19.02.2024 | News

GT Winter Series Valencia: Wiebelhaus delivers a clean sweep for Haupt

Finn Wiebelhaus completed what he described as his “best weekend” by storming to dominant victories in both sprint races and the endurance round in the GT Winter Series in Valencia. Another great event with over 10.000 spectators visiting the permanent circuit in Cheste.

The clean sweep was supported by strong performance by South African team-mate Kwanda Mokoena on his debut weekend for the German Haupt Racing Team and its Mercedes AMG GT3 cars.

Race 1
As the sun began to set on a warm Spanish Saturday afternoon, Wiebelhaus put in a serene performance to score a third victory from four races in the GTWS. His Haupt Mercedes made a perfect getaway from pole position and quickly built a gap to a guesting Nicki Thiim in SSR Performance’s Lamborghini Huracan. By the end of the 30-minute sprint, Wiebelhaus was 4.116s to the good.

“It was a nice race, quite fun,” said the winner. “I love the track and the car which was perfectly set up, so it was a real pleasure. It was the plan to build a gap and be in front of the Lamborghini before we started lapping cars. Nicki is a good reference, a really experienced and fast guy, so it was a pleasure to race against him.”

Thiim was impressed, the experienced Dane making a one-off GTWS appearance in preparation for his forthcoming season racing the Lamborghini in the DTM. “Good credit to the winner,” he said. “A fast kid you’ve got there, so I hope he has a good future. It was good preparation, I learnt a lot about the car. Thank you for having us, really good preparation for our season.”

But the battle for the final podium spot was far less straightforward. Mokoena in the second Haupt Mercedes faced a race-long threat from Team Joos by Twin Busch Porsche driver Michael Kapfinger, the green and blue 992 GT3 R pressing throughout the race to find a way past. But the white Mercedes was not to be denied, as Mokoena capped an impressive debut. “A bit of a tricky race,” he said. “I felt like we had the pace, we just have a little fine tuning to do with the car. But overall I have to be super-happy. A podium in our first race, I couldn’t ask for more.”

Hubert Darmetko claimed Porsche Cup honours for PTT Racing in ninth overall, with Petros Makris the best of the two Ferrari Challenge entries.

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Race 2
Wiebelhaus completed the sprint race double on Sunday with a straightforward victory from pole position without breaking a sweat in front of a big Valencia crowd. “It was a really nice race, I could settle the pace, the car was brilliant – I could push, push, push – and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “The atmosphere was brilliant.”

But there was heartbreak for Mokoena, who started on the front row and ran second throughout despite pressure from the charging Porsche of Kapfinger. Then on the last lap, Mokoena lost his Mercedes at Turn 4 and spun into the tyre wall. Haupt quickly ruled out driver error. “It was going perfectly, we managed to get the one-two off the line and hold P2 until the last lap,” he said. “Unfortunately we had a failure on a brake caliper. As soon as I went into the corner I only had rear brakes and it locked the rear.”

That should have left Kapfinger to inherit second place. But two penalties for track limit violations amounting to 10 seconds dropped him to third and elevated Thiim to another second-place finish – when fourth had looked like his best hope in this race.

Jonas Karklys in his Juta Racing Audi held off the Mercedes of Martin Kaczmarski for fourth, with Kenneth Heyer completing the top six for SR Motorsport.

Race 3
All that was left for Wiebelhaus was to repeat his form in the 55-minute endurance race – and that’s what he did, driving solo to complete his perfect weekend. The 17-year-old belied his age with a mature drive, making a clean start, completing his stop without a drama and leading team-mate Mokoena at the chequered flag by an impressive 23.984s. No wonder his mentor, two-time Le Mans winner Manuel Reuter, was smiling.

“My best weekend so far in the GT3 class,” said a satisfied Wiebelhaus. “The car was amazing, I could push every lap, on the limit. A nice car makes it really fun to drive.”

Mokoena’s runner-up finish made up for his Race 2 disappointment, but he had to work hard for it in the early stages. Kapfinger was pushing to pass in the Joos Porsche, until a mistake on lap 13 dropped him back. “I tried to overtake the Mercedes and just drive to my pace,” he said. “It was really difficult with cold tyres at the start, but I tried my best and with the dirty air of the Mercedes it was not possible. I had a close call in Turn 7, he braked really early and I thought ‘oh, what the hell is going on?’ Then I moved to the right, there was the pick-up and dirt on the outside of the corner, the car was understeering and I had a little trip through the gravel bed.”

Kapfinger did well to recover, then handed the car over to Michael Joos for the second stint and the pair completed the podium.

SR Motorsport’s Mo Hartling and Heyer finished fourth in their Mercedes, with the two Juta Racing Audis in fifth and sixth. PTT Racing’s Mateusz Lisowski claimed the Porsche Cup class in ninth overall, while Frank Kewitz and Kevin Mirocha took Ferrari Challenge honours for JVO Racing.

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