By Tarek Ramchani
The Audi teams had a mixed qualifying session for today's Blancpain Endurance Series season opener at Monza. The "old" Audi R8 LMS ultra and the "new" Audi R8 LMS were quick at the Temple of Speed but faced some bad luck.
Audi made history in the opening Q1 session with the new Audi R8 LMS setting the fastest lap time. Frank Stippler driving the #2 car run by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT lead a field of 59 GT3 race cars. The second new Audi R8 LMS run by Phoenix Racing performed well too, with a fine P6 with the #6 car. 2014 ADAC GT Masters Kelvin van der Linde was twevth fastest driving the #3 R8 LMS ultra from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
In Q2 the Audi squad performed well again, a total of four cars made it into the Top 10. Audi factory driver Marco Bonanomi was third fastest driving the #75 R8 LMS ultra from I.S.R. Racing. Sixth place went to Stéphane Richelmi with #3 Audi from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. Robin Frijns was eighth fastest with the #1 car from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. Stéphane Ortelli driving the new #2 Audi R8 LMS ended in thenth place overall.
Q3 was red flagged following a big crash by the #74 Audi R8 LMS ultra from I.S.R. Racing, driver Fabio Onidi is OK. At the end of the session only one Audi managed to enter the Top 10. Jean-Karl Vernay with the #1 R8 LMS ultra from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. Nico Mueller driving the #2 Audi R8 LMS was fourteenth fastest ahead of Christopher Mies in fifteenth place with the #3 R8 LMS ultra, both cars from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT.
Overall, the best Audi car was the #1 R8 LMS ultra from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in ninth place. The car is shared by Jean-Karl Vernay, Robin Frijns and Laurens Vanthoor.
The new Audi R8 LMS run by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will start the race from position fourteen. The #2 car is driven by Frank Stippler, Stephane Ortelli and Nico Müller. Kelvin van der Linde, Stephane Richelmi and Christopher Mies driving the #3 entry from Belgian Audi Club Team WRT were fifteenth. The new Audi R8 LMS run by Phoenix Racing was eighteenth was Christopher Haase, Christian Mamerow and Markus Winkelhock. The #75 car from I.S.R Racing qualified in ninteenth overall.
The Audi teams will have to improve on track against strong rivals. But as seen in recent years in Blancpain Endurance Series the Audi entries were always able to recover and bounce back. The R8s may not be the fastest but with very strong line-ups and good strategies, the Audis will be among the strongest in the field.
The three-hour endurance race will follow next with a live stream coverage provided by the series official website.