Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT ready to defend its Blancpain titles

Belgian Audi Club Press Release

After a very successful start of the 2013 season, with an impressive 1-2 in the opening round of the FIA GT Series at Nogaro, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT heads to Monza and the iconic Autodromo Nazionale for the traditional season-opener of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the other main programme in its 2013 diary.

As any reigning champion, the Belgian squad, who took the Drivers' and Teams' titles in both 2011 and 2012, has a clear mission: retain its crown! To do so, it has strengthen its presence, with three cars entered full-season for Ortelli - Vanthoor - Rast, Mayr-Melnhof - Halliday - Frey and Sandström - Stippler - Mies. With Nicky Mayr-Melnhof and René Rast already ‘christened' at Nogaro, the Italian race will see the debut of the other two new drivers who have joined Team WRT this year: New Zealand's Matt Halliday and Switzerland's Rahel Frey, the first girl to drive for Team WRT at this level of competition.

There is great excitement among the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT members to get in action in the Blancpain, as the series is closely linked to many of its greatest achievements, but also the awareness that the challenge of conquering the title for the third year in a row is not an easy one. "That is true in every sports", comments Team Principal Vincent Vosse, "to get to the top is difficult and to stay there even more difficult. Still, that's our objective, and after the long months awaiting for the definitive confirmation of our 2012 Drivers' title, we are even more committed to do well. This season will be even more competitive, there are plenty of good cars, teams and drivers in front of us, but we are well prepared. The Audi engineers have worked a lot to further improve the Audi R8 LMS ultra and we have a great driver line-up. I am happy to welcome Matt and Rahel, if they do as well as Nicky and René did in Nogaro, we're off to some great moments. The Blancpain calendar, this year, has a round less, five instead of six: this means that no title contender can afford a blank weekend, therefore we have to find the perfect balance between performance and strategy, aggressiveness and caution, and try to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves."

It is only at the beginning of this week that the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has been able to finalize the 2013 configuration of the Audi R8 LMS ultra. As Sporting Director Pierre Dieudonné explains, "Audi engineers have been working hard during the winter on a number of points, including suspensions, aerodynamics, etc. The homologation of the 2013 kit by the FIA has been finalized only a couple of days ago, and we now know what elements of the new kit have received an OK. This means that we have known the Balance of Performance to be used at Monza only a few hours ago. Monza has never been the most favourable track for the R8 but I am confident that the progress made during the winter will show."

Still, the main challenge on the Italian circuit won't necessarily be of technical nature. With 61 (!) cars entered, the track will be quite a busy place this weekend. "This proves once again the success of the series and the excellent work done by Stéphane Ratel and his team at SRO", comments Vosse, "but won't make things easier for our drivers."

Asked on the role that traffic can have, the most experienced of the WRT drivers, Stéphane Ortelli, remains quite cool. "I don't want to downplay this factor or to say it is going to be easy, but among all circuits, Monza is probably the one where traffic can be better dealt with", reassures the Monegasque. "It has very long straights, and that, together with performance differences, will help stretching out the pack of cars. Thanks to the straights, visibility is also very good; except for the Lesmo corners, you don't have blind spots, and you therefore see exactly everyone's position and behaviour. On top, Monza offers some strong braking points, which also help making the difference, and finally, overtaking is not an issue. All that makes me say that Monza is probably one of the best tracks where to have 61 cars racing together... Traffic will have to be managed but shouldn't be a big problem."

Team WRT will be not alone defending the colors of the Belgian Audi Club at Monza. Other members of the club on track include Anthony Kumpen and Enzo Ide, who will drive a R8 LMS ultra of Phoenix Racing, and Ronnie Lantinne, who shares the wheel of one of the Saintéloc cars in the Pro-Am category with Frenchmen David Halliday and Romain Monti.

The Blancpain weekend format hasn't changed, with free practice scheduled on Saturday, qualifying on Sunday morning and the 3-hour race starting at 14:15.

Photo credit: Endurance-Info