Friday, June 28, 2013

BES: The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to France to consolidate positions in the Blancpain Series

Belgian Audi Club Press Release

It may be the start of the summer holiday season, but the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is heading to Southern France for some serious business. The Circuit Paul Ricard near Le Castellet hosts this weekend the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, where the Belgian squad will seek to consolidate and possibly improve the excellent positions it holds at the moment. The outfit is second in the Teams’ standings, just five points from the top, while in the Drivers’ rankings, Edward Sandström-Frank Stippler-Christopher Mies lie second and Stéphane Ortelli-Laurens Vanthoor-René Rast fourth, with Matt Halliday-Rahel Frey-Nicky Mayr-Melnhof at the door of the top ten. Although the Paul Ricard is certainly not the most favourable circuit for the Audi R8 LMS ultra, the WRT boys hope to repeat last year’s performance, when they clinched victory and started the successful chase to the titles.

The French event comes just one week after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, “the race” in the world of endurance, which saw the 12th victory in 14 years of the Audi sportscars. The GT community is still under shock after the accident that took the life of Allan Simonsen, a tragedy that has been deeply felt among Team WRT members. “Allan drove for us at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring last year and we got to know him at that occasion. He was an excellent and very professional driver and a very nice person”, says Team Principal Vincent Vosse, “We were all terribly saddened by the news and all our thoughts are with Allan’s family and dear ones. Unfortunately, accidents can happen and this reminds us that motorsports remains an activity where the zero risk is impossible to achieve, despite all efforts and advances.”

Logically, competition will be everybody’s focus as cars will start hit the track at the Ricard. “We know that the Ricard is not the track that suits us the best and that the current balance of performance may see some of our rivals ahead of us”, continues Vosse, “but this did not prevent winning last year, although thanks to clever strategy during safety car periods. We will need to be patient and clever once again. The objective is to go for heavy points and consolidate the good position in the championship. We know we have a good car, good drivers and a good team and we’ll take it from there”.

Among all WRT drivers, Stéphane Ortelli is the one who can claim this one as his ‘home’ race and the one who knows the track best. “I have been racing here since ever”, confirms the Monegasque, “and I think that although we won’t be the fastest in the long straight, we will be ok in the long and fast corners that are critical. The R8 has very good aerodynamic qualities and these have been further improved with this year’s update package.”

His team mate Laurens Vanthoor admits that “this is not my favourite track but it’s a circuit that forgives the little mistakes you can make. I think we should be competitive and we will also have to see the impact of weather conditions, as this will be the first time this year that we can expect real hot weather.” The young Belgian spent last weekend racing at his home track of Zolder, as the local guest star in the Superstars, the Italian DTM-like series, where he drove a RS5 of Audi Italia. “It was fun and something different”, he admits, “I enjoyed the experience”. Laurens took 2nd in both races, leaving the victory in the second race to his team mate Gianni Morbidelli, who bids for the title.

At the moment, car #13 is the best-placed in the championship and there is no doubt that Edward Sandström, who shares the wheel with Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies, is thrilled by the situation. “It’s fun to be up there in the standings”, says the Swede, “We need to keep things going on. So, we will avoid doing silly things and try to bring home heavy points, although we will not avoid racing for a win if that is within reach. We were strong in Silverstone and I think we can be in a similar position at the Ricard. Of course, it is too early to think about the championship. With the Spa race giving so many points, an assessment of the situation makes sense only after the 24 Hours.”

The weekend will follow the usual format, with free practice and pre-qualifying on Saturday, qualifying on Sunday morning and the 3-hour race starting at 3 pm on Sunday afternoon. Besides Team WRT, other Belgian Audi Club members will be on the grid, with Enzo Ide-Anthony Kumpen continuing their excellent campaign with the Phoenix Racing R8 and Ronnie Lantinne again at the wheel of one of the Saintéloc team.

Photo credit: Blancpain Endurance Series