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GT World Challenge Europe

Imola Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from the GTWC Europe Endurance Cup opener…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

***A large crowd of spectators visited Imola for the opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season. Many were there to see Valentino Rossi in his first race with Team WRT. Shortly before the start of the race, the grandstands were a sea of yellow hats and other VR46 merchandise.

***Team WRT’s Vincent Vosse declared that Rossi was “not at fault” for missing his pit box, which cost the No. 46 Audi several positions. “It is something that we have to analyze but that can happen when almost the entire field comes into the pit lane at the same time,” Vosse reflected.

***Frederic Vervisch reckoned that the No. 46 Audi crew could have potentially finished sixth or seventh in the points had the pit lane mishap not occurred. “It is a little bit disappointing, but Vale did a very good stint pace-wise,” he told Sportscar365. “We were closer than expected.”

***WRT claimed its first-ever Silver Cup class victory in Endurance Cup with its No. 30 Rofgo-backed Audi. It also marked the first time that the team has taken two class wins in the same long-distance GTWC Europe race.

***The No. 777 Al Manar Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG lost a place on the Silver Cup podium due to a 10-second post-race time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. According to a stewards’ report, driver Al Faisal Al Zubair reported oil on pit entry and “slowed significantly to compensate”, however that was not backed up by the GPS data.

***Instead the Sainteloc Junior Team trio of Cesar Gazeau, Nicolas Baert and Aurelien Panis claimed third in Silver, completing an all-Audi podium as WRT took the win ahead of Attempto Racing.

***A dozen cars were not classified at the end of race, with one of those failing to take the start. That was the No. 33 Team WRT Audi entered in Silver Cup, which developed a currently unidentified technical issue shortly before the grid assembled. Click Here for the final classification.

***The first Pro retirement was the No. 66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, which developed an oil leak during Markus Winkelhock’s opening stint.

***Herberth Motorsport became the first Porsche team to claim an Endurance Cup class victory in almost six years, beyond the overall classification. The last was IMSA Performance Matmut’s Pro-Am success at the 24 Hours of Spa in 2016.

***A loud cheer erupted from the grandstands opposite the pits when Rossi stepped into the No. 46 Audi for his middle stint. The Italian emerged from the pits in net 14th place and was in 13th when the third FCY occurred near the end of his run.

***The highest-finishing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo was the No. 63 Emil Frey Racing car in 13th. Despite losing positions during the final FCY, it had a trouble-free race mechanically. But the same could not be said for the other two Emil Frey cars.

***The No. 19 Lamborghini developed a fuel pump issue in the final hour. Driver Arthur Rougier told Sportscar365 that he tried to restart the car “four or five times” but couldn’t fix the issue on track.

***The No. 14 Lamborghini, meanwhile, battled a power steering problem through much of the race. One of the sponsors on the car is Into Africa, which was the organization behind the first all-black African lineup to compete in the Joburg Kyalami 9 Hour.

***ROWE Racing boss Hans-Peter Naundorf described the team’s first race with the BMW M4 GT3 as “way better” than its equivalent experience with the M6 GT3 six years ago. “We only narrowly missed the top 10 and can be satisfied with P11 and P15 as well as the performance of drivers and cars,” he said.

***Naundorf added that pit lane delays prevented both ROWE cars from achieving better results. “Another car blocked the way to our pit spot, which cost us 20 seconds and a possible top 10 result with the No. 98. The BMW Juniors had to wait one lap for their second stop as it was impossible for us to service both cars at the same time during the safety car period. The positions we lost could not be made up again on a circuit where overtaking is as difficult as at Imola.”

***The Iron Lynx Ferrari entries did not feature in the podium battle but came away with points scores after the No. 71 car rose from 14th on the grid to join the sister No. 51 entry in the top 10. “A difficult race because we lacked a lot of speed,” said No. 51 driver Miguel Molina. “We did the best we could, limiting the damage and finishing in seventh position. Here the important thing was to score points in the standings and that’s what we got.”

***The No. 51 Ferrari entry, despite being raced by different drivers over the last three years, has now banked eight consecutive points finishes.

***Tresor by Car Collection’s No. 11 Audi incurred a ten-second post-race penalty after Hugo Valente tagged the CMR Bentley into a spin at the Variante Alta chicane.

***The No. 31 WRT Audi lost 24th place, dropping one position behind the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini, after Finlay Hutchison was deemed to have gained a position on the No. 563 car using contact.

***Mattia Drudi said that Tresor by Car Collection “need to see why” it got jumped at the final pit stop by Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed, a move that ultimately decided which team ended up on the podium. “We did our pit stop fine but they were slightly faster,” Drudi told Sportscar365. “Maybe we lost one or two seconds but it was enough to lose a position. I was catching Luca Stolz] but he did a mega race, really clean. We had quite a good fight.”

***The fastest lap of the race was a 1:40.375 set by Nicki Thiim in the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3. It was 2.045 seconds faster than Audi driver Vervisch’s quickest lap time from the Endurance Cup’s only previous visit to Imola in 2020.

***Madpanda Motorsport had a “character-building weekend” according to Sean Walkinshaw, who was involved in contact early in his stint which caused damage forcing the No. 90 Mercedes-AMG to retire.

***There is a short turnaround for four of the teams that are heading from Imola to Oschersleben for the official ADAC GT Masters pre-season test on Thursday and Friday. Allied-Racing, Car Collection, Emil Frey Racing and Madpanda Motorsport are the GTWC Europe competitors also racing in the German series.

***Other teams such as Haupt Racing Team, GruppeM Racing, Winward Racing and Attempto Racing are off to Hockenheim for the first official DTM test event.

***Factoring in results from the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series and the 3 Hours of Imola, WRT leads the GTWC Europe overall teams’ championship on 28 points, ten more than Akkodis ASP Team in second. GetSpeed is third on 15 points.

***Saturday’s esports points combined with the real-world race on Sunday have created a narrow gap at the top of the GTWC Europe Silver Cup standings, with WRT leading Attempto Racing by 25 points to 24.

***WRT’s outright victory marked its 50th in SRO European competition and its seventh in the Endurance Cup.

***Round 2 of the GTWC Europe Endurance Cup season is the Paul Ricard 1000km on June 3-5. It will be preceded by two Sprint Cup meetings, starting with the Brands Hatch season-opener on April 30-May 1.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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