Sunday, November 24, 2013

FIA GT: 1-2 victory for Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in the Baku Qualifying Race

By Johan Laubscher

The finale of the FIA GT Series is taking place in Azerbaijan this weekend. The Baku World Challenge street circuit is the scene for the finale. WRT locked out the front row for the Qualifying Race and backed that up with terrific race results this morning.

Six Audi R8 LMS ultra cars have been entered from three different teams. Four cars have been entered by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and one each from Phoenix Racing and Team Novadriver.

The drivers’ championship in the Pro Cup comes down to this weekend and it is a straight duel between WRT’s two crews of #11 Stéphane Ortelli / Laurens Vanthoor and #13 Edward Sandström / Frank Stippler. WRT is also aiming to clinch the teams’ title this weekend.

The Audi teams showed good pace at the front during the entire weekend. Good times in practice were backed up by a very strong showing in qualifying. The two qualifying sessions concluded with Rene Rast setting a massively impressive lap time, leading an Audi 1-2-3, with the #12 WRT Audi on pole, ahead of the #5 Phoenix and #11 WRT. Team Novadriver secured second position within the Pro-Am Cup. Phoenix Racing was later disqualified and dropped to last place for a technical infringement.

Sunday kicked off with the Qualifying race. A damp track had put a delay on the proceedings, but the race did eventually get going under safety car conditions. Rene Rast took control when the green flag was waved and continued to build a good gap in the #12 Audi ahead of Vanthoor in second position with the #11 Audi. The #13 Audi of Sandström was running further back after their grid drop penalty. By the end of the pitstop sequence the #12 Audi re-emerged as the race leader, now with Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof behind the wheel, ahead of Stéphane Ortelli in the #11 Audi.

A safety car period bunched up the field after the pitstops and Ortelli was on the tale of Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof. Stippler had recovered to tenth in the #13 Audi. Mayr-Melnhof held onto the lead until the race was red flagged due to an incident involving the #14 Novadriver Audi.

The race was restarted with an additional ten minutes added to the race time. Mayr-Melnhof continued to lead ahead of Ortelli. Mayr-Melnhof held onto the lead and opened up a small gap ahead of his teammate, which was enough to secure victory.

Rene Rast and Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof were victorious in the #12 Audi ahead of Audi #11 with Stéphane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor in second. Sandström and Frank Stippler finished eighth in the #13 Audi. The #5 Phoenix Racing Audi finished tenth with Enzo Ide and Markus Winkelhock. The #18 WRT Audi finished seventeenth with Grégoire Demoustier and Filipe Albuquerque behind the wheel.

These results were enough to crown Belgian Audi Club Team WRT as the 2013 FIA GT Series Pro Cup teams' champions. The drivers' title will be decided in the Championship Race.

The main Championship Race is scheduled for later this afternoon. We wish the best of luck to the Audi teams and drivers. 

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