Belgian Audi Club Team WRT determined to defend their ‘Blancpain’ titles
Only a couple of days after the season’s triumphal debut in the FIA GT1 World Championship at Nogaro, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is heading to Italy and to the legendary Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for the season-opener of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the other championship on the team’s busy 2012 agenda. The Audis R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad have a key mission to accomplish in this highlycompetitive endurance series: to defend the Driver and Team titles conquered last year. To be the reigning champion gives the Belgian Audis the privilege to carry the most coveted numbers, #1 and #2, on their doors but also entails new responsibilities that will be entrusted to two high-level driver line-ups: Ortelli-Haase-Mies and Bonanomi- Sandström-Vanthoor.
After the very successful debut in the FIA GT1 World Championship on Easter weekend at Nogaro, where Ortelli-Vanthoor and Stippler-Jarvis posted a double 1-2 victory, there is a logical sense of satisfaction in the team. As team manager Pierre Dieudonné explains, “to start the season well is always positive, because it eases the pressure a bit and gives reassurance about the work done. We have to take the good results as an encouragement to keep up the momentum, as it just the beginning of a very long season…”
This said, the Blancpain Endurance Series is a totally different challenge, as it is an endurance championship and this year’s level is expected to be unprecedentedly high. No less than 57 cars are entered for the full 6-event season, proving that the series format put together by Stéphane Ratel and his SRO team is a huge success.
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT team principal Vincent Vosse is conscious of the challenge ahead: “We are anxious to be back at Monza, because every motorsports fan loves Monza, and to the Blancpain, which has given us so many satisfactions last year, but it is obvious that defending the titles against such a competition won’t be an easy task. Our first challenge at Monza is to reset the cars and ourselves to endurance mode and get back to the Michelin tires, which we know well since last year. For the rest, it is clear that 57 cars on the track pose a number of challenges, in terms of traffic and strategy. We will have to be very careful with race management and all our strategic choices.”
Special attention has been given to the driver line-ups for the B.E.S., which see a perfect blend of competences, backgrounds and nationalities. In the number #1 car, Stéphane Ortelli will share the wheel with Germany’s two Christophers, Haase and Mies, a pair that was crowned FIA GT3 European Champions in 2009 and who have already driven for WRT. In the #2 car, Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor, the “kid” of the team, will share driving duties with Italy’s Andrea Bonanomi and Sweden’s Edward Sandström, who are at their first race with WRT. For Bonanomi, an Audi Sport official driver, who gained experience with the R8 LMS in the Italian GT championship, this will really be what can be called “home race”, as he was born in Lecco, a few kms away from the circuit.
The B.E.S. season-opener is scheduled on Sunday at 14:15 hours, on the 3-hour race traditional format.