Strong pace unrewarded for Zyrus GT3 driver Qarajouli in round one of GT World Challenge at Paul Ricard


France, Paul Ricard Round 1 – April 8th 2024-

It was a rollercoaster ride for the young #19 crew in the Grasser Racing Lamborghini GT3 Huracán EVO II during the opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe. The Lamborghini Squadra Corse supported team from Austria competed in the first of five rounds in the Endurance Cup on the weekend of 6-7 April. Zyrus supported test and development driver Haytham Qarajouli took his debut in GT3 racing amongst a world class field of drivers and manufacturers.

At the season opener in France, the outfit took on the high-calibre competition in the strong field of 54 GT3 entries.

Left- Hugo Cook, middle, Matteo Llarena and right, Haytham Qarajouli – Paul Ricard 2024 – Paul Ricard 2024 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography

In the Silver Cup, Qarajouli shared the #19 car with team mates Hugo Cook and Lamborghini Young Driver Mateo Llarena, all gaining valuable insights on their debut in the renowned endurance series of the SRO Motorsports Group.

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS – 1. Event, Paul Ricard 2024 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography

The young trio managed to secure P4 in Silver class for the 3-hour race on the 5.791 km long Circuit Paul Ricard. On race day Matteo took the first out of three one hour stints in the car, under clear blue skies and beautiful sunshine in the French Riviera.

The #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 experienced an eventful debut on the former Formula 1 circuit in Le Castellet as Llarena started the race on row 16 from 31st place in the overall standings.

Race start of Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS – Paul Ricard 2024 – Foto: Gruppe C

The opening hour of the race was peppered with four yellow phases due to incidents in the field, and a 10-second time penalty for contact in his Q1 stint set the team back at the first driver change where Qarajouli was eager to take the reigns as the team lay 4th in class. Qarajouli spent much of his one hour stint trying to make up ground but his progress was hampered by a traffic and unable to progress despite his improving lap times.

The final hour Hugo Cook had work to do, and after a delayed get away out of the pit box the youngsters finished eighth in the Silver Cup.

The team now looks ahead to the official test days at Spa-Francorchamps on May 21/22 in preparation for the showcase 24H of Spa centenary event on Jun 27-30.

Race Finish at Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Paul Ricard 2024 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography

Hugo Cook (GBR) / Mateo Llarena (ITA) / Haytham Qarajouli (KUW)
#19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Qualifying: P4 – Race: P8

Driver Quotes-

Haytham Qarajouli: “I’m pretty happy with my debut in GT3 racing. Practice and qualifying went well. The pace in the race was also good, but unfortunately, we were stuck in traffic for too long. I lost too much time when overtaking. We always made up ground in the free air, which felt good. It was important to finish the first race. We want to build on that, because there is still room for improvement.”

Mateo Llarena: “My first race weekend in the GT World Challenge Europe brought many positive insights. Considering that it was the first start for all of us in this strong championship, we did a lot of things very well. On the other hand, we also realized that we still have some areas to improve. There were a few small mistakes that we want to rectify at the next race weekend.”

Hugo Cook: “I really enjoyed competing on a race weekend with GRT for the first time. We had good preparation for the season and I got on well here straight away. I felt really comfortable, especially in qualifying. I was 16th overall in my qualifying group, which is a nice achievement in such a strong field. In the race, however, I could have done even better. I now know what I need to work on and I’m looking forward to the upcoming events.”

Gottfried Grasser, Team Principal of GRT:
“Our rookies also gave us a reason to smile with their finish. It was important for them to gain experience here. The GT World Challenge Europe was completely new territory for the line-up. We will analyse the weekend together and correct the small mistakes, so next time out they will get the result that is possible with their pace. We are already looking forward to attacking with this strong team at the season highlight in Spa.”

GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup 2024
05/04/24 – 07/04/24      Circuit Paul Ricard 500 km
26/06/24 – 30/06/24      CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa
26/07/24 – 28/07/24      3h Nürburgring
20/09/24 – 22/09/24      3h Monza
21/11/24 – 23/11/24         Jeddah Corniche 1000 km

 Foto: Gruppe C Photography