Team WRT took its second overall win of the year in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup, in race two at Valencia, with car #32 driven by the reigning triple Sprint Cup champions Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, who also took a fifth in race one. A faultless race, perfect strategy and a superb pit stop, which was 1.6 seconds quicker than any other team in the pit lane, brought a wonderful ending to an otherwise challenging weekend for the Belgian squad. Particularly unlucky were Niklas Kruetten and Calan Williams in car #30, who will have to fight to regain the lead in the Gold Cup at the season finale in Zandvoort next month.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse commented: “Of course, it’s fantastic to have a race win, however it is a bit disappointing to race with four cars and have only one having a perfect result. But the most important thing is that the win is a team win. The guys did again a fantastic job at the pit stop, allowing us to jump from P6 to take the lead.”

Severe storms hit the Valencia region on Friday morning, impacting the schedule. The weather was dry when action started but the track was damp and greasy. In free practice and pre-qualifying, the BMW M4 GT3s suffered again in terms of pace, with only car #32 making it narrowly to the top ten in one of the sessions.

Qualifying for Race 1 confirmed the concerns, with Niklas Kruetten in #30 qualifying 14th, #32’s Charles Weerts 15th, Valentino Rossi taking #46 to 22nd and Thomas Neubauer placing #31 in 31st.

Unfortunately, the best-placed of the WRT cars fell victim to an incident right after the first corner in Race 1. Several cars made contact in the inner part of the track and one of them collected a faultless Kruetten, whose car was sent into a spin and sustained terminal damage.

At the restart, Weerts was 14th, while Rossi climbed to 20th after winning a couple of duels, and Neubauer to 24th. The pit stops were perfectly executed and after all driver changes, Dries Vanthoor had risen to sixth in #32, with Maxime Martin taking #46 to ninth position. The two Belgians would both gain one position to finish fifth and eighth, with #31 taking P16.

Qualifying for race two took place on a wet track, with Maxime Martin claiming third in #46, #32’s Dries Vanthoor 13th, while Calan Williams was 14th in #30 and #31’s Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer 34th.

Good weather came back for race two, which had a similar scenario as race one, with the safety car deployed after first lap drama. Sadly, two of the WRT cars were involved in the incidents. Williams suffered a contact and a puncture, losing one lap for repairs, while Martin was pushed wide by the #26 Audi on the straight, which forced him onto the grass. That led to a partial obstruction of the radiators and the engine getting into protection mode. The Belgian eventually made it to the pits for repairs and rejoined the race two laps down and retired immediately after.

On his side, Vanthoor had a stellar stint climbing from eighth at the restart up to sixth when he pitted for driver change, while Simmenauer was 26th and Williams a little further back, but fourth in the Gold Cup. A perfect pit stop allowed Charles Weerts to take the lead, which he kept until the end despite strong pressure from behind. Kruetten charged back to finish in the top-20 and salvage valuable points in the Gold Cup, while #31 crossed the line P29, following confusion during their pit stop.

Niklas Kruetten (car #30): “A very tough weekend for us. It started well as we had good pace compared to our sister cars. In Q1, we were the best-placed BMW and we looked forward to the race. Unfortunately, a rival, who was a bit too optimistic, crashed into an Audi which crashed into my car. The suspension damage was too severe, we couldn’t continue. Today, after a decent qualifying, it went slightly better as we made it to turn seven before the puncture… Again, a lot of time was lost, we were last but we could fight back up to 18th. Still, we have lost a lot of points but we’ll keep fighting until the end.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (#31): “It was a tough weekend for us. We started both races on the back foot due to challenging qualifying sessions, but we did what we could to recover as many positions as possible. Thanks to the crew, who worked really hard as usual, and we’ll come back stronger at the next round.”

Dries Vanthoor (car #32): “It was a very positive but difficult weekend! To end up with a win is the cherry on the cake, after yesterday’s fifth. We didn’t have easy qualifying sessions, we had some issues but luckily we could use the set-up data of car #46, which was competitive throughout the weekend and that also is part of team work in a good squad. Today, I had a good start and a good stint, and the guys at the pit stop were fantastic. We didn’t have the easiest or the luckiest season so far, we need to continue working hard, because we are improving but we still aren’t where we want to be.”

Charles Weerts (car #32): “Overall, a positive weekend. Both Dries and I were unlucky in our respective qualifying, so our starting positions were not good, but thanks once again to great pit stops we could obtain good results. Today, Dries’ stint was fantastic, and it feels good to be back on the top stop of the podium, it has been a long wait.”

Maxime Martin (car #46): “In general, the weekend was OK, we had a good pace. Of course, it is a shame to start third and not finish the race, for sure we would have been in contention for the win or at least, a podium finish. Unfortunately, the kind of incident we had at the start can happen, but it should be reviewed because people keep changing their lines and it creates a mess.”

Valentino Rossi (car #46): “Race one at the end was good, charging back to eighth. Today we had high expectations, after Maxime qualified third, but that incident at the start ruined everything. It’s a pity because we could have gone for a very good result.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup – Round 4
Valencia, Spain, 15-17 September 2023

Race 1 results:
1. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG) 38 laps
2. Costa-Vermeulen (Ferrari 296) + 0s389
3. Feller-Drudi (Audi R8 LMS) + 5s214
4. Haase-Légeret (Audi R8 LMS) + 7s708
5. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) + 9s646
8. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) + 18s490
16. Simmenauer-Neubauer (BMW M4 GT3) + 44s690
DNF Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) 0 laps (damage)

Race 2 results:
1. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) 36 laps
2. Drudi-Feller (Audi R8 LMS) + 0s870
3. Costa-Vermeulen (Ferrari 296) + 1s764
4. Légeret-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) + 2s563
5. Aka-Patrese (Audi R8 LMS) + 3s321
18. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) + 13s578 (4th in Gold Cup)
29. Neubauer-Simmenauer (BMW M4 GT3) + 30s989
DNF Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) 4 laps (damage)