• British circuit stages annual Sprint Cup contest on 13–14 May
• Field of 29 cars and record-setting eight manufacturers prepare to tackle 3.9km Grand Prix layout
• Ultra-competitive entry list features Pro, Gold Cup and Silver Cup contenders
The Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season hits full speed next weekend (13–14 May) when the Sprint Cup stages its opening event of 2023 at Brands Hatch.
The British venue is a mainstay of the short-format series, with the upcoming round representing the ninth since it joined the calendar in 2014. As ever it will play host to a pair of 60-minute races, both of which take place on a busy Sunday. There's plenty of activity on Saturday, too, with almost three hours of track time for the Fanatec GT Europe contenders as well as a wealth of support series action.
Along with the finale at Zandvoort (13–15 October), this will be the first of two events at which the Bronze Cup class does not compete due to space restrictions. However, the next three Sprint Cup rounds will see a record 40-car field on-track.
The trip to Brands Hatch comes three weeks after the Fanatec GT Europe Endurance Cup began with a three-hour contest at Monza. With the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa Prologue (23–24 May) and another long-distance race at Circuit Paul Ricard (2–4 June) both on the horizon, it signals the start of a busy period for Europe's most competitive GT category.
Pro: Rivals ready to pounce as Team WRT begins new chapter with BMW
The biggest story heading into the 2023 Sprint Cup campaign is Team WRT, which switches to BMW machinery after an astonishing run of success with Audi Sport. Its #32 line-up of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts remains unchanged, setting the Belgian duo up to contend for a fourth straight title, though the transition to a new car should make this their toughest fight yet.
Team WRT brings two more Pro entries to the grid. In the #46 BMW, Valentino Rossi will embark upon his second season as a full-time GT racer alongside the accomplished Maxime Martin, who was at the wheel for the most recent BMW victory in the Sprint Cup back in 2015. The #31 brings together French duo Thomas Neubauer and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, who earned last season's Endurance Cup title in the Silver class for Team WRT.
Emil Frey Racing has also switched brands for 2023, linking up with Ferrari to run the new 296 GT3. Albert Costa brings a wealth of experience in a variety of machinery, so expect the Spanish ace to lead the #69 car's charge alongside emerging talent Thierry Vermeulen. The sister #14 sees established Emil Frey Racing drivers Giacomo Altoè and Konsta Lappalainen pair up for what should be another front-running effort.
Audi Sport is by far the most successful brand in Fanatec GT Sprint Cup history with a haul of 44 overall race wins. It looks more than capable of increasing its tally this term, with no fewer than five Pro crews leading the Ingolstadt marque's charge. Saintéloc Junior Team is the most experienced among them and will field the #25 for Patric Niederhauser and Erwan Bastard, while Chris Mies and Gregoire Demoustier join forces in the #27.
Tresor Orange1 is a new name, but with the vastly experienced Attempto Racing working behind the scenes and an all-factory driver line-up of Mattia Drudi and Ricardo Feller they must be considered among the title favourites. Comtoyou Racing is also new to the series but there is plenty of winning know-how among its two-car line-up, with Christopher Haase and Lucas Legeret in the #11 and the #12 uniting Belgian duo Frédéric Vervisch and Nicolas Baert.
VSR will launch its first assault on the Fanatec GT Europe Sprint Cup title with a pair of a Lamborghini factory drivers sharing its new Huracán GT3 EVO2. Franck Perera already has winning experience in the series, while Jordan Pepper has been a champion in Fanatec GT America. As such their green machine is definitely one to watch this term.
McLaren is represented by a pair of Pro crews, both of which will use the new 720S Evo. JP Motorsport has every reason to be optimistic with former grand prix racer Christian Klien and reigning Sprint Cup Pro-Am champion Dean MacDonald. Garage 59 has a young duo in Benji Goethe and Nicolai Kjaergaard, though both have already accumulated plenty of experience at this level and will look to add to their reputations in 2023.
There have been significant off-season changes at Dinamic GT Huber Racing, with a new organisation branching off from the successful Dinamic Motorsport squad. But there's plenty of consistency, too: the Italian outfit will once again run the #54 Porsche, while the duo of Christian Engelhart and Adrien de Leener are set for a third assault on the Sprint Cup.
The final Pro crew might very well be the pre-season favourite. Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy enter their fourth year as Sprint Cup teammates in the #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG, extending a partnership that has already produced a pair of runner-up finishes. They were victorious 12 months ago at Brands Hatch and will be determined to kick-start their 2023 title challenge with another win.
Gold Cup & Silver Cup: Youth and experience among impressive list of class contenders
In addition to the 15 crews competing in the Pro category, a further 14 will be spread across the Gold Cup and Silver Cup classes. There are plenty of strong line-ups among them, several of which could threaten the overall top-10 at Brands Hatch.
The five-car Gold Cup field is led by a pair of cars from Audi squad Boutsen VDS. Aurélien Panis scored a brace of overall podiums last term and should make a strong pairing in the #9 car with Alberto di Folco, while the sister #10 is also a potential class winner with Adam Eteki and Cesar Gazeau sharing the wheel.
Comtoyou Racing enjoyed a sensational Endurance Cup debut last month, winning both the Gold and Silver Cup classes at Monza. Finlay Hutchison was part of the latter crew and will partner Belgian ace Gilles Magnus in a Gold Cup effort at Brands Hatch.
Saintéloc Junior Team adds a fourth Audi to the class, with recently appointed factory driver Simon Gachet joined by fellow Frenchman Paul Evrard. The lone BMW on the Gold Cup grid comes from Team WRT, with youngsters Calan Williams and Niklas Krütten looking to stop the Audi onslaught.
Nine crews competing for Silver Cup honours bring the Brands Hatch entry list to 29 cars, the most seen at the British circuit since 2017. After dominating the class last term, AF Corse has an all-new driver line-up in its Ferrari. Experienced GT racer Sean Hudspeth will partner teenager Nicola Marinangeli at the wheel of the venerable 488 GT3.
There's significant interest in another Italian team, as series newcomer Nova Race gives the Honda NSX GT3 its Sprint Cup debut with a two-car programme. Leonardo Moncini partners Jacopo Guidetti in the #28 machine, while Erwin Zanotti and Diego Di Fabio share the #68.
In terms of experience, Mercedes-AMG squad Madpanda Motorsport has an ace up its sleeve in Ezequiel Perez Companc, who is joined this term by rookie Jesse Salmenautio. Haupt Racing Team will also run the AMG GT3 for the young line-up of Jordan Love and Frank Bird, the latter returning to the class in which he finished as runner-up in 2021.
Tresor Attempto Racing is the lone Audi squad in the Silver Cup and should be a serious title threat with its pairing of Alex Aka and Lorenzo Patrese. A trio of Lamborghini entries complete the grid, two of which come from VSR. Baptiste Moulin and Marcus Paverud will share the #119, while Rolf Ineichen partners Yuki Nemoto in the #163. Finally, the GSM AB1 squad will kick off its second year in the series by fielding its #18 machine for series debutants Nicholas Risitano and Fernando Croce.
HOW TO WATCH
Live coverage begins on Saturday with back-to-back Qualifying sessions and continues for both of Sunday’s 60-minute races. As ever, it will be available across a variety of online platforms, including the GT World YouTube channel. Fans can watch free of charge on this non-geo-blocked stream, with commentary available in English, French, German and Italian.
SATURDAY 13 MAY
09:00 – 10:00: Free Practice
12:45 – 13:45: Pre-Qualifying
15:55 – 16:45: Qualifying LIVE TV
SUNDAY 14 MAY
09:05 - 09.45: Pitwalk & Autographe session
11:05 – 12:05: Race 1 LIVE TV
16:10 – 17:10: Race 2 LIVE TV
• 7 Race Series – 420R (2x 25-minute races)
• 7 Race Series – 1600S (2x 25-minute races)
• BMW Car Club Racing Championship (2x 20-minute races)
• Sports 2000 (2x 25-minute races)
• Equipe Classic Racing (2x 40-minute races)
STATS & FACTS
• At 3.9km, the Brands Hatch Grand Prix layout is the shortest on the Fanatec GT Europe calendar. It hosts its ninth event this term, more than any other Sprint Cup venue, though Misano will match that number when its 2023 round runs in July.
• Audi is the best-represented brand on the Brands Hatch entry list with 10 cars, followed by BMW (4), Lamborghini (4), Ferrari (3), Mercedes-AMG (3), Honda (2), McLaren (2), Porsche (1).
• Nova Race and Comtoyou Racing will both make their Sprint Cup debuts at Brands Hatch. The former is set for its first appearance in any Fanatec GT Europe competition, while the latter contested last month’s Endurance opener at Monza.
• The new Boutsen VDS alliance is preparing for its first Sprint outing, though both sides have previously competed in the series. The Boutsen name last appeared on a Sprint Cup entry list in 2019, while Marc VDS has been absent since 2013.
• Among the 59 drivers who will travel to Brands Hatch, eight have previously secured an overall win at the circuit, while 15 have earned at least one overall Sprint Cup victory.
• Overall wins by brand: Audi (6), Mercedes-AMG (5), Lamborghini (4), Ferrari (1).
• Classes by numbers: 15 Pro; 9 Silver; 5 Gold.
• Series lap record: 1m21.370s (Raffaele Marciello, #89 Mercedes-AMG, 2022).