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Ward: “Sky is The Limit” in Winward Growth

Winward Racing welcomes opportunity to run Pro entry in Fanatec GT Europe “with open arms,” says Russell Ward…

Photo: JEP/SRO

Operating a Pro entry in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup is a chance that Winward Racing welcomes “with open arms” according to team principal Russell Ward, who says the “sky is the limit” for the team as it embarks on its most ambitious season to date.

Winward will be one of four Mercedes-AMG teams to represent the German marque in the battle for overall honors in the Endurance Cup this season, alongside GetSpeed Performance, Haupt Racing Team and Boutsen VDS.

The team will field the No. 48 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in the trademark Mann-Filter ‘mamba’ livery for Lucas Auer, Maro Engel and Daniel Morad.

The Endurance Cup effort will be run out of Winward’s European base in the German town of Altendiez under the supervision of former FIA GT3 champion Christian Hohenadel.

In addition to its two-car Fanatec GT program, which also features a car in Silver Cup, the team also competes in DTM, leads the GTD points standings in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and runs a single car in Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Team principal Ward noted that the team is on an “unbelievable trajectory” running simultaneous efforts on multiple continents.

“We’ve made a lot of fans along the way, a lot of good friends,” Ward told Sportscar365.

“Hopefully we’re representing them well here at the racetrack. It’s unbelievable, the trajectory that we have.

“At this kind of rate I think everyone has kind of got the feeling that the sky is the limit and we can go as far as we want.

“It’s just really an incredible year and a lot of things coming this year, with new programs, new shop getting built in Houston, so it’s quite a busy year. Looking forward to it.”

Winward’s ascension to the Pro ranks comes amidst something of a shakeup for Mercedes-AMG in GT3 competition after longtime customer squad Akkodis ASP Team departed Fanatec GT to join up with Lexus for an FIA World Endurance Championship campaign.

While Ward admits that ASP’s exit arguably helped clear the way for Winward to move to the Pro category, the Texan adds that it is the fulfilment of a long-held ambition for the team.

“It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a while, do that SRO Pro car,” he said.

“We’ve done quite a bit of racing in SRO Europe, never really in a Pro car but we’ve done quite a bit over there.

“Now that DTM has switched to the same compound that SRO is using, the Pirellis. We ran last year on the Pirelli and and had a really kind of solid year, kind of a learning year for us.

“I think now we’ve kind of shown to AMG that we can do the same on the Pirelli.

“[ASP] has gone out, changed manufacturers, they’ve turned over a new leaf and it has absolutely opened up an opportunity for us which we take with open arms.

“We’re very grateful for it. It’s an awesome opportunity.”

Ward explained the team will be building on the knowledge that it gained last year, when it ran a pair of Gold Cup entries for Ward himself, Philip Ellis and Indy Dontje as well as Miklas Born, Marius Zug and David Schumacher.

“We wanted to collect as much data as we could to prepare ourselves for the potentiality of running a Pro car,” he said.

“It is quite a bit different from DTM and really it comes to tire management. Tire warmup is quite a bit different. They use heated tents, DTM doesn’t.

“You get a lot more new tires in SRO, where you’re pretty limited in DTM. They try to limit it to increase the passing and the excitement of the race.

“So, although it’s the same tire, the procedure on how you get the tire in the window is a lot different. That’s what we’ve kind of found to be key over there, you really have to bring it in in the right way.

“We absolutely used all that data in the last year of running to optimize the car. At the test at Paul Ricard it looked very strong.

“Daniel was strong, Lucas was strong, Maro is always strong. It’s a really solid group of guys. I think they can definitely do well.”

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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