An unforgettable day, inspiring encounters, and €12,500 raised for the Fondation Arthritis and Ulrich Meinzer’s project in partnership with the Pasteur Institute. Team WRT now supports research on juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a chronic inflammation of the joints affecting children under 16 years old.

Last Saturday, Anna, Joe, and Timo, along with Lionel Comole, spent the day with Team WRT to get a close-up view of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After meeting Kathleen Schurmans, the youngsters enjoyed a tour of the team’s facilities by Charles Weerts, reserve driver in WEC and a well-known member of the Belgian team. The rest of the day included a delicious lunch in the VIP hospitality area, a stroll through the paddock, and witnessing the start of this legendary race. The Foundation was also present with one of the four Fun Cups, entered for this race only by Team WRT, the official manufacturer of these cars. It was car #527 that raced in the Fondation’s colours during the four-hour Friday morning race, achieving a 3rd place in the women’s category.

As planned, the Belgian team raised funds for each car participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, totaling 62 cars and 12,500 euros. This amount was collected through donations from the team and its parent company, the Weerts Group. Other partners also contributed, such as Skechers, which donated a pair of sports shoes to each child, and BMW, which provided a LEGO set allowing the youngsters to build their own BMW M4 GT3 and BMW M Hybrid V8, to cherish as a memory of this day.

All donations will directly support Ulrich Meinzer’s research project, advancing studies on juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Ulrich Meinzer specialises in paediatric rheumatology. The project explores the link between the gut microbiome and inflammatory mechanisms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, focusing on peptidoglycan, a bacterial molecule. By understanding how this component influences the disease, the aim is to improve diagnosis and treatment of arthritis in young people.

Following this magnificent project, Team WRT received the "Coup de Coeur" award, one of the distinctions of the "Sustainability Award" presented by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). This award, which recognises teams involved in environmental and/or social projects, is given annually during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This day brought stars to the eyes of Anna, Joe, and Timo, as well as their parents and Lionel, who also struggle every day to provide a better life for their children and all other young people suffering from this disease. This encounter was truly inspiring for the entire team. It must be said that 'United by Tenacity' was truly the motto of this weekend, both for the young people and for Team WRT. Despite the challenges of their daily lives and those of this demanding weekend for the team, team spirit, mutual assistance, and support for one another remain present. The union between the Fondation Arthritis and Team WRT will certainly continue. The WRT family now has four new members: Anna, Joe, Timo, and Lionel.

Kathleen Schurmans, co-CEO of Team WRT: "We had the privilege of hosting Timo, Anna, and Joe, who suffer greatly from their arthritis, for a VIP day. These brave youngsters radiate so much positive energy that it was a real pleasure for us. Their joy and enthusiasm were a source of inspiration for the entire team, and we hope to extend this wonderful encounter long-term. Additionally, receiving the ‘Coup de Coeur’ award for the project was a tremendous recognition of our efforts to bring warmth and support to those who need it most. These strong moments remind us of the importance of commitment and solidarity in everything we undertake".

Lionel Comole, General Director of the Fondation Arthritis: "Stars in their eyes, the magnificent pure of an engine pushed to its maximum, the emotions of competition, and that fierce determination to reach the end of the race at all costs. This is what these children experienced, amazed by this unique world. The greatest race in the world has given them the certainty that their will and passion will be the keys to their own lives, certainly more challenging than others', but undoubtedly filled with hope."

A few words received after this splendid day…

Auriane, Joe’s mother: "Joe and I wanted to thank you for this incredible and unforgettable day! A big thank you for this immersion, for your generosity, your kindness, and especially for your gentleness. Our children (and us parents) had stars in our eyes all day. So thank you for being able to share this great moment with you!"

Jessica, Anna’s mother: "A thousand thanks for your warm welcome during our weekend at Le Mans. Anna came back delighted and has already built the 2 LEGO cars, which now proudly sit in her library... and congratulations on your well-deserved 2nd place with all the hard work put in by the entire team!"

Timo: "I wanted to thank you for the time you gave us even though this week required a lot of attention. It was a real pleasure to share these 24 Hours of Le Mans with such a friendly and kind team. Of course, this collaboration means a lot to us, young people with disabilities, in terms of hope, as any contribution to research is valuable, whether through Lionel who continues to seek solutions to help us as best as possible, or through you without whom none of this would have been possible. So thank you again Kathleen, Léa, and Luna. Finally, congratulations on the GT3 podium, which was undoubtedly a great performance given the challenging conditions of this race. I wish you the best for the next steps. We have made fantastic memories with you and I hope to see you again one day around this iconic circuit or another."