BMW M Team WRT had a strong final two races of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup championship at Valencia and Zandvoort, with podium finishes, class wins, and a class championship.
The GT World Challenge Sprint Cup championship consisted of ten races at five different venues in 2023, and featured shorter races with two drivers. BMW M Team WRT had four entries competing in the championship through the year, with three cars in the Pro-Cup class and one car in the Gold Cup class.
At the Valencia circuit in Spain, the #32 M4 GT3 of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts finished fifth in the Pro Cup class in race one but bounced back to take the win in race two. Amazingly, they came back from starting in thirteenth place to take that win, thanks to some caution periods, a good pit stop strategy, and great driving by Vanthoor and Weerts. “Overall, it was a positive weekend,” said Weerts. “Our qualifying positions weren’t ideal, but we somehow managed to achieve a good result with a fifth place in the first race, thanks in part to the good work of the pit crew. We made up a lot of places on Sunday as a result – and because of Dries’ good start. It feels good to be at the top again.”
The #46 M4 GT3 of Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi had a rough weekend at Valencia. They finished eighth in the Pro Cup class in race one and started from third place in race two, but Martin was forced off the track at the start of the race and the car then overheated due to grass clogging the radiator. They only completed four laps. Niklas Krütten and Calan Williams finished fourth in the Gold Cup class in their #30 M4 GT3.
In the finale at the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands in mid-October, BMW M Team WRT cars were on the podium in both races. In race one, Martin and Rossi finished third in their #46 M4 GT3 after starting from fifteenth place, with both Rossi and Martin passing several cars during each of their stints. The #32 car of Vanthoor and Weerts also finished strong with a fifth place, and the #30 car of Krütten and Williams finished second in the Gold Cup class.
Martin started from the pole in the #46 car in the final race of the year, with Calan Williams starting in second overall behind him in the #30 car. Shortly into the race, a heavy rain started which led to a caution period. At the restart, Krütten was in the overall lead in the #30 car followed by Rossi in the #46, but it was Vanthoor and Weerts who had the strongest finish of any of the BMWs, moving up to second overall and in the Pro Cup class by the end. Krütten and Williams had a fantastic race to finish third overall and win the Gold Cup class. Rossi and Martin would end up seventh after Rossi had a difficult stint in the rain.
The win in Gold Cup in the final race at Zandvoort was enough to win the Gold Cup class championship for Niklas Krütten and Calan Williams, and Team WRT finished second in the team championship in the class. Krütten and Williams had six podiums throughout the year, including four wins. “The race today was pretty interesting,” said Krütten after the final race. “Riding at the front is something we’re not too used to. The last few races were pretty difficult for us, and we weren’t sure if we could turn things around. But Calan changed everything this morning. He made it happen, and in the end… I still can’t believe we’re champions!”
In the Pro Cup class, Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts finished third in the driver’s championship and BMW M Team WRT placed second in the team championship. The drivers’ championship went to Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy Akkodis, who competed in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for ASP Team Mercedes, which won the team championship. Overall, BMW M Team WRT had ten Pro Cup podiums in ten races, including a win for the #46 car of Martin and Rossi at Misano and a win for the #32 of Vanthoor and Weerts at Valencia.
The 2024 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe championship gets back under way in early March with the official test days at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, followed by the first Endurance Cup race at Paul Ricard in early April. The Sprint Cup championship has its first race at Brands Hatch in Great Britain in early May. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy SRO]