WORDS BY STEPHEN BRUNSDON | IMAGES BY TEAM WRT
Few things are unequivocal in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe series. Such is the competitiveness of the field in terms of brands and drivers, as well as a Balance of Performance that is almost universally appreciated, races and championships are rarely dominated.
However, there is perhaps one constant in the positively inconsistent GT3 category.
Last weekend, Audi’s crack squad Team WRT recorded a clean sweep in the fourth round of the Sprint Cup season at Misano Adriatico, via Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor.
That in itself is an achievement. Double wins are hard to come by in any GT3 category, let alone the sort which boasts the variety and talent that GTWC does.
But Audi and Misano are something of a match made in heaven as far as GT3 racing goes. Over the past nine races held at the Italian circuit, WRT has won eight of them.
That’s right, eight. All Sprint Cup races, and all with Vanthoor and Weerts at the wheel. From 2019, it’s been nigh on impossible to get the better of Audi at Misano.
That first year produced the very first victory for then teenager Weerts, the Formula 4 graduate and son of team co-founder Yves Weerts, while the pairing scored two out of three wins the following season. And since then, it’s been two doubles in a row: in 2021 and 2022, the Audi R8 GT3 has been on top in qualifying and the races, taking each at something akin to a GT3 canter.
So, what is the secret ingredient?
Naturally, if you ask the drivers, you won’t get a straight answer.
“We have great long run pace in the car all weekend,” said Vanthoor after taking a second comfortable victory of the weekend.
“Perhaps over one lap, we’re pretty close with the Mercedes, but the long runs are really what suit our car the best. The car was absolutely phenomenal this weekend.”
Long runs, short runs, it really didn’t matter how long the car ran for, the R8 was never seriously challenged all weekend.
After leading from pole to flag in Saturday’s opener, Vanthoor took another pole in qualifying for Race 2. Not even a track limits strike on his apparent best lap stopped the #32. He simply reloaded and set another purple sector time across the lap to secure the top spot.
As for the races, the one-hour encounters were tightly fought…behind the #32, of course.
Weerts led off the start in the Saturday race, building a healthy margin over the chasing JP Motorsport McLaren of Vincent Abril, which looked to have a similar long-run pace of the Audi before a slow pit-stop – and subsequent 10-second penalty for an unsafe release – took the #111 out of contention.
That left the Audi in the clear for the win, just ahead of the ubiquitous Akkodis ASP Mercedes of Raffaele Marciello – so often the title rival.
In the second race, it was almost a carbon copy as Vanthoor reproduced Weerts’ lightning start of the line before a safety car neutralised the field. That didn’t stop the Audi from dominating once more though, and Vanthoor matched his brother Laurens’ record for GTWC victories (14) as he crossed the line on Sunday afternoon.