still in the fight for the championship, but it will be complicated to continue to fight if we are always off-pace compared to the other constructors. Still, the team did an amazing job as always and I want to thank them for that.”

Maxime Martin (car #46): “Finishing both races in the top-10 is not bad, especially in Race 1, where we went from P35 to eighth, which is amazing. Today we started seventh and finished seventh, but it is still a good result. We lost some time in the pit stop and suffered tyre degradation at the end of every stint.”

Valentino Rossi (car #46): “It was a good weekend although we suffered more than at Brands Hatch and Misano with tyre degradation. Race 1 was great, climbing back to eighth, Maxime did an amazing job. Today we certainly expected more but we lost five seconds in the pit stop and the second part of the race was tough. Still, we take good points.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup – Round 3
Hockenheim, Germany, 1st-3rd September 2023

Race 1 results:

  1. Feller-Drudi (Audi R8 LMS) 34 laps
  2. Vervisch-Baert (Audi R8 LMS) + 6s614
  3. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) +14s332
  4. Vermeulen-Costa (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +15s140
  5. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) +15s436 (1st in Gold)

8. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) +24s480
11. Simmenauer-Neubauer (BMW M4 GT3) +34s614

Race 2 results:

1. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG GT3) 35 laps

2. Légeret-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) + 7s049
3. Bastard-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) + 7s774
4. Feller-Drudi (Audi R8 LMS) +11s949
5. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) +17s306
7. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) +19s125
11. Neubauer-Simmenauer (BMW M4 GT3) +35s467
31. Kruetten-Williams
(BMW M4 GT3) +1m23s361 (4th in Gold)