Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT pays toll to Nordschleife epics

Belgian Audi Club Press Release

It wasn't to be. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT's race at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, probably the toughest GT race in the world, ended on Monday morning when the Audi R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad suffered an accident after hitting a spot of oil on the track, sustaining heavy damage. Until then, Team WRT had been a win contender and was in fifth position at the moment of the accident. There was frustration among team members and the four drivers (Laurens Vanthoor, Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Edward Sandström) but also satisfaction for the competitiveness shown throughout the weekend, in what was only the second participation of the Belgian squad in the landmark race on the Eifel track. This year's edition has matched in excess the epics of the Nordschleife, as the race had to be neutralized during the entire night because of heavy rain and fog. Eventually, Audi could not retain the crown, with the best-placed R8 only in fifth, in an edition dominated by the Mercedes SLS.

Following its positive debut in 2012, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT was keen to show its potential in this second outing at the 24 Hours and that happened since the first practice sessions. The car proved well-balanced and fast, and was qualified in an excellent 10th position (out of 175 entrants!) by Edward Sandström.

The race started at 5 pm on Sunday and during the first hours, the Belgian R8 stabilized in the top ten, with very short gaps within the front-runners. Options for a big result remained open even a first alert, when the Battlefield4-livered R8 slightly touched the barriers after going into aquaplaning in the rain. The car could be perfectly repaired and re-prepared as the race was red-flagged around 11 pm. The rain had become heavier and heavier, with visibility made poorer by darkness and spots of fog. The situation went on for the entire night, with the race resuming shortly after 8 am on Monday morning.

The pace of the Belgian squad's car was again excellent and the car charged back to 5th, when, shortly before 10 am, it fell victim of an accident in the fast section of Bergwerk. Laurens Vanthoor was at the wheel at that moment and the young Belgian rookie was surprised by a sudden spot of oil, not flagged by the marshals. The car hit the barriers several times and was too heavily-damaged to continue, but luckily, Laurens escaped unscathed.

Team Principal Vincent Vosse was philosophical in wrapping up the experience: "That's the kind of thing that can happen anytime in a race such as the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, and you have to accept it. This year, things were made even more difficult by the apocalyptic weather conditions. It's a pity, because we proved competitive, we were in the top positions and very often the best-placed Audi, but that's racing. Now we are all trying to lift up Laurens' spirits. He feels a little bit miserable at the moment, and any driver would do so in his position, but there is nothing he should be blaming himself for, what happened would have occurred to anyone at the wheel at that moment. I am happy with what we showed, with the great work done by the team and the drivers, and we are going to turn the page and focus on what comes next".

This will be the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series scheduled on 1st - 2nd June at Silverstone.

Photo credit: Belgian Audi Club