In a thrilling finale of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup at Zandvoort, marked by the changing weather conditions, Team WRT netted the Driver titles (Sprint and overall) in the Gold Cup with Niklas Kruetten and Calan Williams, with the young duo taking three of the five podium finishes, as third in class for race one, and first in class, third overall in race two. Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi had done the same in race one, with the Belgian adding pole position for race two to the harvest, while Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts handed out their triple Sprint crown on Sunday, with second place behind the new overall champions.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse was satisfied at the end of the Dutch round: “There is of course, a bit of disappointment, as we won the Sprint Cup for three years in a row and this year we didn’t, but five podiums and a double title in the Gold Cup is a good way to finish the season. It has been a very interesting year, we have learnt a lot and we will come back stronger in 2024.”

The BMW M4 GT3s proved competitive on the challenging Dutch track and in different track conditions throughout free practice and pre-qualifying. In qualifying for race one, Dries Vanthoor in #32 was fifth, #46’s Valentino Rossi 15th, Niklas Kruetten 17th, and second in the Gold Cup, and Thomas Neubauer 18th.

The start of race one was given on a drying track, with the initial phases being quite tricky in terms of grip. Vanthoor had an excellent kick-off, taking third at the first corner but was blocked at the entrance of the first banking, while Valentino Rossi climbed three positions and Kruetten lost some after being forced off-track. The safety car was deployed at the end of lap one following incidents at the back of the group. The race restarted with Vanthoor in seventh and gaining one position after a beautiful duel with Vervisch, Rossi eighth, Neubauer 15th and Kruetten 18th, a situation that remained stable until the pit stops.

In the second part of the race, after another safety car period, Maxime Martin put in a couple of outstanding moves to rocket from sixth to third, conquering a podium finish, while Charles Weerts and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer both gained two positions to finish in sixth and eighth. There was bad luck for Calan Williams, who crossed the line as winner in the Gold Cup as a 5-second penalty, for a minor infringement during one of the safety car periods, demoted car #30 to third in its class.

Qualifying for race two yielded excellent results in a session marked by yellow flags in the closing moments as #46’s Maxime Martin and Calan Williams in #30 trusted the first-row positions. Charles Weerts qualified #32 in sixth and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer’s #31 in 21st.

At the start of the race, Martin pulled away easily, with Williams in third, Weerts in sixth and Simmenauer climbing up to 13th in a couple of laps. Incidents prompted the safety car out but shortly after re-start, heavy rain hit the north section of the track. Martin was among the drivers surprised by the change of grip conditions but could rejoin as second behind teammate Kruetten. The safety car was redeployed and stayed throughout the entire pit stop window, with the four WRT cars putting wet tyres on.

At the restart, on a very wet track, the BMWs stabilised in second, third and fourth with Kruetten, Vanthoor and Rossi in that order, and Neubauer an excellent ninth. Vanthoor would pass Kruetten to finish second, with the German focusing on the Gold Cup mission, while a slight off-track on the slippery asphalt dropped Rossi to seventh and tyre consumption led Neubauer to finish 13th.

Niklas Kruetten (#30): “What a weekend! We came here with a little disadvantage and thinking we could still make it. In race one, we actually won but then there was the penalty, which was caused by me and for which, I am sorry. This morning Calan did a mega job and put us in the front row and from there on, we just had to control it, which was a little bit difficult given the conditions were so changing. What to say? We brought it home and won the two championships. I’m so proud of the team, the mechanics, Calan, everyone. It’s my first year with BMW, WRT and winning straight away is very special. Now we can party!”

Calan Williams (#30): “An amazing weekend and an amazing way to finish the season, with an overall podium, a third class win and double title. It was an incredible and difficult weekend, because the weather kept changing all the time. We had a lot of ground to make up coming here, but we gave absolutely everything we’ve got and managed to come back. Today it was also special because of the overall result, and to bring home the two titles after being on the back foot is just amazing. I’m really happy and I can’t thank enough everyone in the team.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (#31): “To be honest, I am a little bit disappointed about how things went in this last weekend. After a good race one, where we finished eighth, a tyre issue in the qualifying this morning cost us a good position on the grid. Still, my stint was quite good, going from P21 to ninth, then I don’t really know what happened in the second part, and we dropped to 14th, a shame.”

Thomas Neubauer (#31): “It has been a difficult season. We got a podium early into it but from there it’s been a rollercoaster, and not what we wanted. Now it’s time to look ahead and to see what the future will bring us.”

Dries Vanthoor (#32): “It was a good ending to a weekend which wasn’t what we wanted. After race one our hopes for the championship were gone, it wasn’t a good race for our car, and we couldn’t optimise what we had. Today, with nothing to lose, we went ‘all in’ and it was nice to give a nice P2 to all the team to thank them for their hard work.”

Charles Weerts (#32): “Overall, a difficult weekend. We came here as title contenders, although we knew our chances were quite slim and some of the competitors very strong. We scored some points yesterday and today, we just went flat out. We were unlucky with traffic in qualifying, we could have been in first row, but we did a good race and got a podium, which is a nice way to finish the season.”

Maxime Martin (#46): “We had a good final weekend, which started with a podium in race one, not bad after starting 15th. Today, we were a little bit unfortunate. We started from the pole, which is always a good way to start a race, and were very strong on the dry, but I was the first one to come into the wet when it started to rain and I made a small mistake. After the pit stop, the conditions were very tricky, and eventually, we finished 7th. All in all, we had a good season in Sprint, it was more difficult in Endurance, and let’s see what the future will bring us.”

Valentino Rossi (#46): “Yesterday was very good, we took our third podium of the season and had a very good race starting from P15. We were able to come back, we did a lot of overtakes Max and I, and I am very happy with the result. Today, we could have expected more, as we started from the pole and Max was flying at the beginning, before the hard rain started. For me, it is still difficult to be consistently fast on wet tyres, and I lost time and made a small mistake. Wrapping up the year, it was a good season, we finished 5th in the Sprint Cup, I enjoyed everything lot, especially working with the team and with Max, and I still need to improve!”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup – Round 5
Zandvoort, Netherlands, 13-15 October 2023

Race 1 results:

  1. Drudi-Feller (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 32 laps
  2. Costa-Vermeulen (Ferrari 296) + 1s020
  3. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) + 2s451
  4. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG GT3) + 3s627
  5. Vervisch-Baert (Audi R8 LMS GT3) + 9s920
  6. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) +10s308

8. Simmenauer-Neubauer (BMW M4 GT3) +12s434
14. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) +18s954 (3rd in Gold Cup)

Race 2 results:

1. Drudi-Feller (Audi R8 LMS GT3) 29 laps

2. Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) + 8s563

3. Kruetten-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) +10s424 (1st in Gold Cup)

4. Mapelli-Caldarelli (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +13s696

  1. Lappalainen-Altoè (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) +16s693
  2. 7. Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) +18s236

13. Simmenauer-Neubauer (BMW M4 GT3) +32s808