Monday, January 14, 2013

Blancpain Endurance Series 2012 Audi season review

By Johan Laubscher and Tarek Ramchani

2012 was a fantastic season for Audi in the Blancpain Endurance Series. The Four Rings were able to defend the 2011 championship titles yet again with the same team, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. The Belgian squad secured the drivers and teams titles after titanic battles all season long with arch rivals from Marc VDS Racing BMW. Stéphane Ortelli from Monaco along with Christopher Haase and Christopher Mies were crowned at the last race of the season in Spain. In addition to the Belgian performances, Audi again won the stellar event of the series, the prestigious Spa 24 Hours. A great 1-2 victory for the Audi R8 LMS ultra. Strong results came from the privateer Audi teams in both the Pro-Am and Gentlemen Trophy classes. Here is our full Blancpain Endurance Series 2012 season review:

Round 1: Monza
Round 1 of the 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series was held at Monza. Six Audi cars were on the 57 car grid for the three hour race. The six cars were entered by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, JB Motorsport, Sainteloc Racing and GT3 Racing. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT were at the front of the field for the bulk of the race with their two Audi R8 LMS ultra cars. The #1 of Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Stéphane Ortelli were in the hunt for the win until a problem with a wheel change during a pit stop caused the car to lose valuable time. The #2 of Edward Sandström, Laurens Vanthoor and Marco Bonanomi came from 37th on the grid to finish second overall, a good result with the sister #1 finishing in 6th. The other four Audis in the race also did well in class.

Round 2: Silverstone
Round two of the Blancpain Endurance series was held at a very wet Silverstone. Six Audi R8 LMS and ultra cars were on the grid for the three hour race. The WRT cars raced hard and claimed a double podium finish by taking second and third on the podium. The other Audis did well and the JB Motorsport Audi team won the Gentlemen’s Trophy category, the team’s first international win of this kind.

Round 3: Paul Ricard
Round three of the Blancpain Endurance series was hosted at Paul Ricard in France for the third three hour endurance event. Seven Audi R8 LMS cars were entered from WRT, Saintéloc, GT3 Racing and Brunstedt Motorsport. The Audis were fast all weekend and it was successful for WRT. Despite losing the #2 car early in the race, WRT and car #1 came home victorious. The other Audis also did well, especially in the Gentleman trophy with a second and third place for Brunstedt Motorsport and Saintéloc respectively.

Round 4: Spa 24 Hours
The annual Spa 24 Hours played host to round four of the Blancpain Endurance Series. Ten Audi R8 LMS and ultra cars lined up on the gird for the classic Belgian endurance race. Four factory supported cars were representing Audi Sport from Phoenix Racing and WRT. The Audis started from lower grid places due to the cancelation of final qualifying. During the race the Audis soldiered steadily to the front. Early drama came for the #6 Audi of Lotterer as he was involved in a crash which cost them nearly half an hour. The #6 crew completed the recovery drive of the race by coming from outside the top sixty to finish sixth overall. The race was one of changeable weather and many hours of safety cars. By the morning Phoenix and WRT had established themselves at the front of the field running 1,2,3. The #2 WRT Audi had a very big crash through Eau Rouge which ended the possibility of an Audi R8 LMS ultra podium sweep. The race at the front was very close. The #16 Phoenix Audi versus the #1 WRT Audi battled very hard during Sunday. At the end the race played out in favour of the Audi Sport Team Phoenix squad with WRT coming home in second. The privateer Audis, six in total, also did well in their respective classes.

Round 5: Nürburgring
The Blancpain Endurance grid included seven Audis at the Nürburgring. The regular six cars were joined by an entry from Phoenix Racing. All the cars were competitive during the weekend with Phoenix claiming second on the grid and JB Motorsport with pole in their class. The race was a case of ups and downs and the best placed Audi was the #1 WRT car in fourth followed by the Saintéloc Audi in fifth.

Round 6: Navarra
The season finale of the Blancpain Endurance Series took place at Navarra in Spain. All the regular Audi entries took part. WRT was fighting for both the driver's and team's championships this weekend. To assist them with their goal they entered a third WRT car. Qualifying went well for WRT with two cars in the top ten. The race was very busy, the WRT cars crept towards the front as rain began to fall. As the race entered the final hour WRT were looking good for both titles. Within the last hour the rain became torrential and the safety car was called. The #1 was in second followed by the #6 Audi and the #3 championship rivalling BMW. If the BMW finished ahead of the #6 they would be the drivers champions. In the end the race was red flagged due to the rain and the second and third places were enough for WRT to win both the team's and driver's crown, for the #1 car. The other Audis in the field also did well, including the JB Motorsport team who won the Gentlemen's Trophy in their Audi R8 LMS.

Photo credit: SRO/Blancpain Endurance Series