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GT World Challenge Europe

ROWE BMW Wins Endurance Cup Opener at Paul Ricard

Augusto Farfus, Dan Harper, Max Hesse take victory in three-hour Endurance Cup opener…

Photo: BMW

Augusto Farfus, Dan Harper and Max Hesse delivered victory for ROWE Racing in the first Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup race of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard.

The No. 998 BMW M4 GT3 finished 13.519 seconds clear of the No. 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 of Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Matteo Cairoli to win the three-hour race at the French circuit.

Iron Lynx led the opening phase of the race after Bortolotti started from pole position, with Caldarelli only briefly dropping behind the No. 22 Schumacher CLRT Porsche 911 GT3 R during the opening round of stops.

However, Dorian Boccolacci was soon ordered to return to the pits as the car had rejoined the track with the earthing cable still attached, which had to be removed.

This promoted Harper’s No. 998 BMW to second place and the British driver subsequently pressured Caldarelli for some ten minutes before passing the No. 63 Lamborghini at Beausset.

Harper and then Hesse were then able to build an advantage over the Iron Lynx entry to deliver BMW’s first Endurance Cup win since ROWE were victorious in last year’s CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa.

It also marked the first Endurance Cup victory for all three drivers aboard the No. 998 machine, including BMW veteran Farfus.

Bortolotti, Caldarelli and Cairoli, meanwhile, ensured Iron Lynx returned to the podium for the first time since last year’s season opener at Monza while the No. 2 Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Jules Gounon, Fabian Schiller and Luca Stolz completed the overall top three.

The No. 98 ROWE BMW of Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly saw a podium bid derailed with late-race refueling issues and finished outside the overall top ten.

Last year’s Endurance Cup vice-champions were running in third and closing on the No. 63 Lamborghini when problems with the fuel rig resulted in a slow stop that dropped Eng to eighth.

However, a charging recovery drive saw the Austrian fight his way past Raffaele Marciello, Christopher Haase and Sven Mueller to climb to fourth.

Before he could then set his sights on Stolz in the No. 2 Mercedes-AMG, Eng was then to splash for fuel with 18 minutes remaining, which dropped him outside of the top ten.

Marciello, sharing the No. 46 Team BMW M4 GT3 with Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin, completed a late-race pass on Mueller’s No. 96 Rutronik Racing Porsche to finish fourth, with Mueller, Julien Andlauer and Patric Niederhauser rounding out the top five.

Haase, Ricardo Feller and Alex Aka came home in sixth for Tresor Attempto Racing, ahead of the No. 007 Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Mattia Drudi.

Thiim and the No. 911 Pure Rxcing Porsche of Klaus Bachler both fought their way past the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 of Alessandro Pier Guidi in the closing stages, which finished ninth.

Ford and Proton Competition, meanwhile, secured a top ten finish for the Mustang GT3 in its Fanatec GT Europe debut.

Frederic Vervisch, Dennis Olsen and Christopher Mies enjoyed a competitive outing, with the No. 64 car running in the top ten for much of the second half of the race before eventually finishing tenth.

The No. 163 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini of Christian Engelhart, Franck Perera and Marco Mapelli recovered to finish eleventh after an opening lap spin for Engelhart dropped the car outside the top 30.

The Austrian squad was one of a number of Pro entries to hit trouble in an action-packed opening hour, with the No. 32 Team WRT BMW another notable casualty.

Charles Weerts, Sheldon van der Linde and Dries Vanthoor retired from the race after Weerts made contact with the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Alessio Rovera.

This subsequently triggered a left rear puncture that caused severe bodywork damage to the BMW, curtailing the team’s race.

At virtually the same time, Garage 59’s No. 159 McLaren 720S GT3 Evo was eliminated when contact with Vervisch’s Ford resulted in suspension damage.

The No. 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport Aston Martin, meanwhile, ran on the outskirts of the top ten when a power steering failure put the car in the garage after just over half an hour.

The car then caught fire with David Pittard at the wheel when it returned to the track, sending it into retirement.

Winward Racing’s No. 57 Mercedes-AMG, driven by Daan Arrow, Colin Caresani and Tanart Sathienthirakul led a top three lockout in Silver Cup for the Stuttgart manufacturer, while the No. 25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II won Gold Cup and Kessel Racing’s No. 8 Ferrari 296 GT3 triumphed in Bronze Cup.

The Fanatec GT Europe Endurance Cup returns to action with the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa on June 26-30.

RESULTS: 3 Hours of Paul Ricard


Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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