Friday, June 29, 2012

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to the Ricard in search of podium finishes

Belgian Audi Club Press Release

Going South is quite typical of this season, as the summer holidays season starts, but this is not the reason that will bring the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to the French Mediterranean coast this weekend! The Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet hosts the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series. After two podium finishes at Silverstone, the Belgian squad heads to the Var region with the intention to repeat, and possibly, improve that result, in order to remain well-positioned in the championship race ahead of the crucial Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps end of July. The entire team is highly motivated and ready to face the expected hot weather. The two Audis R8 LMS ultra will be entrusted to the usual Blancpain driver line-ups, with local hero Stéphane Ortelli partnering with Christopher Mies and Christopher Haase, and Marco Bonanomi back at the wheel of the other car alongside Laurens Vanthoor and Edward Sandström, after his brilliant podium finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

"I really look forward to this round", admits Team Principal Vincent Vosse, "It is always pleasant to go to a beautiful track in a nice place, and this is certainly the case with the Paul Ricard. On top of that, we have been doing well in the Blancpain recently and I am confident we can continue and improve this trend. We suffer less from the balance of performance in this series, probably because races are longer and the handicap gets somehow defused. I trust we can do well at the Ricard, despite its very long straight, and it will be nice to clinch our first win of the year in the Blancpain there, just before the Total 24 Hours of Spa. Our objective is to keep our two cars in the race for the title, and I am sure that among our drivers, Stéphane Ortelli is particularly motivated, as this is his home race."

This is, indeed, the closest track to home for the Monegasque driver, who has a long-standing relationship with the track. "Here is where I started going to races and racing myself", confirms Stéphane. "It's a very special track to me, for many reasons. Incidentally, here is where I met for the first time, in 2009, Christopher Haase and Christopher Mies, who are now my team mates, and it would be quite nice to win here."

While the Paul Ricard is definitely a fast track, theoretically not the best suited for the R8s in their current configuration, Ortelli thinks the Audis will do well. "We might not be the fastest on the long Mistral straight", he explains, "but the track has fast and long corners, where the R8 performs well, thanks to its excellent aerodynamic package. From an aero point of view, I really think we have the best car of all. We are penalized in slow and medium corners, that require a lot of braking and re-acceleration, and there aren't many at the Ricard. Even the "S" bringing into the long straight is quite technical and fast, so I don't think we will be too slow in the straight."

Being at home, the personable Monegasque is taking very seriously his "host role" for the entire team and he has even volunteered as the personal driver of Laurens Vanthoor. "It's me who will pick him up at the TGV station tomorrow", he smiles, "We keep forgetting he's too young to rent a car!"

The Belgian, who shares the other Belgian Audi with Edward Sandström and Marco Bonanomi (buoyed by an excellent third place with the Audi R18 ultra on his debut at Le Mans), is also a fan of the Ricard and points out to an aspect that could play a key role this weekend: "We should expect temperatures in the high 30 degrees Celsius, and this means it will be hot in the cars. Having raced only in open single-seaters so far, this will be new to me, but I am fit and I have been preparing for the heath, so I'm confident this won't be a major issue. We should aim at podium finishes and at preventing the BMWs to win again!"

With free practice and pre-qualifying on Saturday, the Ricard race will take place, on the usual 3-hour format, in the middle of Sunday's afternoon, starting at 14:15.

Photo credit: Markus Berns / SRO

More information:
Belgian Audi Club official website
WRT official website
Blancpain Endurance Series official website