Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS will stage one of its annual highlights on the weekend of 3-5 June when the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km tests competitors in a six-hour race against the setting sun.
The fourth round of the overall championship and the second on the Fanatec Endurance schedule, the event first ran in 2012 as a three-hour contest before expanding to its present format from 2015 onwards. During this time it has earned a reputation for late drama, never more so than in 2018 when Emil Frey Racing snatched an incredible win on the 172nd and final lap.
Beginning at 18:00 CEST, the race creates one of the most impressive scenes of the season thanks to a spectacular Mediterranean sunset. An expanded 54-car field will tackle the 2022 edition, which serves as an important tune-up for the marquee TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. Indeed, a number of additions to the grid for the Circuit Paul Ricard race are likely to join the field for the Belgian endurance classic on 28-31 July.
Team WRT leads the way after debut win for new-spec Audi
Team WRT ensured an early advantage in the standings by winning from pole at Imola, giving the latest-spec Audi an impressive debut triumph. The signs are good for this weekend, with the #32 crew of Vanthoor / Weerts / Van der Linde finishing second last year after a fine comeback. In the sister #46 Audi, there will be significant interest in how Valentino Rossi has progressed after adding a pair of Fanatec Sprint events to his resumé. He shares with the accomplished duo of Frédéric Vervisch and Nico Müller.
Three more Audi entries will tackle the upcoming event. Tresor by Car Collection (#12, Haase / Drudi / Ghiotto) made a fine start to its debut season with fourth spot at Imola, while Saintéloc Junior Team (#25, Mies / Niederhauser / Legeret) led during the early stages in Italy before slipping back. In the #66 Attempto Racing car, young chargers Juuso Puhakka and Dennis Marschall are joined by one of the most experienced men on the grid: two-time TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa winner Markus Winkelhock.
While Imola went to Audi, the Mercedes-AMG runners put up a ferocious challenge, with the #88 Akkodis ASP crew of Marciello / Gounon / Juncadella taking runner-up spot and the #2 GetSpeed entry third with Engel / Stolz / Schothorst. Both should be at the front once again at Circuit Paul Ricard, a track at which the AMG GT3 is yet to score an overall win. JP Motorsport also enjoyed a fine start to the season, with its #111 McLaren running faultlessly to fifth. Circuit Paul Ricard winners Christian Klien (2018) and Vincent Abril (2017) share with Dennis Lind to form an impressive trio. They will join fellow McLaren squad Jota (Bell / Kirchhöfer / Wilkinson) in looking to end the British marque’s six-year wait for an overall win.
Beechdean AMR showed blistering pace at Imola, with Nicki Thiim netting the fastest lap before the #95 Aston Martin lost out during a safety car phase. With the Dane joined by Maxime Martin and Marco Sørensen, this is a definite contender for victory. Don’t rule out Dinamic Motorsport either, with the trio of Ledogar / Cairoli / Bachler more than capable of fighting at the front. Ferrari should also be a factor, with Iron Lynx once again relying on its #51 crew (Molina / Nielsen / Calado) and the sister #71 entry (Rigon / Fuoco / Serra).
There was no dream debut for the new BMW M4 GT3, with both ROWE Racing cars outside the points at Imola. They will hope for better things with the experienced #98 crew of Catsburg / Farfus / Yelloly and the junior line-up of Verhagen / Hesse / Harper in the #50. Imola was also a frustrating event for local brand Lamborghini. The two-car Emil Frey Racing effort will look for a stronger showing in France with Bortolotti / Costa / Aitken sharing the #63 machine, while Altoé / Rougier / Roussel handle the #19 Huracán.
Competitive class battles in prospect at gruelling six-hour contest
Team WRT doubled up at Imola, adding a Silver win to its overall triumph thanks to the #30 crew of Neubauer / Goethe / Simmenauer. They will be joined by the sister #31 entry, which is shared by Hutchison / Menchaca / Proctor. Attempto Racing completed an Audi one-two at Imola with its #99 of Zug / Schöll / Aka, while Tresor by Car Collection (#11, Patrese / Valente / Blom) and Saintéloc Junior Team (#26, Gazeau / Baert / Panis) will also represent the Ingolstadt marque at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Garage 59 made a strong start with its #159 McLaren finishing on the podium at Imola, an impressive result given that Ethan Simioni and Manuel Maldonado were making their series debuts alongside Nicolai Kjaergaard. They are the lone McLaren entrant in the Silver Cup, while Mercedes-AMG is the best represented brand with five cars. Al Manar Racing by HRT was the best of them at Imola thanks to its #777 crew (Schiller / Al Zubair / Jefferies) while Akkodis ASP (#87, Tereschenko / Mosca / Stevenson) is a two-time class winner at this event. Haupt Racing Team (Love / Fittje / Valente), Madpanda Motorsport (Perez Companc / Walkinshaw / Borkovic) and GetSpeed (Kingsley / Eriksen / Baud) add further firepower to the Mercedes-AMG challenge.
Lamborghini is also strongly represented. VSR will run Paverud / Moulin / Dörrbecker in the #163, while Baretta / Nemoto / Hites share the #563. Reigning class champion Emil Frey Racing will deploy its #14 machine for White / Tujala / Lappalainen, while Leipert Motorsport will pair Dennis Fetzer and Brendon Leitch with a to-be-confirmed third driver in the #27. A pair of Porsches complete the Silver Cup field: Allied Racing will run Mathhiesen / Fischli / Strum in its #22, while Dinamic Motorsport deploys its #56 for Roda / Calamia / Nakken.
Another strong grid will contest the new Gold Cup category after the inaugural win went to the experienced #991 Herberth Motorsport crew of Ralf Bohn and brothers Alfred and Robert Renauer. They are no longer the lone Porsche in the class: having contested the opener in a Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, the trio of Barker / Malykhin / Dorlin will switch to a 911 GT3-R run by Allied Racing. As such, Barwell Motorsport will field a single Huracán for the trio of Mitchell / Collard / MacDowall. AGS Events will also deploy a Lamborghini (#8, Gomar / Cabirou / Parisy) in what is the French squad’s first home race since joining the series.
Mercedes-AMG outfit Winward Racing scored the inaugural class pole at Imola, but the #57 of Liebhauser / Ferrari / Auer hit trouble on the opening lap and will target a stronger finish at Circuit Paul Ricard. HRT (Haupt / Scholze / Maini) and Sky Tempesta Racing (Hui / Froggatt / Cheever) will also campaign Mercedes-AMG machinery at the French track. AF Corse finished second in class at Imola with its #21 Ferrari of Delacour / Sbirrazzuoli / Balzan, while Iron Dames will mark the first anniversary of its series debut with the all-female crew of Frey / Bovy / Gatting sharing its 488 GT3.
Beechdean AMR adds an Aston Martin to the grid (Howard / Hasse-Clot / Nouet) while Inception Racing will field its regular trio of Iribe / Millroy / Schandorff in the #7 McLaren. A second 720S GT3 will compete for Gold Cup honours as JP Motorsport moves its #112 entry (Krupinski / Blazek / Osborne) across from the Silver class. Boutsen Racing showed pace on its Audi debut with the #10 of Ojjeh / Lessenes / Eteki, but there was no Gold Cup joy for Team WRT. The #33 entry of Tomita / A. Robin / M. Robin did not even make the start due to technical problems and will hope for considerably better luck at Circuit Paul Ricard.
In the Pro-Am class, SPS automotive performance began the season in perfect style with a win for the #20 Mercedes-AMG of Pierburg / Baumann / Loggie. They face plenty of competition, not least the #52 AF Corse Ferrari of Machiels / Bertolini / Costantini. Garage 59 scored Pro-Am victory at this event in 2019 and should be a contender once again with its #188 McLaren crew of West / Ramos / Chaves, while CMR will hope for better fortune on home soil after a sizeable accident at Imola ended the chances of its #107 Bentley (Bailly / De Robiano / Lemeret).
An extra Pro-Am contender joins the field for Circuit Paul Ricard contest, with Herberth Motorsport adding a Porsche for the experienced trio of Leutwiler / Tacoma / Picariello. What’s more, Singha Racing Team TP 12 will add a further 911 GT3-R to the grid for Bhirombhakdi / Sathienthirakul / Payne, whose class will be confirmed ahead of the event.
Traditional schedule and varied support package confirmed
Circuit Paul Ricard follows a unique weekend format that sees the main event get underway at 18:00 CEST on Saturday and conclude at midnight. The support line-up includes a trio of familiar categories, with Lamborghini Super Trofeo, GT4 European Series and Formula Regional Championship by Alpine each staging an opening race on Saturday followed by a second contest on Sunday.
Virtual motorsport will be represented by the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series. The second round of 2022 runs at 17:15 on Friday evening and will see real-world points up for grabs in a 60-minute Assetto Corsa Competizione race. In addition to the regular action, GT1 Sports Club Powered by Curbstone will make its first appearance of 2022 following a successful inaugural outing last year. Featuring an incredible collection of hyper-sports cars, the non-competitive category will take to the track twice during Sunday’s schedule.
Live coverage of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS action begins with Saturday’s qualifying session and will be available across a variety of online platforms, including the GT World YouTube channel, with commentary in English, French, Italian and German. As the final Fanatec Endurance round before the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa and with the prospect of GT3 cars racing at sundown, the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km promises to be among the premier events of the 2022 campaign.