GTWorldChallengeEurope – Rossi raises the roof at Misano with maiden Fanatec GT Europe victory

Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin secured a breakthrough Fanatec GT Europe victory in today’s Sprint Cup race at Misano, triumphing on Rossi’s home soil in their #46 Team WRT BMW.

The win ended an eight-year wait since the last Sprint Cup win for BMW and was the first for Team WRT since it launched its high-profile alliance with the German marque. Significantly for Rossi, it came at a circuit located just 15 kilometres from his hometown and named in honour of his late friend Marco Simoncelli.

The sister #32 Team WRT BMW started from pole and led the opening stint with Dries Vanthoor at the wheel. Patric Niederhauser held second in the #25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi, while Martin ran third in the #46 BMW. There was little to choose between this trio during the early stages, with Vanthoor edging away but not making a significant break.

Though the front of the order was stable there was some frantic action in the pack, particularly among the leading Gold Cup and Silver Cup runners. This would ultimately lead to an important turning point in the race when the #9 Boutsen VDS Audi of Alberto Di Folco made contact with the sister #10 car, sending the Italian into the barriers.

Fortunately, Di Folco climbed from his stricken Audi unaided. The safety car was on-track soon after and remained in service until shortly before the pit window, which was delayed by one minute. Team WRT elected to box both of its leading cars at the earliest possible moment, Vanthoor leading Martin in. But while the latter was able to hand over to Rossi without any issues, the #32 suffered a rare slow stop that cost Charles Weerts significant time.

The momentum of the race had shifted towards the #46 crew and Rossi delivered a stellar out-lap to further improve their chances. As his rivals served their mandatory stops, the #46 BMW climbed back up the order, ultimately emerging as the race leader with 22 minutes left on the clock. Rossi’s closest contender was the #11 Comtoyou Racing Audi of Lucas Légeret, which ran some four seconds in arrears.

Any lingering questions over the Italian’s pace were firmly dismissed as he edged away from the Audi while moving through lapped traffic. Rossi was able to add a further second to his advantage and looked remarkably calm at the wheel, in contrast with teammate Martin who could barely contain his tension in the Team WRT garage!

With the lead stable, the major source of action during the second half of the race came from Raffaele Marciello. The Akkodis ASP man took the #88 Mercedes-AMG from Timur Boguslavskiy in eighth and immediately set about climbing the order. He initially lost a spot to Weerts but quickly re-passed the BMW before decisively picking off a Lamborghini, an Audi and a Ferrari to move up to fifth.

But the main story was Rossi, who took the chequered flag to secure his very first Fanatec GT Europe win in front of a vast crowd of his passionate supporters. Ever the showman, he climbed out of his car on the in-lap to thank the fans before returning to celebrate with a jubilant Martin and the Team WRT crew.

Légeret finished second in the #11 Audi he shares with Christopher Haase, while young guns Thomas Neubauer and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer took a fine third in the #30 Team WRT BMW. Marciello was ultimately classified fourth after the #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari of Albert Costa received a penalty, dropping the Spanish driver one place to fifth.

Niklas Krütten completed an almost perfect day for Team WRT by securing Gold Cup victory in the #30 BMW he shares with Calan Williams. They finished 12th overall, one place ahead of the Silver Cup-winning #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi. Alex Aka and Lorenzo Patrese were in the thick of the action for much of the race, ultimately sealing the win to bounce back from a turbulent Saturday.

Garage 59 secured a Bronze Cup sweep with its #188 McLaren. Miguel Ramos took the opening stint before handing over to Henrique Chaves, who made a winning pass on the #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche during the latter stages. The Portuguese ace finished the job and ensured a second win in as many days.

The Misano event was staged in sweltering summer temperatures, particularly on Sunday, though the next stop on the Fanatec GT Europe tour should be a cooler affair. The action will move to the Eifel mountains, with the Nürburgring set to host a three-hour Endurance Cup race on 29-30 July. Rossi and Martin will take considerable momentum to the German track as The Doctor seeks to break new ground in his GT racing adventure.

Valentino Rossi, #46 Team WRT BMW: “It cannot be better today. Winning my first race in this championship here in Misano is really special. In Fanatec GT World Challenge, the level is high and the drivers are so fast, and we know we can be strong especially after Maxime’s qualifying, but a win is another story. The guys did a mega job in the pit stop, and I came out with five seconds advantage, and at the same time I had very good pace. I have to say thank you to my team and BMW!”