TWO PODIUM FINISHES FOR TEAM WRT TO START THE SPRINT CUP SEASON
It was a good start of the 2022 Sprint Cup season for Team WRT at Brands Hatch, as Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts were second twice, conquering two podium finishes, despite the Audi R8 LMS not being the fastest car on the historic British track. There was more positive, as Valentino Rossi and Frédéric Vervisch scored points in Race 2, the first ones in his ‘new life’ for the Italian motorcycle champion, who perfectly resisted pressure in Race 2, on top of setting some very quick lap times. The weekend of the other two cars of the Belgian squad was compromised after they were faultlessly involved in a first corner accident in Race 1. Once again though, Team WRT crews did a great job, getting all four cars back to racing form for Race 2 and with the #32 crew rewarded as the quickest Pit Stop crew of the weekend.
Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse was not unhappy after the race: “Given that the Ferrari and the Mercedes had better pace and that two of our cars got their race ruined at the start of Race 1 by another competitor, we got the maximum out of the weekend. It’s not a bad start in the sprint Cup. Charles and Dries took home two great results and very heavy points, and our guys did a fantastic job. It’s also the first points for Vale and Fred after a very consistent race. Vale really did a big step forward and his lap times at the end of Race 2 were among the best.”
The weekend started with the four cars of Team WRT in the top group but not having the face of fastest cars. In Qualifying for Race 1, Weerts was 4th, with Simmenauer 14th, Goethe 16th and Rossi 17th.
Race 1 yielded immediate drama as one of the mid-grid Mercedes tried to squeeze on the inside on the grass and initiated a number of contacts, which resulted in several cars going out at first corner. Unfortunately, two of the Team WRT cars, #30 of Benjamin Goethe and #33 of Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, were among the innocent victims.
At restart after the yellow period, Charles Weerts was fourth and kept the position throughout his stint, while Valentino Rossi also had a very good performance in the middle of traffic, in P14. Both cars pitted in lap 16, and perfect pit stop work allowed Dries Vanthoor to take second and Frédéric Vervisch P14. Vanthoor fought hard to catch the leading Ferrari, reducing the gap from 3 to 1.5 seconds but not having the top speed of its opponent. At the same time he had to defend P2 from the Mercedes of Marciello. Eventually the order did not change. On a track were overtaking is almost impossible, Vervisch could only gain one position to finish 13th.
There was, of course, a lot of work for the Team WRT crews to repair the two cars damaged in Race 1, with the chassis and the engine of the spare car (the one racing in the Endurance Cup as #31) being used to have #30 fit again. The transplant though entailed starting from the pits and a time penalty of ten seconds.
At the start of Race 2, Dries Vanthoor kept P3, while Christopher Mies climbed to P7 and Vervisch took P10 after a few laps. Those positions did not change during the first stint, while Thomas Neubauer in car #30 made a strong recovery through the field. After the pit stops, Charles Weerts was second behind the Mercedes of Boguslavskiy but like in Race 1, the gap could not be reduced. Vale Rossi rejoined in 8th after the pit stop and did a fantastic job to maintain this position, also under great pressure from Drouet in the final laps, while Benji Goethe closed in P16 (6th in the Silver Cup).
Dries Vanthoor: “We certainly did not expect this result after Saturday, so we must be happy. The team did an amazing job, we had clean races and the pit stops were perfect. Two second positions is great and a lot of points.”
Charles Weerts: “We feared Brands Hatch was not going to be the best circuit for us this year and still we come home with two second positions, which can be very useful at the end of the season. We can be happy and proud.”
Benjamin Goethe: “It’s not the weekend we had hoped for, we were very unlucky in Race 1, but we made the most we could out of it in Race 2.”
Thomas Neubauer: “It’s racing, we had very bad luck in Race 1, but in Race 2, we focused on ourselves. Despite starting last and the difficulty to overtake, we could recover, finish 6th in the Silver Cup and scori some points.”
Christopher Mies: “To be honest, quite a difficult Sunday. In Race 1, we basically did not start, and in Race 2, we were struggling with pace. Still, we could have finished 6th but we were again involved in an incident with another competitor pushing us out of track.”
Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer: “Despite everything, it was a decent performance, under the circumstances. I learnt a lot and we will keep pushing. Looking forward to be at Magny-Cours in two weeks.”
Frédéric Vervisch: “We score our first points of the season and are very happy of the performance. We are progressing well, and Vale is learning fast and making big steps. We now need to focus on improving both of us our pace in qualifying.”
Valentino Rossi: “In Race 1, I was lucky to escape any problem at first corner and then I basically stayed where I was… Race 2 was much better, I am very happy because I sensed a big step forward in my driving and I improved a lot my lap times, especially towards the end of the race, when I was feeling more comfortable with the car and the track. I really enjoyed those final laps!”
Fanatec World GT Challenge Europe powered by AWS – Sprint Cup Round 1
Brands Hatch, United Kingdom – 30 April – 1st May 2022
Race 1 results:
1. Jean-De Pauw (Ferrari 488) 40 laps
2. Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s290
3. Marciello-Boguslavskiy (Mercedes AMG) + 1s657
4. Gounon-Pla (Mercedes AMG) + 7s836
5. Panis-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) +12s982
13. Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +33s760
DNF Goethe-Neubauer (Audi R8 LMS) 0 laps (damage)
DNF Simmenauer-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) 0 laps (damage)
Race 2 Result
1. Boguslavskiy-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) 42 laps
2. Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) + 6s557
3. Gounon-Pla (Mercedes AMG) + 6s830
4. Gachet-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) +23s489
5. Panis-Niederhauser (Audi R8 LMS) +23s489
8. Rossi-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +40s216
14.Simmenauer-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) +52s608
16.Goethe-Neubauer (Audi R8 LMS) +1m14s720