WTM Racing owner Georg Weiss has praised his team’s efforts at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA following the #22 Ferrari 488 GT3’s fightback through the field to victory.
Words – James Gent
Images – WTM Racing / Petr Frýba
WTM Racing team boss Georg Weiss has commended a “deserved reward” for WTM Racing, which took its first 24H SERIES win at this past weekend’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA, despite, at one-point, falling three laps behind the outright leader.
In its last race with ‘Luigi,’ it’s tenured Ferrari 488 GT3, WTM Racing collected the chequered flag at Barcelona just over two minutes clear of newly crowned Overall GT Teams’ ‘European’, Phoenix Racing, leading 287 of the completed 696 laps in the process. This, despite an incident during the second hour when Georg Weiss, having taken over the leading Ferrari just five laps earlier, was spun at turn 10 by a backmarker.
Forced to pit with a left rear puncture, the 488 GT3 then dropped to 13th, almost three laps adrift of new race leader, Poulsen Motorsport. Though the #22 Ferrari was back up into the top five just two hours later, and was already battling for the final podium spot by the halfway point, it remained two laps adrift until the shock retirement of long-time leader ST Racing shortly after the 13th hour had been completed.
Thereafter, WTM Racing began a tense fight with Phoenix Racing – which itself had recovered from a hyper conservative start to the race that dropped the Audi R8 LMS out of the top 20 at one point – for the overall lead. Strong runs during the night though from Indy Dontje and Daniel Keilwitz meant the Ferrari led all but one of the remaining 11 hours of the race en-route to a hard-earned victory.
Ironically, the result marks the second race in succession where a GT team has taken its first outright win in the 24H SERIES following CP Racing’s overall win in Portimão two months ago. Discounting Baron Motorsport’s victory at this year’s non-championship Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, the win is also the first outright for a Ferrari at an official 24H SERIES championship event since Scuderia Praha won the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO in 2019.
“What a great performance by the whole team!” Leonard Weiss explains. “Apart from a few problems at the start of the race, we did a flawless job. I'm more than happy that we crossed the finish line with this car in the last race. It was easily the perfect end. The atmosphere in the team was great, my father was able to get behind the wheel one last time and in the end we were rewarded for many years [of effort]. For me personally, it was the first time on the top step of the podium, so I'm happy even more so. Many thanks to my teammates and the whole Rinaldi team, without whom none of this would have been possible.”
WTM Racing was also quick to applaud the efforts of Argentine Nicolás Varrone, who made his 24H SERIES debut at the event in place of the injured Jochen Krumbach. Not only did the 21-year-old set the fastest lap of anybody during his qualifying session – a 1m 47.971s, which, combined with Keilwitz’s quickest lap in his own qualifying session, ensured a front row start for WTM Racing in Barcelona – but also the quickest tour during the race itself, a 1m 48.500s.
“I'm really happy to be able to celebrate victory in the [Hankook] 24H BARCELONA on my first outing for WTM Racing,” Varrone explains. “It wasn't an easy race after the setback at the beginning. We had to fight back. But thanks to the fantastic work of Rinaldi Racing and the strong driver line-up on our car enabled us to do that. I'm very grateful to the whole team for putting me into this race and I hope we can continue working together in the future.”
“That was an excellent team effort and the deserved reward for not giving up,” Georg Weiss continues. “Our big thanks go to the entire team and to Rinaldi Racing, who prepared the car perfectly. We would also like to thank Ferrari and Michelotto for the six excellent years with the Ferrari 488 GT3. We have had great times with our two vehicles. The only downside to this wonderful weekend is that Jochen cannot celebrate with us. We wish him a speedy recovery. At the same time, I take my hat off to Nico's performance on his debut with the team. That was really strong.”
Though WTM Racing has yet to confirm its 2023 plans, the German team has expressed an interest in competing once again in the 24H SERIES with its new Ferrari 296 GT3.