Three top 5 finishes and some regrets in second visit to Slovakia
The revision of the calendar of the second half of the season of the FIA GT1 World has meant a shorter holiday break for everyone and a second visit to the Slovakiaring this weekend. In very warm conditions, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has brought home three finishes in the top 5, but those results were again source of some frustration, as without a puncture on car #33 on Saturday and a drive-through inflicted on car #32 on Sunday, the podium and maybe even victory was within reach of the Audis R8 LMS ultra, which appeared to suffer less of the balance of performance. “We feel frustrated”, concluded Team Principal Vincent Vosse, “as we had a good card to play, although I believe we are still far from the BMWs. It is true also that our pit stops were difficult, but this will be the case as long as we are not allowed to use the same equipment as the other teams, as we can do in the Blancpain Endurance Series.”
The weekend had started with some promising performance in qualifying, with Stéphane Ortelli achieving the fastest time in Session 1 and declaring: “I took a lot of pleasure pushing the car, it feels much better than on free practice.” Eventually Ortelli-Vanthoor qualified fourth on the grid, right ahead of Stippler-Jarvis.
On Saturday, the Race 1, the Qualifying race, started under very warm weather, with Vanthoor somehow missing his kick-off and losing four positions, while Jarvis gained one to take fourth in the initial lap. The fight is intense among the top five, but in lap 6, Jarvis suffers a puncture in the first corner and his race ends there, as he cannot complete one entire lap without damage and losing too much time. Vanthoor, with an impressive drive, is back to fourth place, but the car drops to five during the pit stop, made difficult by a broken wheel nut. Despite that, Ortelli performs a great stint and reduces his gap, to secure fifth only 1” from the third.
It’s again very warm on Sunday for the Championship race, which sees Ortelli and Stippler keeping their positions in the opening lap (5th and 12th, respectively) and then climbing progressively through the field. When the driver change window opens, they are third and seventh respectively, but the two Audis delay the pit stop to the maximum. When they come out again, they are fourth and sixth, and the fastest cars on the track at that moment. Jarvis will eventually take fourth after a great stint, with Vanthoor finishing fifth after having lost one position for a drive-through inflicted for an alleged infringement during the pit stop, which was not very clear to anyone in the team.
Laurens Vanthoor was quite disappointed about this sanction: “When I heard that on the radio, I couldn’t believe it. After that, it was difficult to stay focused on the drive. It is so frustrating, we really had the pace this time to compete with the top cars and the Mercedes, we were aiming to the podium…”
The young Belgian was echoed by Oliver Jarvis, who could nurture some regrets at the end of the weekend. “It was really a pity to suffer this puncture in the initial part of Race 1”, commented the Englishman, “as a podium finish was on sight. Unfortunately, the incident not only deprived us of a podium on Saturday, but it impacted on the entire weekend, as it put us on a poor grid position for Sunday. Our pace in Race 2, though, proved that we are competitive and making progress, and that is the positive of the weekend”.
Source: Belgian Audi Club Team WRT