The dream of conquering the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles of the Blancpain Endurance Series for the third year in a row could not come true: the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT gave it all in the ‘battle’ at the Nürburgring 1000 Km, but it wasn’t enough.
The challenge was a big one, but despite a more favourable Balance of Performance, the Audis R8 LMS ultra were not fast enough on the German track that hosted the final and decisive round of the 2013 series, and were never in a position to beat the top rivals.
With these results, Stippler-Mies finish fifth in the Drivers’ championship, while the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is the runner-up in the Teams’ standings. The team is now concentrating all its efforts into the two final rounds of the FIA GT Series, where it is also in contention for the crowns.
There was disappointment in the Belgian squad at the end of the long Nürburgring race, but also the awareness that little more could have been done. Summarizing everybody’s feelings, Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse commented: “In the first place, I would like to congratulate this year’s winners, Maximilian Buhk and Team Marc VDS, who are the new Champions.
They did a great job during the entire season and deserve their success. For us, it was clear since first practice that we are still out-powered by the competition, despite the adjustments made to the Balance of Performance ahead of this final round. We did what we could under the circumstances, but we knew that we were not really in a position to fight for the titles today, regardless of the various race incidents we had later and which are part of racing.
It has been like that for the entire season; it is frustrating when you have excellent machinery like the Audi R8, great drivers and a fantastic team that has done an outstanding job, but there is little we could do against that. Now it’s time to look ahead and prepare the future, and before that, we still have a championship to finish, the FIA GT Series. We will go to the two final rounds with double motivation and determined to fight for the titles until the last second.”
At the Nürburgring, the challenge looked extremely difficult since free practice, with the cars not having sufficient power to compete with their main rivals. Eventually, René Rast qualified car #13 in 6th place in the Pro Cup, with Vanthoor 13th and Mayr-Melnhof 17th.
The race, which went on 1000 Km format (almost double distance than a normal Blancpain event) and was held under overcast skies but on a dry track, started relatively well for car #13, which was the one having the best chances in the Drivers’ standings, as René Rast, Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies stabilized themselves in the top 5 and ran as high as third, fighting permanently with their title rivals.
By mid-race, unfortunately, the car was delayed by a punctured tire. The car was climbing back through the field, when, one hour and a half to the end, there was a contact with the ART McLaren which caused fatal damage to the steering, forcing the German trio to retirement.
Car #1 of Stéphane Ortelli-Laurens Vanthoor-Edward Sandström did not have the same pace and struggled in the middle of the field, especially after the drive-through imposed to Ortelli for excessive speed during one of the yellow flag periods. Eventually, it finished 12th.
Car #2, entrusted to Niki Mayr-Melnhof, Rahel Frey and Francesco Castellacci, who was making its debut with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, was having a consistent race until, shortly after the 2-hour mark, the Austrian was hit by a Porsche and sent into a spin which ended with the R8 stuck in the gravel. It could only be brought back to the track by rescue vehicles and lost significant time in the venture, concluding the race in P13.
The very short journey back home comes welcome to team members, as there is little time to re-prepare the cars ahead of the next commitment: round 5 of the FIA GT Series is taking place next weekend at Navarra, in Spain.
Belgian Audi Club