Sunday, August 10, 2014

Q&A: Interview with Laurens Vanthoor - Audi factory driver and Spa 24 Hours winner

By Tarek Ramchani

Laurens Vanthoor is no doubt one of the strongest and fastest GT driver around. A factory Audi driver since 2013, Laurens Vanthoor won that same year the FIA GT Series title in just his second season in GT racing.

The Belgian ace recentley won the prestigious Spa 24 Hours race and took the overall lead in the Blancpain Endurance Series Pro-Cup drivers' standing.

We were pleased to have an interview with Laurens Vanthoor. A very interesting Q/A about his debut with the Audi brand in GT racing, the 2014 season and his expectations for the upcoming races this year.

You joined Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in 2012 coming from single-seater formulas , tell us more about that.

My dream was ofcourse always to do F1 as a young driver. My first three years in single seat were very promising but my last year in Euroseries was a disaster. It was due to different reason, relationship with the team, technical issues, myself, private life,... So everything went wrong.

After that I tried to view my next years in life in a realistic view. F1 was my dream, but how many chances do I have to arrive there and to make it my job ? That was very small, even if I went further and for example won races.. At that moment I did not had the support from somebody who could open doors or could bring me the sponsorship money, and maybe I was just not good enough..

But luckily I had a very good support from the Belgian VW Club (VW Motorsport Belgium), specially from J.G. Mal Voy. He supported me a lot and helped me on many many aspects. We sat together and spoke about the future and came to the same conclusion to go for plan B. J.G. Mal Voy was also responsible for the Belgian Audi Club who at the point were helping WRT. He made the contact between Vincent Vosse, Rene Verbist and Pierre Dieudonne and what happened after was clear. The goal was to become as quick as possible an Audi Factory driver and to start making a living of motorsport. Because in the end that's what I love, and making it your job is a dream.

Since last year you are a factory Audi driver, how is it diffrent compared to the first year as a Team WRT driver?

Basically it didn't change a lot to the pure driving aspect. There came a bit more activities and commitments. You have to pay a bit more attention to your behaviour and your professionallity because you are representing the brand. In the end it becomes your job.

You have a busy 2014 season with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT between Blancpain Endurance Series and Blancpain Sprint Series, which one is more demanding?

I personally always love to drive the Sprint series because it's a bit more exciting for me. Sprint races, 1 hour to go and all-in. So I was really happy to win the series last year. But for myself I wanted to try and win the Endurance series this year, to prove that I'm also able to be an endurance driver.

The Spa 24 Hours was a dream race, pole position, outright victory and new Pro-Cup leader in Blancpain Endurance Series, tell us more about the event.

Yes, it's still quite hard to believe. Achieving these results in Belgium, with a Belgium team, with the Belgian Audi Club and my long-time partner Grafiwrap. Is quite a dream story. In the end it was a very exciting race but we worked hard and nobody made a mistake, the job on the team was incredible and I would say they deserved it more then us the drivers !

Like mentioned before after winning the Sprint series last year, this year I wanted to win a big 24 Hours race and the Endurance championship. Obviously this weekend helped me a lot to achieve that dream.

Aren't you missing your partner Stéphane Ortelli with whom you won the FIA GT Series title last year?

For sure Stephane and me had a extremely good relationship. We knew each other for more then 2 years at the end and he teached me a lot in motorsports but also in life. It's quite funny that he could be my dad, but Stephane it still living his life like a young, passionated race driver and that's impressive to see. I always tell people that I hope I can still do the same when I have his age !

To reply the question, of course I miss him but life goes on and we know that.. Maybe one day we will drive again together, who knows. At the moment I'm working close with Cesar Ramos in both championships and we have a very good relationship between ourselves but also with our car crew. But it's different because this time it's me who is the more experienced guy in the car and team so I'm taking more the responsibility in some occasions. But Cesar has proven that he is very quick and I think in the second part of the season that we will be even stronger !

Earlier this year you did Bathurst 12 Hour, what about racing in North America with Audi customer teams?

I would love to race in the US. I should have been driving with Audi at Daytona this year but it got cancelled in the end. I hope I will get my chance there soon because I love the US and can't wait to do my first race there to see how it is..

When it comes to Audi full factory racing, which one do you prefer Le Mans or DTM?

It's difficult. Maybe slightly Le Mans because I think I prefer the way of working. Since I started in GT racing I always liked it to have a partner and to work together. Boost each other, having different opinions.

DTM is more everybody for himself but on the other hand DTM is more sprint wise of racing. I would only be happy in DTM if I can be able to fight for victories and be a front runner..

What is your favourite track?

Exciting onces, maybe not the most safe places but where you can get a lot of adrenaline! The Nordschleife, Macau!

Photo credit: Audi Media