Kobe Pauwels from TCR to GT3 at the Nürburgring thanks to Comtoyou Racing!

With the team being firmly in the fight for the TCR World Tour, TCR Europe and signed up for a complete programme in the Fanatec GT world Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, it’s safe to say that Comtoyou Racing is having a particularly intense 2023 season. For the team run by Jean-Michel Baert and François Verbist, this is a very busy period, but the reward for the hard work so far has been a collection of great results.

Last weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard the Belgian team’s fleet of Audi RS 3 LMS absolutely dominated the TCR Europe outings, with a clean sweep of the top four in the first race and then a hat-trick in the second. Heading into the summer break, four Comtoyou Racing drivers occupy the first four places in the European Touring Car Championship. The evergreen Dutchman Tom Coronel leads the standings, ahead of Frenchman John Filippi, the young Belgian Kobe Pauwels (who is also top rookie in the championship) and the Macedonian Viktor Davidovski.

The GT programme has also been successful so far. In addition to a first overall podium in the last race of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup (Lucas Légeret and Christopher Haase finished second at Misano), Comtoyou Racing leads the Endurance Cup points in both the Silver class (for drivers considered as semi-professionals) and in the Gold class (which operates mainly for young professionals).

Magnus ready for Gold Cup action, while Pauwels gets his GT3 chance at the Nürburgring

Before the team can enjoy a few days of well-deserved vacation, Comtoyou Racing will be back in action this weekend for the fourth Endurance Cup round, fielding its three Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo IIs. And the Belgian squad will run some reworked crews for the three-hour race on the Nürburgring Grand Prix Circuit.

“Our goal for the end of the season is to get the two championships in both the Silver Cup and the Gold Cup,” says Sébastien Breuil, the GT3 Project Leader. “We are not changing anything in our #12 car entered for the Silver Cup with Finlay Hutchison, Sam Dejonghe and Loris Hezemans. On the other hand, we will not have Max Hofer with us at the Nürburgring in the Gold car: he is fighting for the title in Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia and he will therefore be in Sydney at the same time. Max will be back with us for the final round in Barcelona, but we wanted a safe bet to replace him in Germany. We therefore dragged Gilles Magnus into the #21 car, where we will now have a 100% Belgian trio with Maxime Soulet and Nicolas Baert. But that left us a free place in the #11 Pro class car…”

With the Pro class entry not having the pressure of being in the title fight, the bosses of Comtoyou decided to continue their ethos of promoting young talents into top international race seats, and have therefore acted to offer Kobe Pauwels the opportunity to make his GT3 debut at the age of just 18.

A revelation in TCR Europe – where he has already secured four victories (more than any other driver in the championship this year) – the young driver from Leopoldsburg is set to live his dream this weekend.

“Sunday evening, after my victory at Le Castellet, François Verbist called me into his office to ask me if I was ready to start in GT3″, smiles Pauwels, who also won the European Rallycross RX3 Championship last year. “I would never have thought it possible in my first season of circuit racing, but I couldn’t refuse this opportunity. I don’t know the circuit or the car, but the team doesn’t put any pressure on me. I am here to learn and have fun. With Fred Vervisch and Christopher Haase as teammates, I couldn’t dream of better instructors to help me progress faster. In my eyes, GT racing has always been the next step in my career and I wanted to do it with Comtoyou Racing. The chance has just arrived a little earlier than expected!”

The Belgian knows that he will have to learn quickly about the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, with operational aspects such as how to use the ABS system and the aerodynamic downforce being two factors of driving the GT3 that will be hugely different from the Audi RS 3 LMS TCR Pauwels is used to.

“We have always trusted young drivers and that’s kind of our trademark,” says Jean-Michel Baert, Team Principal of Comtoyou Racing. “We are convinced by Kobe’s talent and we saw an opportunity to introduce him to GT3, without putting any pressure on him. For us, it is also a way of demonstrating the ladder of progression we can offer as a team, while also preparing ourselves for the future. See you at the Nürburgring!”