The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe (GTWCE) championship held its first race of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard in France on the weekend of April 4-7, 2-24, with a four-hour Endurance Cup round, becoming a great weekend for the ROWE Racing BMW team.

There was no shortage of BMW M4 GT3s entered at Circuit Paul Ricard, with two each entered from ROWE Racing and BMW M Team WRT in the top Pro Cup class. They joined entries from Century Motorsport and Oman Racing in the Bronze Cup class. Overall, there were 54 cars in the entire field among four classes (Pro Cup, Gold Cup, Silver Cup, and Bronze Cup), which is far more than the numbers we’re seeing in the GT World Challenge America series here in the US, which only had 13 entries in the opening round at Sonoma.

GTWCE holds three qualifying sessions (one for each of the drivers), with the grid determined by the combined average time of the three. The fastest BMW in qualifying was the #998 ROWE Racing M4 GT3 (shown in top photo) driven by Augusto Farfus, Dan Harper and Max Hesse in fifth, around four-tenths off the pole of the #63 Lamborghini. The BMW M Team WRT #46 M4 GT3 of Maxime Martin, Rafaelle Marciello, and Valentino Rossi was right behind in sixth, with the #32 WRT car of Dries Vanthoor, Sheldon van der Linde, and Charles Weerts in seventh. The #98 ROWE Racing M4 GT3 of Philipp Eng, Nick Yelloly, and Marco Wittmann qualified tenth.

The #98 BMW of Nick Yelloly, Philipp Eng and Marco Wittmann was running for a podium finish until an issue in the pits.

Once the race got underway, the #998 and #98 BMWs quickly moved to the front and were running in second and third behind the leading #63 Lamborghini before the race reached half-distance. Dan Harper was putting relentless pressure on the Lamborghini when he took over from Farfus, and it paid off when the Lamborghini went wide in one corner and Harper swept past on the inside to take the lead. The BMW held that lead until the end to take the win, with Max Hesse setting the fastest race lap in the process. The #98 BMW was pressuring the #63 Lamborghini for second place before pit stops, but unfortunately had a fueling issue during the stop that cost them time and set them back. They ultimately finished in twelfth. The #46 BMW M Team WRT M4 GT3 had a strong race to finish just off the podium in fourth after a strong final stint from Raffaele Marciello, where he passed the #96 Porsche late in the race to take fourth.

The #46 M4 GT3 of Maxime Martin, Raffaele Marciello and Valentino Rossi finished in fourth.

The #32 BMW M Team WRT car had an accident early in the race, when Charles Weerts was hit by a Ferrari, leading to a flat tire which came apart and tore the left rear bodywork of the car apart. In the Bronze Cup class, the #30 M4 GT3 of Jens Klingmann, Ahmad Al Harthy and Sam de Haan finished sixth in class, while the #991 Century Motorsport M4 GT3 of Darren Leung, Toby Sowery and Jake Dennis had a DNF for an unspecified issue with the car after qualifying fifth in class and leading the class at one point.

The #32 BMW was hit by a Ferrari, which led to a flat tire that damaged the car.

The win at Paul Ricard was the 11th for BMW in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and the first win at the circuit since 2013. “It is a great honor for me to share the car with these two amazing guys,” said Augusto Farfus. “This victory is for the entire team. We complemented each other very well. I had a good start and got to third place, Dan took the lead with his overtaking maneuver, and Max brought the victory home confidently in the last stint. I have been following the development of Dan and Max from the beginning and now share the car with real professionals.”

Augusto Farfus (left), Max Hesse (middle) and Dan Harper celebrate victory.

Next up for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe is a shorter sprint race at the Brands Hatch circuit in Great Britain on May 4th-5th. The next Endurance Cup round is the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium from June 26th-30th. —David Haueter

[Photos courtesy SRO]




©2024 BimmerLife™

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?