Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to home race as championship leaders

Belgian Audi Club Press Release

It’s time to enjoy racing in front of its many friends and fans for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, as the FIA GT Series heads to Zolder for its second round of the season. The home race has always a special taste and even more so when you come to it as the championship leaders. That’s exactly the case for Team WRT following its brilliant show in the season-opener at Nogaro, where it clinched a 1-2 in the Main race and another podium finish in the Qualifying race. Edward Sandström and Frank Stippler will fight hard to retain their lead in the Drivers’ standings, while Stéphane Ortelli and local hero Laurens Vanthoor, currently third, will try to futher climb up in the rankings. René Rast and Nicky Mayr-Melnhof lye 2nd in the Pro-Am category but may move into the Pro category over the weekend following their excellent start of the season. In the Teams’ ranking as well, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is the points leader and determined to stay in that position!

“Racing at home doesn’t add special pressure”, says Team Principal Vincent Vosse, “but it entails less travelling, and that’s always nice! We know there will be a lot of people at Zolder, the FIA GT race is one of the main events of the year for the circuit, and eventually, springtime also has arrived! All that should contribute to a very pleasant weekend. Most importantly for us, we aim at working well and at having again very good results, in order to retain or increase our leadership in both the Teams’ and Drivers’ standings. Last year, we also arrived at Zolder after a very successful first round at Nogaro and we had quite a difficult and disappointing weekend. That’s exactly what shouldn’t happen this time!”

The team had a very short turn-around time ahead Zolder, as the three cars were racing in the Blancpain Endurance Series last weekend at Monza. “There wasn’t much time to re-prepare the cars”, admits Sporting Director Pierre Dieudonné, “and we had also one of the cars needing more thorough repairs after the accident in pre-qualifying, but everything is ready and we feel quite confident.” This will be the first time the Audis R8 LMS ultra will race in the FIA GT Series in 2013 specifications, as the new kit was only very recently homologated by the FIA. “We need to see how the up-dates will work” explains Dieudonné, “and also check whether the Balance of Performance is not handicapping us. We all know how demanding Zolder can be, especially on brakes. Races at Zolder are never easy, but we’re always happy to go there.”

“Go there” is not exactly the right expression for at least one of he Team WRT drivers, as Laurens Vanthoor leaves literally next door to the track. “The circuit is only 200 meters from my home, but as the paddock entrance is on the other side, I’ll still have to take the bike to get there”, he says with an amused smile. The young Belgian will be the focus of a lot of attention, but he doesn’t seem to care much about that: “It’s a race like any other else. I like the track, I like seeing more friends, family and fans than usual, but that won’t distract me or make me feel less relaxed. In 2012, we had a bad weekend here but we won the 24 Hours later in the year. Everybody in the team is determined to do better, and that will be the only objective of Stéphane and myself.”

The agenda is similar for the other driver pairs of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. Frank Stippler and Edward Sandström, the current leaders in the Drivers’ standings, want to confirm their strong start, and the same feeling is shared by Nicky Mayr-Melnhof and René Rast. The Austro-German pair crossed the line as winners in the Main Race but later incurred in a penalty for a minor issue during one of the pit stops. They are eager to repeat their excellent performance in France and will know at the beginning of the weekend whether their status will change from the Pro-Am into the Pro category.

Members of the Belgian Audi Club will have another local hero to cheer: Anthony Kumpen is also from the Limburg region and will share the Audi R8 LMS ultra of Phoenix Racing with Enzo Ide, perfectly motivated by the two 4th places they took at Nogaro. Kumpen will also drive an R8 LMS in the round of the Belgian Racing Car Championship (BRCC) taking place over the weekend.

Both races of the FIA GT Series will kick-off at 14:15 hours, one on Saturday and one on Sunday and the positive weather forecast should attract big crowds!

Photo credit: Belgian Audi Club