Double 1-2 win for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT in Nogaro season-opener!
The 2012 season could not have started better for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, as the Audis R8 ultra of Laurens Vanthoor-Stéphane Ortelli and Oliver Jarvis-Frank Stippler took a double 1-2 win at Nogaro, in the season-opener of the FIA GT1 World Championship. The new Audis R8 LMS ultra proved competitive in all circumstances (Sunday’s race was on wet track and Monday’s in dry conditions) and the drivers and the entire team put on a very solid performance which allows the Belgian squad to start the season as the championship leaders, on the very weekend of its debut in the FIA GT1 World!
With the two cars qualifying in P2 (#32 of Ortelli) and P3 (#33 of Jarvis), the Belgian R8s were well placed to take a good result in Race 1, the Qualifying Race, but reality surpassed all expectations. At the start, in wet conditions, the Lambo of Enge took the lead and the Audis had to fight with the Ferrari of Vilander and the McLaren of Parente, but after the pit stop, Ortelli and Stippler managed to reduce the gap with regard to the leading Lambo of von Thurn and managed to pass the German to take a wonderful 1-2. “It is great to win the first race”, commented Stéphane Ortelli, “we did briefly test the car in damp on Thursday, but we were very pleased to see how well the R8 coped with today’s conditions. The car was really good, very consistent”.
Race 2, labeled Championship Race, took place on Easter Monday in almost sunny conditions. The rolling start saw Vilander taking the lead at the end of lap 1 ahead of the two Audis, but the Finn will be inflicted a drive-through for having jumped the start. With Ortelli pitting first, Stippler took the lead on his birthday. In the second stint, Jarvis was leading ahead of Vanthoor but the Audi duo came under threat of the Mercedes of Winkelhock, which led Vanthoor, who seemed to have a better pace, to pass his team mate and secure the second 1-2 for the Belgian Audi Club cars. “I am very happy of the outcome of this weekend”, said young rookie Vanthoor, “I cannot hide that I was a little bit nervous ahead of my debut in GT racing, but everything has worked out like in a dream.” On their side, Oliver Jarvis and Frank Stippler were also extremely satisfied of their weekend. “It is clear that we could have won Race 2”, admitted the German driver, “but we had to battle a little bit more and that probably took a toll on the tires. We had to struggle a bit with over-steer towards the end.”
It was up to J.G. Mal-Voy, the President of the Belgian Audi Club, to sum up this exceptional weekend: “I certainly do not regret having come to Nogaro for the debut of our team at world level! Beyond the results, which are of course perfect, what I am really proud of is the entire team, from the managers and the engineers to the drivers and the mechanics. I am impressed with their professionalism, their motivation and their team spirit, and also with the way they approach things. In a race weekend, even when things go well, you always have a number of problems that arise, be them technical, human or tactical, and what is outstanding is the way these guys approach them and solve them. And, as a Belgian, I am particularly happy to see how well Laurens Vanthoor has done, we were right in making that choice.”
There will not be much time for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to celebrate: Vincent Vosse and his troops are already focusing on next weekend, which will see the start at Monza of the other full program of the squad, the Blancpain Endurance Series, and in less than two weeks, the GT1 World Championship will be back, with the home round at Zolder…