By the end of the 2022 season, Comtoyou Racing had proved itself to be the benchmark team in TCR Europe, winning every single title. At the time, we wondered how the team managed by Jean-Michel Baert and François Verbist could do better. Twelve months later, the Frameries-based outfit can boast of having in fact done much better! Not only did Comtoyou Racing win the Teams’ standings, but the team also monopolised the top 5 in the Drivers’ championship. Tom Coronel was crowned overall champion – and in the Diamond Trophy, for the over-40s – while Kobe Pauwels, the revelation of the season, was crowned Rookies champion. In short, the Audi RS 3 LMS cars in Comtoyou’s colours were the only ones to take titles this year!
“It is sometimes said that getting to the top is less difficult than staying there,” smiles Team Principal Jean-Michel Baert. “But what the team has just achieved for the second year running is quite extraordinary. In addition to all the titles, we won 11 of the 14 races, took 4 pole positions out of a maximum of 7 possible, and our drivers finished on 37 of the 42 podiums in the overall standings… These figures may make it look easy, but it is above all the reward for a great deal of hard work, since this was our seventh season as a partner of Audi Sport customer racing. Behind these successes lies the work of an entire team, distinguished by the motivation and skill of each of its members. Not only are our guys passionate about what they do and give it their all, they are also highly professional and pay attention to every detail. And it is the detail which makes all the difference!”
Held on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the final round of the TCR Europe 2023 saw Kobe Pauwels take his sixth victory of the year on Saturday, more than any of his rivals. The revelation of the season put the pressure on his team-mate and rival, Tom Coronel. Ready to give his all on Sunday, the Dutchman benefited from a stroke of bad luck for Kobe Pauwels just before the start, as the young Belgian was betrayed by his transmission. By finishing in 4th place in this 14th race of the year, Tom Coronel finally won the trophy which had been missing from his prize cabinet!
“It was a very stressful last weekend because everything could have gone either way,” said the new champion. “It was tight all season between John Filippi, Kobe Pauwels and myself. What was both strange and amusing at the same time was that we were all part of the same team. I have to say that Comtoyou Racing put us on an equal footing throughout the year and had us sharing all the information, all the settings, all the data… It pushed all three of us to learn from each other and therefore to progress! At 51 years of age, I have been able to put my experience to good use and I am delighted to win this title. It is the first time since I won the Formula Nippon title in Japan in 1999 that I have won the overall title again.”
After Kobe Pauwels retired, John Filippi took second place both in this final race and in the final TCR Europe standings. Bronze medallist Kobe Pauwels tried to console himself with the title in the Rookies category, while Viktor Davidovski and Lewis Brown rounded off a top 5 entirely occupied by Comtoyou Racing representatives. Could there be a better way to end the season? “The season is not quite over yet,” says Jean-Michel Baert. “We still have eight races left in the TCR World Tour – spread over three events in Australia and Macau – to go in search of other trophies.”
GT titles too!
Alongside TCR and Fun Cup, two disciplines in which the team has been present since its inception, the Belgian outfit made its GT3 debut this year. It did not take the easy way out by tackling the prestigious Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, which finished last week in Zandvoort. Here too, the Comtoyou Racing method paid off straight away.
Maxime Soulet and Nicolas Baert won the Gold Cup class title in Europe’s benchmark endurance championship for GT3, a title which was combined with the crown in the Teams’ standings. In addition to the Silver Cup performance in the Endurance championship, there was also a Gold Cup podium in the Sprint class and, perhaps most notably, the Pitstop Challenge won by the Comtoyou Racing mechanics for being the fastest during wheel changes in the Sprint competition.
“Before we begin our collaboration with Aston Martin Racing next year, we can be fairly satisfied with this first GT campaign,” confirms GT3 Project Leader Sébastien Breuil. “Obviously, we still want more… In addition to our podium finishes in the overall Sprint Cup standings, I would have liked a first victory. But the performances of our crews in the Gold Cup and Silver Cup classes are also cause for satisfaction, as is the speed of our mechanics’ pitstops. All this bodes well for the future and we are already working with our new partner. Together, we have a single objective: to extend our GT honours list as quickly as possible. See you in 2024!”