The now traditional mid-summer visit to the Slovakiaring ended with an excellent harvest of heavy points in the Pro Cup category for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, who is reinforcing its leadership in the Teams’ standings and now sees its three driver line-ups on top of the Drivers’ standings of the FIA GT Series, with still two events to be held.

Ahead of the trip to Bratislava, the Belgian squad took the decision to bring its three Audis R8 LMS ultra back to their 2012 configuration, which entailed, of course, the 2012 Balance of Performance. The regained competitiveness of the car proved, if need be, the inadequacy of the 2013 BoP.

#12 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra: René Rast, Niki Mayr-Melnhof
#12 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra: René Rast, Niki Mayr-Melnhof

Photo by: Lucien Harmegnies

René Rast-Niki Mayr-Melnhof took a Pro Cup win (and 2nd overall) in the Main race, after conquering the Superpole and taking fifth in the Qualifying race, while Stéphane Ortelli-Laurens Vanthoor took second twice to increase their championship lead, and Edward Sandström-Frank Stippler also visited the podium in the Main race (3rd) after taking an 8th in the first race.

Wrapping up on a weekend rich in good results but also eventful, Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse commented: “We are certainly happy, we had a good weekend, but it could have been even better without the various sanctions that we had and we accept. The important thing is that we have made a good step forward in the championships’ standings, and every point will count at the end of the season.

The decision to come here with the cars in their 2012 configuration was a decision of the team, and I am glad we took that option. Lap times and all data proved that the 2013 BoP of the Audis is not working, especially when you see that here the gap between our cars in 2012 specs and the other Audis in 2013 specs was significantly higher than usual.” At the end of the month, the relevant FIA instances are due to revisit the BoP matter.

In Slovakia, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars proved competitive since free practice and René Rast managed to conquer the Superpole, the first for the team since the opening round at Nogaro. “It’s nice to take the pole on my first visit to this track”, admitted ‘Fast Rast’, “Everything went well and once I got acquainted with the chicane, I could be quite quick”.

The other two cars got different fortunes, with Vanthoor being demoted from 4th to 9th because of the car missing the correct fast laps slot and Stippler missing by very little the threshold of the top ten going into the Superpole session.

In the Qualifying race, Rast kept the advantage of the pole to take the lead but he didn’t really have the opportunity to pull away as the safety-car took the track in lap 4 for a long intervention. The re-start will coincide with the opening of the pit stop window, which prompted Vanthoor and Stippler, then in P9 and P10 respectively, to go immediately into the pits.

Unfortunately, Sandström crossed a white line when exiting the pit lane, and was penalized with a drive-through, finishing the race in 9th overall. Mayr-Melnhof took the wheel from Rast and returned to the track still in the lead. The Austrian will be passed by Loeb but continued fighting with the Frenchman before being hit by Buhk (who got a drive-through), which put him in 5th, the final position of the car. Ortelli, on his side, had been climbing positions, winning the duel with Kox in the closing laps, and will eventually finish second.

The Qualifying race, later on Sunday, will have a lively start, partly due to the relatively slow pace imposed by poleman Loeb to the entire group during formation lap, which led Ortelli to jump the start. “You can never get at the same level of the poleman, so it was my mistake” will admit the Monegasque, who will have to serve a drive-through in the following laps. Mayr-Melnhof and Sandström stabilized in 4th and 5th position respectively, after a good stint, and pitted in that order, followed by Ortelli who was back to 11th after the penalty.

The final part of the race saw a very strong charge from the three Audis, which will pass the BMW of Jimenez and fall only a few seconds short from the leading Pro-Am Mercedes. The final thrill was ensured by Vanthoor, who took third overall from Stippler with a breath-taking move.

“I pushed as much as I could in the closing laps”, admitted the young Belgian, “and it was hot. I knew I could pass Frank, but you always have to be very careful when fighting with a team mate. At the same time, there are key points at stake…” Eventually, the WRT trio finished 2-3-4 overall but trusted the Pro podium.

The FIA GT Series will come back on stage at the end of September, at Navarra in Spain before the closing round in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT