The GT World Challenge Europe series held the second round of the Endurance Cup championship this past weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard in France, in a 1000-km race that ended in darkness. It wasn’t a great weekend for BMW teams in general, but a third-place finish by the ROWE Racing #98 M4 GT3 with drivers Philipp Eng, Nick Yelloly, and Marco Wittmann kept them in the lead in the points standings after winning the opening round at Monza back in April.

Qualifying didn’t go all that well for the BMW entries, on a circuit with long sweeping corners that should have suited the M4 GT3. The best BMW qualifier in the three combined qualifying sessions was the #32 Team WRT car of Dries Vanthoor, Sheldon van der Linde, and Charles Weerts, which could only manage ninth place on the grid. Pole went to the #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Thankfully for BMW fans, the M4 GT3s performed better in the race than they did in qualifying. Marco Wittmann drove a double-stint at the start of the race to move up into fourth, then handed over to Philipp Eng who moved up into second and led the race at one point. Nick Yelloly took over to finish in fourth, but the car was then classified in third after the Audi ahead of them was penalized. The win went to the #88 AKKODIS ASP Team Mercedes-AMG, with the #777 Team AlManar Mercedes-AMG in second. “Starting from eleventh we had not expected to reach first place, but we need to analyze why we had problems with our pace towards the end,” said Eng. “However, we scored some important points by finishing third and have defended our lead in the championship as we approach the biggest race of the year in the series and head to Spa-Francorchamps.”

The #98 ROWE Racing entry of Neil Verhagen, Max Hesse and Dan Harper had a strong run to finish in sixth after starting in sixteenth, while the #31 Team WRT M4 GT3 of Adam Carroll, Lewis Proctor, and Tim Whale finished a solid fifth in the Bronze Cup class. The #46 Team WRT car of Maxime Martin, Valentino Rossi, and Augusto Farfus finished in eighth, while the #32 Team WRT car of Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts, and Sheldon van der Linde had a good start to the race with Weerts moving up into fifth but was forced to retire after colliding with a Ferrari. The #30 Team WRT entry and the #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport entries both had technical issues that forced them to retire.

The next round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup is the biggest GT3 race in the world, the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium on the weekend of June 29th-July 2nd. —David Haueter

[Photos courtesy SRO, Gruppe C Photography/ROWE Racing]

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