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GTWC 2024 Brands Hatch - BMW and Mercedes take Surprise Victories as Rossi Headlines the event

Written by Owen Bradley

Credit: SRO

The Fanatec GT World Challenge returns to the wonderful and unique circuit of Brands Hatch in the United Kingdom for the first race in the Sprint Cup. Valentino Rossi headlines the event, with well over half the amount of fans in the grandstands wearing his fluorescent yellow number.

In Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying on the Saturday, many cars were spilling out of Sheene curve, running wide and sliding across the circuit and into the gravel trap. After the Saturday running, it appeared that the cars with a stronger suspension and lower ride height were performing better than the other cars.

The BMW's really struggled for pace on Saturday, both the #32 and #46 BMW's qualifying outside the Top 10 for Race 2. The BMW had a much greater top speed than the other cars, however with Brands Hatch only having a relatively short straight in comparison to other circuits, it meant that the cars able to ride the kerbs and maintain their grip were best in Qualifying.

Race 1

Credit: SRO

A very entertaining first race saw the #32 BMW come through the field from third place on the grid, and with Brands Hatch being a difficult circuit to overtake at, this was an expectedly entertaining opening race.

Rossi and teammate Maxime Martin would start the race from 13th, and after many mistakes throughout the field from a few drivers, there would eventually be a Safety Car due to polystyrene from the sponsor boards being littered across the circuit. Eventually, the #27 Aston Martin Vantage would be beached in the gravel at Turn 1 (Paddock Hill Bend) which brought out a Full Course Yellow, and a Safety Car.

Many cars would also be given penalties for speeding in the pit lane, including the #46 BMW and #90 MadPanda Mercedes which was driven by Alexander Sims. The #32 BMW would have an extremely quick pit stop by the pit crew at WRT, putting them ahead of the #14 Ferrari and into the lead of the race. The BMW's seemed to have a much stronger race pace, perhaps with good tyre management and being able to close on the straights, both cars were fighting their way through the field.

Maxime Martin would take over from Valentino Rossi aboard the #46 BMW, coming through from outside the Top 10, to battling over P7. However, with a penalty hitting the #46 BMW, it would drop them to an unfortunate P15 finish.

Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor would come home aboard the #32 WRT BMW and take a surprising victory after their Saturday pace.

Race 2

Credit: SRO

Lucas Auer and Maro Engel in the Mercedes #48 would dominate the second and final sprint race, pulling out a large lead over the #69 Ferrari of Emil Frey Racing, with the entire field struggling to keep up.

Both BMW's would once again fight their way through the field, Martin made a lot of great overtakes in the #46 with the sister #32 cars chasing as well. Both cars made it to 6th and 7th after starting from outside the Top 10, however after Valentino Rossi got into the #46 to finish the race, disaster would strike.

A power steering issue for the #46 meant that the car was extremely difficult to drive, Rossi running wide at Turn 1 and losing a lot of time, eventually retiring from the race with just 5 minutes remaining. Alexander Sims and the Madpanda Mercedes #90 also carved their way through the field, turning around what had been a somewhat difficult weekend.

The #69 Ferrari would come home in P2, Thierry Vermeulen had a fantastic opening stint to hold off those behind, Vermeulen is sponsored by Red Bull and Verstappen - Jos Verstappen is his manager, and with some good results so far, it appears that this partnership has been an incredibly effective one.

The #48 Mercedes would take the victory at Race 2, a double podium after their P3 finish in Race 1 ensures they lead the Sprint Cup Standings and have had a fantastic start to their season. A difficult pill to swallow for all of the Rossi fans, an unfortunate weekend for the BMW cars who will look to come back stronger at the next GTWC round in Misano, where Valentino Rossi will hope to delight his home fans again after his emotional first GTWC in 2023.

Credit: SRO

The World Endurance Championship races at Spa next week, the third round of the championship kicks off at the famous Belgian circuit.

Upcoming articles: Valentino Rossi Interview, Maxime Martin Interview.


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