This season’s GT World Challenge Europe could not have started better for ROWE RACING: the team from St. Ingbert claimed a magnificent one‑two in Monza’s famous “Royal Park”. The three BMW M works drivers Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly put the #98 BMW M4 GT3 on pole position for the first of this season’s five Endurance Cup races. They then led the three‑hour race from start to finish to take a comfortable victory. This is the first success for ROWE RACING in the GT World Challenge Europe, with the exception of Spa, where the team triumphed in 2016 and 2020. The former BMW Junior Team of Dan Harper, Neil Verhagen and Max Hesse came home second in the #998 car to make it a one‑two.
“It was a super race Sunday, and I don’t believe we expected to achieve such a strong result coming into the weekend. It is not every day you get four BMW M4 GT3 out in front after qualifying. That is something we can be very proud of. I am delighted for ROWE RACING that they claimed the one-two. I am very pleased for the winning trio of Philipp, Marco and Nick, but also for Max, Dan and Neil, who were runners‑up. Everyone showed a strong performance,” Andreas Roos, Head of BMW M Motorsport, said.
Qualifying went brilliantly for the team from St. Ingbert. When the pursuit of fast lap times was cancelled ahead of the third session, due to multiple power failures, the #98 had the fastest time to its name. This earned the team its second pole position in the series, following the race in Barcelona in 2019. Philipp Eng and Marco Wittmann were 0.016 seconds quicker than the second‑placed car. The crew of the #998 was fourth fastest, just 0.075 seconds slower.
At the start and a further two restarts after two early safety car phases, start driver Philipp Eng from Austria superbly defended first place in the #98 car against nine‑time motorcycle world champion Valentino Rossi in another BMW. Leading after 30 laps, Philipp Eng handed over to two‑time DTM champion Marco Wittmann (Germany), who also led when he came into the pits after 62 laps to allow Nick Yelloly into the driver’s seat. The Brit then sealed a relatively comfortable victory.
In the second car, Britain’s Dan Harper initially dropped a position at the start. 27 laps later, he handed over to American Neil Verhagen in fourth place. Germany’s Max Hesse took over behind the wheel after 60 laps, rejoining the race in third place for the final stint. When the second‑ placed BMW fell back through the field as a result of a puncture with 26 minutes remaining, Hesse inherited second place, and went on to finish runner-up. As such, both ROWE RACING crews were able to enjoy the trophy presentation and champagne shower together on the most beautiful podium in the world of motorsport.
Hans-Peter Naundorf, Team Principal ROWE RACING: “Unbelievable, unimaginable, it doesn’t get any better! It is huge to claim a one-two like that at a racetrack with so much tradition. We could never have dared to dream of anything like that, and I still cannot quite believe it. To secure pole position and then produce a race like that makes everyone in the team incredibly happy. That is the reward for all the hard work over recent weeks. Everyone in the team has done a fantastic job – and one with fewer errors than the opposition. It was incredibly enjoyable to watch. For now, we will simply enjoy this and celebrate it a bit.“
Philipp Eng (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “I am extremely happy for the whole team. Since the first test I had at Paul Ricard, we have always been going in the right direction and were today rewarded for that work. We did not make any mistakes, only received one warning for Track Limits, the car was unbelievably well balanced, and we did not make any operational mistakes either. All the drivers were on good form and I believe that is the first one‑two for ROWE RACING in this championship. For me, it was mega cool to start alongside Valentino Rossi. That really was a great moment. He drove superbly and deserved a better result. However, we will now celebrate the victory and I hope it will be the same story in the big race at Spa-Francorchamps.”
Marco Wittmann (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “It was a dream start to the season for us. I think, generally speaking, that we have improved the set-up and are going in the right direction. We were there in qualifying, when everything was very chaotic. First the delay for the power failure, and then the cancellation of session three. However, it was a super weekend for us. You cannot make a better start to the GT World Challenge Europe than with first and second place. Let’s hope it continues this way. To be fair, you have to say that we had had a long, barren spell in the GT World Challenge Europe. That obviously makes it all the nicer to start the Endurance season with the one‑two for the team.”
Nick Yelloly (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “It’s an amazing start to the season. To be honest, my two team-mates left me a pretty easy job. I knew I had a gap to Dries Vanthoor of four or five seconds, and my biggest headache was definitely lapping the traffic because it wasn’t getting out of the way. Once I could pass a few of those cars and had a little bit of margin between myself and Dries Vanthoor, I knew I was going to be safe. The car was fantastic. I think this shows that BMW and ROWE RACING are working really well together. I’m also really happy for the ‘juniors’ that I now call the ‘seniors’, they have been upgraded to be BMW M works drivers. What a way to start the season.”
Max Hesse (#998 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “We are super happy. First and second place for the team and BMW M Motorsport. I am very happy. We made very good use of our package from this morning, and did a super job in Q1 and Q2. We were even perhaps a little unlucky that Q3 did not take place, which meant we started from fourth on the grid. The first stint was really tough, but we were able to establish ourselves at the front as the race progressed. In the end, we were happy to finish on the podium. More of the same please.”