Belgian Audi Club Team WRT ready for the 'Green Hell' challenge

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The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT heads to the Nürburgring this coming weekend for its first 24-hour race of the season.

The journey may be a short one for the Belgian squad, but the challenge is definitely one of its kind: the 24 hours of the Nürburgring, held on the legendary Nordschleife, the historic 22-km long track in the Eifel, also known as the “Green Hell”, and arguably the toughest motor racing race in the world. This is only the second time that Team WRT takes part to the iconic race, which will again attract around 200 entries. Last year, for its debut, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT managed to finish the race, learning a lot about this unique competition. This year, it will contribute to Audi’s efforts to retain the title conquered in 2012 with one Audi R8 LMS ultra, entrusted to Laurens Vanthoor-Christopher Mies-Christopher Haase-Edward Sandström.

#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

“Anything we can say about the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring falls short from reality”, admits Team Principal Vincent Vosse. “I have done it a number of times as a driver, and I am now discovering it in a different capacity. It’s really a special event and a very difficult one, because it is almost impossible to master all parameters.”

The track itself, in the first place, is unique: a fast, narrow and dangerous string of asphalt with over 170 corners up and down the Eifel hills, where weather conditions may change from one point to the other. In the 24 Hours race, endurance, weather conditions, darkness, traffic and the disparity of performance level among cars and drivers, which range from top professionals to perfect amateurs, are added issues.

Vosse looks at this 41st edition of the race with all the necessary humility: “We came here for the first time as Team WRT last year and we learnt a lot, but we are conscious that you can never have everything under control in such a race. Last year, we were among the top contenders, then a contact with another car put us in a final position (32nd) that did not reflect our potential. We’ll see how things go this time, but I fully trust the reliability of the R8 LMS ultra and of our drivers, and I think the Balance of Performance is correct. The first objective is to help Audi winning again.”

The driver line-up of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is among the strongest and is a perfect combination of experience and performance. Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Edward Sandström are all familiar with the 24 Hours, while Laurens Vanthoor will take part to the race for the first time.

As a matter of fact, one of the WRT boys has already tasted the sweetness of victory in this legendary race: Christopher Haase was part of the quartet that gave Audi its first win twelve months ago. “Winning here, especially for a German, really means something. It is the biggest GT race in the world and a real challenge. For me, it was a dream come true and certainly one of the major achievements of my career. Still, after winning it once, what you really want is to win it twice!” The 24-year-old Bavarian, though, knows that nothing is granted: “It is not necessarily the fastest car that wins here. What you need is a fantastic endurance car, like the Audi R8, a great team, like WRT, and excellent co-drivers, like my team mates. The most crucial thing is to avoid mistakes, stay focused, go through the night, and then adopt the right strategy for the final hours. You can never anticipate anything, but one thing is sure: it’s good to be driving an Audi!”

#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

At the other end of the spectrum is Laurens Vanthoor. The young Belgian will be making his debut in the 24 Hours and, as any rookie, had to pass a sort of aptitude test. Any driver wishing to race the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, regardless of his status or CV, first has to enter two events of the VLN, the special championship that takes place exclusively on the Nordschleife. In his case, he could only do one race, a few weeks ago, as the other race he was scheduled to enter was cancelled. “This is why I had to come back for a test last week and I will have to pass a sort of theoretical exam as soon as I get to the ‘Ring’ later this week”, he explains. The young Belgian is taking all these duties with great diligence. “I think I couldn’t have prepared better for this race. I can say I start to feel comfortable about the track, but I approach the Nordschleife with great respect. This is really the kind of circuit and race you can never say you know everything about! The track, of course, is exciting, although a little bit dangerous. I like it a lot, it is so special, so different from anything else. But I still have to experience driving at night, on the wet or with so many cars around me. I’ll try to do my best and avoid mistakes…”

Such a special race justifies a special livery. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car will sport a full black livery and a very … topical sponsor: Battlefield-4! The race itself runs this year on a special format. While free practice will take place on Friday, the Top-40 Qualifying that will determine the pole position on Saturday, the start of the race will be on Sunday at 17:00 hours, with the chequered flag falling at 17:00 hours on Whit Monday, which is a festive day in most European countries.

Belgian Audi Club

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Series ENDURANCE
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Tags 2013, audi, belgian audi club, green hell, nurburgring, team wrt