Belgian Audi Club Press Release
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT kept up with the tradition and visited the podium of the Silverstone round of the Blancpain Endurance Series for the third consecutive year. This time, Marc Basseng, César Ramos and Laurens Vanthoor took third, the lowest spot but the result, achieved in the very last lap, left the team with a very sweet taste, after a very closely-fought and not easy race. Car #1 struggled with traffic in the first part of the race and was slowed by a drive-through before Laurens Vanthoor’s terrific charge in the last stint. The other car of Christopher Mies, James Nash and Frank Stippler had a faultless race but was targeted throughout it by electrical problems that left the trio in 9th position. The third car of Jean-Luc Blanchemain, Pierre Hirschi and Yves Weerts, entered in the Gentlemen Trophy, was stopped soon after the first pit stop by a gearbox problem.
“I prefer a thousand times to have a third place conquered like this than a lacklustre or boring win”, admitted Team Principal Vincent Vosse, “we are very pleased with this results that makes a lot of good to the team. I must congratulate Laurens for his marvellous stint, this year he’s really in an incredible shape! For the rest, there were good things, like the excellent race of car #3 and the pit stop, and other less good, like some technical issues, some mistakes and time lost. We’ll analyse all that and try to improve further. We also need, I think, to look again at the Balance of Performance, as some cars seem to be excessively fast. This said, I wish to congratulate Bentley for their first win, it is positive to see a new manufacturer being successful so soon, and I want to congratulate in particular our country-fellow Christian Loriaux, who is behind the Continental.”
The weekend had started with heavy rain, with the Audis R8 LMS ultra being competitive, as proven by the 2nd spot of Mies and the 3rd of Ramos (despite a spin) in the pre-qualifying, while Yves Weerts signed the best time among Gentlemen.
In qualifying, on race day, with an almost dry track, Basseng on car #1 took P9, while Mies qualified 12th on car #3 and Hirschi put the #4 in P7 in GTR.
The race, in good weather and track conditions, started with the usual issues deriving from compact traffic. Nevertheless, the Audis gained positions, with Mies taking ninth on
the #3, right ahead Basseng on the #1, but with a gap of already 20 seconds on the leader after only 5 laps. Mies was able to gain one position, while Basseng paid toll like six other drivers, for not slowing under yellow, re-joining in P11 after a drive-through.
While the first stint was relatively uneventful for the two top cars, the third car of the Belgian squad had a difficult time after a great start (it was lying in 2nd in the GTR category in the opening laps), as Jean-Luc Blanchemain spun twice, in laps 13 and 26. The race of number #4 was to be over two laps after the driver change, as the gearbox broke leaving no other option to Pierre Hirschi to go back to the pits at very slow speed and retire.
After the first pit stop, Nash and Ramos stabilized in P6 and P8 respectively. The Brazilian got stuck for a long time behind a Mercedes that could keep him at bay thanks to its greater top speed in the straight, while car #3 started to experience more and more electrical problems, which increased after Stippler taking the wheel and brought him down to P16. On his side, Vanthoor, taking over from Ramos in P9, started a superb charge throughout his entire stint, gaining two positions and two more on Prémat and Schneider at the restart after a safety-car period to remove two cars stranded on the track. The young Belgian seemed unstoppable and despite losing four seconds behind a slower Aston, he managed to win his last duel, catching and passing Guilvert (on the Saintéloc Audi) in the very last lap with a brilliant final move that meant 3rd overall and podium. “I had great fun during this final stint”, confessed with satisfaction the young Belgian, “and it’s nice to be on the podium. It’s a pity we lost some time in the first part of the race.”
Frank Stippler, still struggling with electrical problems, also managed to improve the position of #3, taking a final ninth position overall. “We had electrical problems since before the start of the race”, explained the German, “Luckily, the team could solve them and we could start the car but the problems arose again during the race and got worse at the end. It’s a pity because, otherwise, it would have really been a faultless race.”
The next (and third) round of the Blancpain Endurance Series will be at the Paul Ricard on 28-29 June.
Photo credit: Belgian Audi Club / Patrick Hecq Photography