Belgian Audi Club Presse Release
It was not an easy weekend for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT at Brands Hatch. If need be, the round at the legendary track in Egland proved that the Blancpain Sprint Series has reached this year an unprecedented level of competitiveness and that every second counts. Laurens Vanthoor-César Ramos finished 6th in the Qualifying Race, despite starting from the pole and leading during the first stint, and took 4th in the Main Race. Slowed by a puncture in the initial laps of the first race, René Rast-Enzo Ide fought to climb through the field to take a 14th and a 9th spot in the two races, respectively. The biggest satisfaction came from the pair of youngsters, Vincent Abril-Mateusz Lisowski, who collected a second and a win in the Silver Cup, extending their lead in the competition for “under 25”.
The focus of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and the Blancpain Series shifts now to the Endurance Series, with the next two races of Silverstone and Paul Ricard.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse wrapped up the weekend with philosophy: “We really had a bit of everything this weekend. We were competitive, as proven by Laurens Vanthoor with his pole and his first stint in the morning’s race, but then car #1 lost precious time in the pit lane, which couldn’t be made up. A small contact and the subsequent puncture in the first laps of the first race influenced the entire weekend of the car of René Rast-Enzo Ide. Only Abril-Lisowski had trouble-free races and they did a great job in the Silver Cup. The level of the competition this year is so high that you can’t afford losing a single second. It’s really very tight at all levels: cars, teams and drivers. This just means that you have to be perfect in all areas to be ahead, especially on a track like Brands Hatch, where overtaking is not easy. We lacked a little bit of success today, but I am happy of how the entire team performed, and we will work even harder for the next rounds.”
Despite the compact event schedule, WRT drivers managed to familiarize quickly with the track, putting on good performances in qualifying. Lisowski-Abril were excellent 6th in Q1, but later missed to make it for Q3. In the decisive session, Laurens Vanthoor signed a magnificent last-minute lap, which stopped the watch in 1.23.865, meaning the pole by a margin of mere 22 thousandths of a second. “During my first two flying laps I made a mistake on each of the laps, so I had only one chance left. I knew that if you push hard on this track, take many risks, you can go very quickly. So it was a real all or nothing effort and luckily it worked out for me”, commented the Belgian. René Rast took 8th on the grid, not being in a position to repeat the second-fastest time he had in Q2, with car #4 taking P13 on the grid.
At the start of the Qualifying race on Sunday morning, under a bright sunshine, Vanthoor was passed by Götz in the initial meters but the Belgian dived ad late as possible into Paddock Hill bend retaking the advantage, after a slight contact with his rival. Vanthoor managed to control the race during his entire stint, although his advantage never exceeded a couple of seconds. He pitted late, unfortunately just before the safety-car got into the track to rescue Zanardi’s car stuck in the gravel. The Lambo in second pitted faster, while also two other cars got past as Ramos rejoined the track, in fourth. After the re-start, the Brazilian got under threat by the BMWs of his country-fellows Brito and Jimenez, who eventually were able to pass him. Sixth was a somehow disappointing final position. René Rast and Enzo Ide also had their share of bad luck, as the German, who was then 6th after a brilliant move on Bueno, had to pit unexpectedly in lap 5 following a slow puncture on the right front tire, damaged in a slight contact with a BMW. Lisowski and Abril had a trouble-free but unrewarding race. They were leading the Silver Cup and at the doorstep of the top ten, but pitting early (lap 19) became a disadvantage as soon as the safety-car came into play. This allowed their main rivals, Colombo-Fumanelli, who pitted two laps later, to take the class win without the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT duo being overtaken on the track.
The Main Race, again with perfect weather and track conditions, saw a smooth start, with Ramos keeping sixth position, Abril 8th, and Ide 17th. Car #4 later gained one position and Ide climbed up to 12th. Pit stops were sequenced, with Vanthoor taking over from Ramos in lap 17, followed by Rast (lap 19) and Lisowski (22). Late driver change for the junior duo meant that Vincent Abril led the race for two laps, on top of keeping perfect control of the Silver Cup. After all driver changes, Vanthoor found himself in fifth, 18 seconds behind the leader, with Lisowski in 7th and Rast in 9th. With the BMW of Brito forced to serve a drive-through, Vanthoor and Lisowski gained a position while Rast was almost put out of the track by the rejoining BMW.
There were mixed feelings among the drivers after the race, as Laurens Vanthoor admitted: “The little contact with Götz at the start of Race 1 changed something in the set-up of the car, which wasn’t that good. We tried to correct that before the second start, and things improved but still, the car wasn’t 100%”. On his side, Enzo Ide confessed: “It is really a great circuit to drive on, but it’s very difficult to overtake, when you are not much faster than the car in front. So, with the puncture and the time lost in the first race, it was a difficult weekend.”
Eventually, the happier were the two Silver Cup drivers, as underlined by Vincent Abril: “We had a good weekend and we extend the lead in the Silver Cup, so it is positive, but it was though. Somehow, the behavior of the car changed after half race in both races, and we need to understand why. In the Main race, I had quite a good start, gaining three positions and then a good fight with the Ferrari, I enjoyed it!”
The Blancpain Sprint Series will be back on 5-6 July at Zandvoort, but Blancpain Series community stays in England, as next weekend the Endurance Series will race at Silverstone.
Photo credit: Belgian Audi Club / Patrick Hecq