Belgian Audi Club Team WRT on the podium in wet ‘Blancpain’ opening
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT had a very positive start of the season in the Blancpain Endurance Series as well. After winning the two first races of the FIA GT1 World at Nogaro last week, the Belgian Audis R8 LMS ultra took 2nd and 7th in the seasonopener of the highly-competitive (57 entries!) Blancpain series, which took place under torrential rain in Monza. Marco Bonanomi-Edward Sandström-Laurens Vanthoor finished on the podium after a solid race, while Christopher Mies-Christopher Haase-Stéphane Ortelli managed to finish 7th, despite some suspension trouble that slowed their pace.
The weeked started in a challenging fashion for the WRT Team. The cars used for the B.E.S., brand new, arrived at Monza with basically no shake-down and some stability problems arose during free practice. This said, car #1 qualified 7th with Ortelli, while car #2 had to start from position 37, after Laurens Vanthoor had a slight contact with the barriers in his qualifying session, which left Marco Bonanomi in the pits for Q3.
Heavy rain invited itself for the race on Sunday, causing the start to be given behind the safetycar, which stayed on the track for 38 minutes. At the green flag, Christopher Mies on the #1 started gaining positions and the German was fourth when he came into the pits at the end of his stint. “Visibility was really an issue”, admitted the young German, “and it has been a good decision to have the safety-car for 11 laps on the track. Once the real race started, I could find a good pace, as the car was quite good on wet”. Christopher Haase further climbed in the rankings, ending his stint in third, but unfortunately an issue with the rear left suspension during the tire change slowed #1. In the last stint, Stéphane Ortelli regained some of the lost ground, stabilizing the car in seventh position.
Andrea Bonanomi had phenomenal charge from P37 on the grid in the initial stint at the wheel of the #2 car, finishing his stint in 14th position, with Edward Sandström gaining more positions and coming back to the pits in P3. “Despite this being my first race with the R8 on the wet, I am very happy of my performance”, said the Swede, “the car is really good in these conditions, very stable, and the Michelin tires work very well. I was very careful not to take unnecessary risks, some parts of the track, like the Parabolica were really treacherous. Apart from that, the only big problem was traffic”. In the final stint, an aggressive Laurens Vanthoor conquered the second position with a final overtaking on Hennerici 25 minutes from the end.
Wrapping-up the weekend, sports manager Pierre Dieudonné concluded: “It’s a good team result that gives us some good points, after a weekend which was not easy. We basically lost free practice fixing a youth problem on the new cars and this delayed us a lot in setting-up the cars. But the team has put on a very solid performance, both in qualifying and in the race, and also in the pits, and this allowed us to finish the weekend on a higher note. Without the suspension problem on car #1, we could even have had two cars on the podium.”
The team will now concentrate on next weekend, which sees the FIA GT1 World back on the agenda, with no less than the home event of Zolder!