Team WRT’s #32 crew won the season-opening GT World Challenge Europe at Imola, as a pit lane error by Valentino Rossi postponed the entry of sister # 46 far in the peloton.
It wasn’t all easy for the #32 Audi R8, driven by Dries Vanthoor, Kelvin van der Linde and Charles Weerts, although thanks to pit strategy they clawed back the top spot after losing it to at entry n°25 of the Audi Sainteloc Junior Team.
The #32 WRT team had secured the first pole position of the 2022 season, kicking off the grand debut of the new Audi R8 at Imola.
The first corner was uneventful, but the #83 Iron Dames car was knocked over, spun and placed perpendicular to the track, resulting in the car being excluded from the race on the first lap only, although the driver Rahel Frey is the fastest of all Ferraris. in Q1.
But after half an hour, the n°25 from Sainteloc – driven by Lucas Legeret, Christopher Mies and Patric Niederhauser – had taken the lead; Weerts came out wide which allowed Mies to easily take the lead of the race.
But the WRT edged out its rival when it came to pit strategy, with a clearance which proved to be the best strategy to reclaim track position – allowing the #32 to reclaim the lead. #25 about an hour after the start of the race.
The No. 32 played the game by increasing its lead to more than 6.6 seconds at the end of the race.
Devastatingly, just after halfway, Legeret lost the #25 in the gravel, dropping him from P2 to P14, putting him just behind Rossi on his series debut in the #46 car.
#46 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS evo II GT3: Nico Müller, Frédéric Vervisch, Valentino Rossi
Photo by: SRO
Just after this dramatic crash of the #25 car, the #97 Aston Martin came to a stop just outside the circuit, causing a yellow flag across the track as attempts were made to recover it.
This preceded the next 30 minutes of racing, during which a flurry of safety cars somewhat interrupted all action.
But as all the cars took advantage of the situation by pitting, Rossi made a crucial mistake in his first GTWCE race in the #46 Audi.
He entered the pit lane but missed his crew, failing to pit, forcing him to exit and complete another lap before returning on the next lap.
After that mistake, Rossi finally managed to jump out of the car to be replaced by Frederic Vervisch, but all the confusion saw the team drop from P13 to P23.
With the barrage of safety car periods completed, the #32 team extended their lead for the duration of the second half of the race while two Mercedes-AMG GT3s followed; the #88 AKKodis ASP entry which won second place ahead of the #2 GetSpeed car.
The #46 car driven by Rossi, who was joined by Vervisch and Nico Muller in the WRT race, finished 17th overall.