Vincent Abril and Mateusz Lisowski, clinched an overall podium finish (3rd) in the Main Race.
It was a sweet-and-sour beginning of the Blancpain Sprint Series season for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT at Nogaro, in the traditional Coupes de Pâques weekend. Once again, the Audis R8 LMS ultra proved competitive on the French circuit. Laurens Vanthoor-César Ramos dominated the qualifying Race on Sunday under the rain, taking a brilliant win ahead of team mates René Rast-Enzo Ide. Frustration started after the race when the second-placed car was disqualified at technical verifications for a small infringement and grew bigger on Easter Monday, when the #1 car was eliminated even before the start of the race!
César Ramos, who was starting from the pole was hit during formation lap and that resulted in a broken suspension and the end of the race. Fortunately, the frustration of the Belgian squad was alleviated by the great debut of its youngster pair, Vincent Abril-Mateusz Lisowski, who signed a brilliant debut by taking a double win in the Silver Cup for under-25 drivers, clinching even an overall podium finish (3rd) in the Main Race, where Ide-Rast finished 7th after starting from the back of the grid.
“We go away from Nogaro with clearly mixed feelings”, Team Principal Vincent Vosse summed up after the race, “On one hand, we are happy of the performance of the cars, as once again at Nogaro we proved very competitive, we won Race 1, our pair of youngsters had a wonderful weekend, and the G-Drive Racing car also prepared by WRT did well.
Since the free practice sessions, the Audis R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad were among the front-runners, proving fast and effective. In qualifying, Vanthoor and Rast were second- and third-fastest respectively, while Lisowski took P13 after a more difficult session.
The rain invited itself for the Qualifying Race on Sunday but that did not impact on the team’s performance, with Vanthoor taking the lead from the start and Ramos finishing a perfect job. “I knew Bleekemolen (the poleman) lacked experience on a wet Nogaro track and the night before, in my bed, I figured out how I would overtake him in the first or second corner. The plan worked marvelously.
It made my life during the opening half of the race a whole lot easier”, commented the Belgian, while the Brazilian added: “This was my first race in this Series and to be on the highest step of the podium afterwards is just amazing. Laurens gave me the car in an excellent position and all I had to do was to bring it home.” With René Rast and Enzo Ide having a similarly faultless race and taking second, things couldn’t look better.
Unfortunately, during the post-race technical verifications, the rear wing of car #2 was found some millimeters above the limit, which prompted a disqualification of the car. “We will have to analyze what might have happened”, explained Sporting Director Pierre Dieudonné, “at this stage we can only accept the decision.”
The 1-2 victory had gone, but Vincent Abril and Mateusz Lisowski gave other reasons to rejoice to the team, as they took a brilliant win in the Silver Cup, after charging up through the field to beat their opponents in the trophy for under-25 drivers and to take an excellent 7th position overall.
On Monday, faces in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT pits turned gloomy even before the green light as the car of César Ramos was hit from the back during formation lap by former WRT driver Niki Mayr-Melnhof. Sadly, the rear right suspension of the car was broken and Ramos could only come back to the pits to retire. “It was clearly bad luck”, reflected Dieudonné, “all the drivers were warming up tires, doing zig-zags, braking and accelerating, as you always do in formation lap.
It takes a second of distraction to have a stupid incident like this. Nicky was very sorry and came to us to apologize after the race, it is clear it wasn’t intentional, but we lost a very good opportunity. Our car was on pole and had showed great form the day before. It had a royal avenue in front of it, so it’s really a big pity…”
Ide-Rast, on their side, did their utmost to climb up positions from the last spot in the grid, where the disqualification the previous day had left them. Their final 7th position is certainly an excellent result, under the circumstances, but the German felt frustrated: “Our tires were not working properly, losing pace quite quickly. We fought with severe oversteer and we need to understand why.”
As on Sunday, reasons for cheering were given again by Lisowski-Abril, the baby-duo, who not only took another victory in the Silver Cup but finished third overall, visiting the overall podium in their debut weekend! “We did a good job and were fast throughout the weekend”, admitted Vincent Abril, “but we never thought of finishing on the podium. I had a lot of fun during the races, especially today in the Main Race, where I could win a couple of nice duels.” His Polish team mate was saying nothing different. “We can feel very happy, this has been really a good debut”, commented Lisowski.
The sincere satisfaction of the two youngsters was the perfect closing for a weekend during which the team demonstrated its ability to react to set-backs, as witnessed on spot by J-G Mal-Voy and Charles-Henri Bonnet, respectively President and General-Secretary of the Belgian Audi Club.
The Blancpain Sprint Series will be back in one month, with the second round taking place at Brands Hatch, the legendary track in England, on 17-18 May.
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT