Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blancpain Endurance Series: The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and Vanthoor take win and BES titles in epic Ring finale

Belgian Audi Club Press Release

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT reconquered the Blancpain Endurance Series today at the Nürburgring after an epic 1000 km race in very difficult conditions. Laurens Vanthoor was crowned as the new Driver Champion in the best way this could happen, by winning the race together with team mates César Ramos and Christopher Mies, at the end of a faultless and authoritative performance.

Rain, poor visibility and low temperatures for most of the 6-hour race made conditions worth of the “Green Hell” reputation of the German track, but the Audis R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad mastered the situation throughout the weekend. Basseng-Stippler-Nash also had the pace of the front-runners but their race was ruined by an alternator problem, while Richelmi-Kelders-Blanchemain took a good result in the Pro-Am Cup, completing the success of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, which rubricated its Team title by bringing the three cars to the finish.

With today’s triumph, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT signs a quite remarkable achievement, as it has conquered the double crown in the Blancpain Endurance Series three times out of the four editions held so far. Only in 2013, the top honours escaped from the hands of the Baudour-based squad, although that was widely compensated by the double title in the Sprint Series.

Vincent Vosse was, obviously, a happy Team Principal, once the chequered flag fell at the Nürburgring: “It’s simply fantastic”, he commented, “for Audi, for the Belgian Audi Club and for the entire WRT team. I am very proud of all the guys, because they really worked perfectly throughout the entire weekend. Everybody has done a great job, something that wasn’t easy in the dreadful conditions we have had for most of the weekend. Car #1 had no issues, and car #3 had a podium pace, if it hadn’t been for an alternator failure caused by some gravel getting lodged in the wrong place. I am also very happy of what shown by car #4, so I cannot ask for more tonight”.

Few meters next to him, Laurens Vanthoor was finally able to relax a bit, although he still couldn’t fully realize that he has added an Endurance title to the Sprint one won last year and to the Spa 24 Hours success of last July: “Exactly like in Baku last year, it will take me some hours and a number of drinks to fully realize I have won the title”, admitted the young Belgian, “At the moment, I just feel physically exhausted, not from the race but from all the stress. The decisive race is always a very special exercise but luckily, everything went very well, like in a dream. It was a difficult race, because of the rain and the slippery track. The choice to put on slicks in my second stint was the right one, but the initial laps were very, very tricky. I have to thank the team for the great job during the entire season, but also all my team mates, not only César and Christopher, that were with me today, but also Marc Basseng, Rene Rast and Markus Winkelhock, they all deserve a piece of the cup. Having had many different team mates proves once again that this was a team effort and shows the team spirit that exists within WRT.”

Things at the Ring started in the best possible way, with the two Pro cars of WRT trusting the front row, as Mies signed the pole ahead of Basseng, while #4 car qualified in P34.

The start of the race had to be given behind the safety-car, which stayed on track for several laps, as conditions were absolutely dreadful. Mies kept the advantage during most of his stint, being passed only by Estre, and handed the car in P2 over to Ramos, who was extremely cautious during his first laps and lost three positions against rivals that were on a double stint and knew the track conditions. But the Brazilian progressively raised his game throughout his double stint, finishing it in P3. Mies drove car #1 in the fourth hour, regaining the lead in lap 90. Then, Vanthoor took the wheel for a final double stint, to finish the job, something that wasn’t so easy, as the track started to dry partially, which led to putting on slicks for the final hour, despite of the risks.

Car #3 started the race with Basseng in P3, before a slight off-track put him in P9. Still, the bad news came during Stippler’s first stint, as the German had to stop to change the alternator, broken by some gravel. That cost the car 7 laps and a further delay came in the second half of the race, because of a drive-through for inadequate speed under yellow. Nevertheless, the car finished 10th and in the points in the Pro category.

Car #4 had a quieter Sunday and shone in the initial hour when Stéphane Richelmi, in his debut with the team, climbed as high as 15th despite the pouring rainfall. Blanchemain and Kelders, the two gentlemen-drivers, did an excellent job under the circumstances and Richelmi eventually brought the car to an excellent P11 in the highly-competitive Pro-Am category.

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT may have brought home two more titles and the Spa 24 Hours, but its season isn’t over: there are still two rounds, Zolder and Baku, of the Blancpain Sprint Series to be raced, and the last word isn’t said

Photo credit: Belgian Audi Club / Patrick Hecq Photography