It was a stellar weekend for the BMW WRT team at the Misano circuit in Italy, in the second round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup. BMWs secured five podium finishes among the various classes with the M4 GT3, including an overall win for the driving duo of Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi.
In the first qualifying session for race one (there are two races held per weekend), the BMWs didn’t look like they would be competitive at all. Charles Weerts was the best of the BMWs but only qualified 21st in the #32 car, with Valentino Rossi behind him in 23rd in the #46 car. The BMWs proved to be more competitive in race conditions, as Weerts moved up to 14th and Rossi to 15th by halfway through the race.
Quick pit stop work put the BMWs up a few more positions, and then Dries Vanthoor put in a truly stellar drive to move into third in the Pro class by the end of the race behind the winning Mercedes and the second place Ferrari. Maxime Martin ended up seventh in class in the #46. In the Gold Cup class, the #30 M4 GT3 of Niklas Krütten and Caleb Williams finished second the winning Audi.
The qualifying session for race two went much better for the BMWs, with Dries Vanthoor taking the pole in the #32 car and Maxime Martin in third in the #46. Vanthoor and Martin retained their positions in the opening stages of the race, but a full course caution and pit stops changed up the order as the #46 got in and out cleanly when Martin handed driving duties over to Rossi, while the #32 had a slow stop due to a stuck wheel. A quick pit stop by the WRT team also put the #31 car of Jean Baptiste Simmenauer and Thomas Neubauer into third.
Rossi put in a great drive in sweltering conditions to close out the race and get the win for himself and Martin. It was his first win in GT World Challenge Europe competition and BMWs first win in the Sprint Cup series in eight years. It was especially satisfying because the Misano circuit is just 15 kilometers from Rossi’s hometown. “It cannot be better today,” said Rossi. “Winning my first race in this championship here in Misano is really special. In Fanatec GT World Challenge, the level is high and the drivers are so fast, and we know we can be strong especially after Maxime’s qualifying, but a win is another story. The guys did a mega job in the pit stop, and I came out with five seconds advantage, and at the same time I had very good pace. I have to say thank you to my team and BMW!”
Simmenauer and Neubauer joined Rossi and Martin on the podium with a third-place finish in the #31 car, and Niklas Krütten and Caleb Williams won the Gold Cup class after finishing second in class in race one.
[Photos courtesy SRO]