WTM Racing’s #22 Ferrari 488 GT3 will start, what turns out to be, its final 24H SERIES event from the front row this weekend at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA. The 488 GT3 is set to be replaced for the 2023 season by the 296 GT3.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba
WTM Racing has confirmed that this weekend’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA will be the last race event for the German team’s tenured 488 GT3, which is set to be replaced for 2023 by Ferrari’s new 296 GT3.
WTM Racing made its 24H SERIES debut at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO in 2017 – then-entered as ‘Wochenspiegel Team Monschau’ – with a Ferrari 488 GT3 following its switch from long-time partner, Porsche. In an impressive performance, the German team led more laps than any other competitor and finished 2nd overall. Since then, the prancing horse – running the #22 this weekend and affectionately known to the team as ‘Luigi’ – has gone on to secure two further podium finishes as well as pole position for this year’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS.
The 488 GT3 is set to be replaced for the 2023 season by its Ferrari successor, the 296 GT3. The latter, unveiled globally for the first time in July, features a 3-litre twin-turbocharged V6, which replaces the 488’s 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8, that produces up around 600 bhp and 710 Nm (524 lb ft) on the track.
Interestingly, the GT3 example does not feature the hybridized powertrain of its roadcar alter-ego (hence the drop from 819 bhp and 740 Nm in the roadcar), though Ferrari does claim this, plus a lighter 1,250 kg kerb weight means the centre of gravity on the 296 GT3 has been significantly lowered. New aggressive bodywork is also said to improve downforce by as much as 20 per cent over the retiring 488 GT3.
This weekend also marks the first time in “more than ten years” that WTM Racing staple Jochen Krumbach will not feature on driver detail. The German driver is still recovering from a recent bicycle accident, and will be replaced by 21-year-old Argentine Nicolás Varrone. The 2018 V de V Challenge champion will partner father-son duo Georg and Leonard Weiss, Daniel Keilwitz and Indy Dontje this weekend, and made an immediate impression by posting a 1m 47.971s during Q2, the only time below 1m 48s set across the entire afternoon.
“I'm so sorry for Jochen that he can't take part in our farewell race with the Ferrari 488 GT3. He will be sorely missed,” team owner Georg Weiss explains. “We also warmly welcome Nico to the team. He represents a new generation of drivers who excel in both prototypes and GT cars. Our Ferrari 488s have been excellent companions over the years. Accordingly, we now want to celebrate a fitting farewell.”
“First of all, I would like to thank Georg Weiss for the opportunity to drive for WTM Racing,” Leonard Weiss continues. “It's a great feeling to join such a well-known team with great people. Our aim is to drive a clean race. And of course, if possible, to fight for victory!”
WTM Racing is also keen to put a recent run of poor luck at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend. In its previous three outings at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA, the German team’s best finish is 4th in-class at the 2018 edition, and a potential podium charge in 2021 was ended early after gearbox failure struck.
“I am happy to be able to drive the last race with our Ferrari 488 GT3,” Leonard Weiss continues. “Unfortunately, we were unlucky here last year and hope to be able to achieve a good result at the end for the 488 this year.”