Stéphane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor took a convincing victory in the Qualifying Race today at Circuit Zolder, ahead of the second round of the 2013 FIA GT Series which will be held tomorrow afternoon.
Ortelli took the chequered flag in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT run Audi R8 LMS ultra, heading home nearest rivals Peter Kox and Stefano Rosina’s Lamborghini by just over 10-seconds, to take a maximum score of eight points. Local hero, Laurens Vanthoor (who can see the circuit from his garden at Turn 2!), started the race and hunted down early race leader Stefan Rosina, making a clean move on the 12th lap before instantly pulling away, giving his team mate Ortelli a solid platform to build a healthy lead, which the Monegasque increased and then held to the end of the one-hour race.
There was satisfaction for the Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter team as they claimed a fine second place this afternoon. After claiming pole position, Slovakian driver Stefan Rosina led for the first 12 laps of the race, fending off intense pressure from Vanthoor. Rosina then handed the Lamborghini over to Peter Kox at the halfway mark in 3rd position. The experienced Dutchman hunted down the then 2nd placed #12 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra of Niki Mayr-Melnhof and quickly dispatched the Austrian with a well-judged move on lap 22.
It is my home race, so I am really happy to have this result...
Mayr-Melhhof, who shares with the rapid German - René Rast, held on to 3rd place in the PRO Cup class fighting off a marauding pack of Andreas Zuber (Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C), Edward Sandström (Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra) and Alon Day (HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3) in an entertaining four-way battle for points positions.
In the PRO AM class there were also fine performances through the field but the HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 entry of Sergei Afanasiev and Andreas Simonsen led the class from start to finish to cap a magnificent weekend so far for the team.
Indeed, Afanasiev had gone wheel-to-wheel with the overall leader, Stefan Rosina, at the start but lost out despite a spirited attempt at Turn 1. The impressive Russian then completed his stint, handing over to Swedish team mate, Simonsen, who brought the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 home in a fine 6th overall.
Claiming 2nd place in the PRO Am Cup class was the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Filip Salaquarda and Fabio Onidi. In a reversal of their poor luck at Nogaro three weeks ago when they were forced to withdraw after a qualifying incident, the Italian team took their first points of the season after an action packed opening stint by former GP2 racer, Onidi. Third in PRO-AM was the Grasser Racing Lamborghini LP560 driven by Dominik Baumann and Hari Proczyk.
Making it a double delight for the HTP Gravity Charouz team today was Jan Stovicek and Petr Charouz, who took the Gentlemen Trophy class honours. Despite twice having to deal with an errant door, which opened unexpectedly on track, the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 took the class win after main rivals, Duda Rosa and Paolo Bonifacio, in a Seyffarth entered Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, retired early in the race.
With Vanthoor taking a very popular home victory today, a large crowd is expected tomorrow for Round 2 of the 2013 FIA GT Series at Circuit Zolder. The Main Race starts at 14.15cet tomorrow afternoon.
Laurens Vanthoor, #11 Belgian Audi Club Team Audi – Audi R8 LMS Ultra
“I did a good start and I found myself second behind Stefan Rosina right away. I felt from the beginning that I had the potential to go quicker but it was difficult to pass. In the end I put some pressure on Stefan and he made a mistake, so I could pass. Then, we could make a gap with René Rast, who I was surprised to see in my mirrors. Stéphane did a great job, and was the quickest car on the track again. It is my home race, so I am really happy to have this result in front of all my friends, family and fans.”
Stéphane Ortelli, #11 Belgian Audi Club Team Audi – Audi R8 LMS Ultra
"It may have looked easy from the outside but from inside it was hard. I had to fight to be sure the pace was good because during the qualifying the Lamborghini was super-fast, so I needed to put safety seconds between the two of us… I have to congratulate Laurens because he did most of the job. He did a very good move, and it is important for us to be there today because last time we won it was in Russia last August. I am very happy we won that qualifying race here, and we will try to do it again tomorrow for the main race."
Sergei Afanasiev, #2 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
“I was really excited for the start and very concentrated on the first corner, but this was my first mistake, as I went completely wide there at the start. It was an interesting race, but I am not so delighted with myself, because finishing sixth when we started in second is really not what I expected. I brought the car in fourth position to my team mate (Simonsen) and we also did a mistake during the pit stop, so I was a bit disappointed but we will do better later on.”
Andreas Simonsen, #2 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
“For us, after the technical problems we had at Nogaro it is very good to take the PRO AM class pole position and victory here at Zolder. My teammate and the car were good today, and the team did a really good pit-stop too, so it feels really nice. Hopefully, we will be able to continue like this.”
Jan Stovicek, #3 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
“It was quite difficult for us because it was our first experience at Zolder but we did our best. Today, all the Gentlemen Trophy cars had problems, but we also had a problem with our door opening on track. We are happy to win this race in our category and will do our best to do the same tomorrow in the Main Race. We hope that our competitors will not have the same problems as they had today.”
Petr Charouz, #3 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
“I am delighted to have this victory. It was my first time at Zolder and I have to admit that it was about luck as well today. Unfortunately, our competitors had technical problems they could not fix so obviously it helped us.”
Stefan Rosina, #24 Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 FL
“This is the first time for me here in Zolder, so I am really happy with the result so far. I didn´t expect the Audis to be so close to me after the start. My expectation was to move ahead and have some clear laps before they get faster and catch me. At the end of my stint I had to calm down a bit as my rear tyres were losing grip. But tomorrow we will start from the front row and obviously we will fight again for the lead. In Qualifying we had shown that we are fast and in the race everything can happen.”