ROWE RACING starts the 2024 GT World Challenge Europe season in the French spring

Premiere for Le Castellet: Season opener for the first time / Team from St. Ingbert starts the three hour race with two BMW M4 GT3s and six BMW M works drivers

St. Ingbert, 2nd April 2024 – The season is finally underway. ROWE RACING will contest the first race of the 2024 season next Sunday (7th April) and is celebrating a premiere in the process. The former Formula 1 race track in Le Castellet in the south of France will host the season opener of the GT World Challenge Europe for the first time, and instead of the traditional six‑hour distance in June, this time it will be the ‘short distance’ of three hours.

The St. Ingbert team still has fond memories of the 2023 season opener, as it clinched pole position and the team’s first one‑two result in Europe’s strongest GT series a year ago at Monza. It was the start of a journey that included a third triumph at the 24 Hours of Spa and second place in both the drivers’ and team standings of the Endurance Cup at the end of the season.

The three BMW M works drivers Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly are once again in action for ROWE RACING and will share the cockpit of the #98 BMW M4 GT3 as they did last year. The Austrian‑German‑British trio would love to build on last season’s successes. There is only one personnel change in the sister #998 car. After a one‑year break, Brazilian Augusto Farfus will be back behind the wheel for the St. Ingbert team in the GT World Challenge Europe as well as competing on the Nürburgring‑Nordschleife. “Gustl” will support his two young BMW M works driver colleagues Dan Harper from Great Britain and Max Hesse from Germany in the five races of the season – after Le Castellet at Spa, the Nürburgring, Monza and at the finale in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

ROWE RACING already gained valuable experience in setting up the cars for the almost 5.8‑kilometre track with 15 corners and the ultra‑long Mistral straight at the traditional test prologue at the beginning of March at the same venue. Nevertheless, the race is new territory for all participants in many respects. The halving of the race duration requires a different strategy, and the temperatures in the south of France at the beginning of April are likely to be much lower than in the summer. Another new feature is the fuel for the GT3 racing cars, which this year for the first time consists of 100 per cent bio petrol obtained from biological waste and residues, particularly from the wine industry.

The competitive environment has also changed. Some teams have left the series or changed manufacturers, while others have joined. With Aston Martin and Ford joining the series, a total of nine car manufacturers are now represented in the GT World Challenge Europe. At the start of the season in Le Castellet, 55 cars will be on the grid.

The race weekend in the south of France begins for the St. Ingbert squad on Saturday morning (6th April) with the two‑hour free practice session from 9:00 to 11:00, followed by the 60‑minute pre‑qualifying session in the afternoon from 15:05 to 16:05. The start grid for the race will be determined in qualifying from 9:45 to 10:45 on Sunday (7th April) and the race itself will start at 15:00.

Hans-Peter Naundorf, Team Principal ROWE RACING: “It’s good that the season is now picking up speed and that we can fight for victories and points again. Even though we set the sporting bar very high last year, we are going into the season with similar expectations. Our advantage is the vast experience and stability of the team, which has changed only minimally compared to 2023 with the comeback of Augusto Farfus also in the GT World Challenge Europe. Everything is well coordinated. We know what we and our drivers are capable of and are constantly trying to optimise our performance even further, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a say in the battle for the top positions again, but there is no guarantee. All participants have to adapt to the new bio fuel, which requires some adjustments to the engines. The conditions in Le Castellet have also changed: shorter race duration, different temperatures and no driving in the dark. On the other hand, the strain on the cars in Le Castellet is certainly less than in the past. Overall, everyone’s tension is likely to be a little higher than usual at the start of the season, and everyone will want to get their bearings in the race first.”

Calendar GT World Challenge Europe

07.04.2024:         Le Castellet
29.06.2024:         24 Hours of Spa
28.07.2024:         Nürburgring
22.09.2024:         Monza
23.11.2024:         Jeddah

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