It’s ‘home race’ time for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT!
For the third weekend in a row, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will be competing in a major international GT event this coming Saturday and Sunday. Under the spotlight this time is the FIA GT1 World Championship, but the second round of the season won’t be just another round for the Belgian squad, as Zolder means, of course, ‘home race’… The season-opener at Nogaro marked the team’s debut in the world’s GT gotha and brought a dream result, two double one-two wins, for the Belgian Audis R8 LMS ultra! While it is going to be extremely difficult to match that score, Laurens Vanthoor-Stéphane Ortelli and Frank Stippler-Oliver Jarvis are committed to do well in front of the team’s fans, friends and family, and most of all, to take another tally of heavy points in order to maintain the lead in the championship standings. Among the four drivers, young Vanthoor will of course feel twice at home …
“Nogaro was just fantastic, but it’s behind us”, says, almost as a warning,Team Principal Vincent Vosse. “We did it, we took a lot of points, and now we have to approach the second round as if we are starting all over again. In a way, we have to ‘forget’ Nogaro and remain focused on our objective, which is to do as best as possible and take as many points as possible, while keeping in mind that the season is still long. And if we see that we can aim at winning, we’ll go for it. We have been successful in Zolder in the past, we have won there both the 24 Hours and the 10 Hours, so it would definitely be nice to add a sprint race to the collection.”
As always, the team has carried out with great care the re-preparation of the Audis R8 LMS ultra, and worked on data and simulations. Sporting Director Pierre Dieudonné comments: “On paper, Zolder is not the most favorable circuit to the Audis, and on top of that, some of our rivals will benefit from adjustments in their performance balance, but we feel calm and confident. We know Zolder well and we have tested there during the pre-season. Weather conditions may play in our favor also. For once, we may not dislike seeing the rain, as the Audis perform very well on the wet. In those conditions, too, our drivers are a definite plus, as we really have a terrific line-up.”
Talking about drivers, it is needless to say that the one bound to attract most attention next weekend is Laurens Vanthoor. In his case, the expression ‘home race’ takes its fullest meaning. “The distance between Zolder circuit and my home can be measured in hundreds of meters rather than in a few kilometers”, says the 20-year-old Belgian with a smile, “I will certainly be sleeping in my bed each night!”. Life, as we know, is full of paradoxes, and not the least is the fact that Laurens will make next weekend … his race debut in his home track! “Believe it or not, it’s true”, he explains, “This is of course the circuit where I have watched races for the first time, and where I have done many test sessions, taxi-driving, etc, but I have never competed in an official event in Zolder, simply because it has never been on the calendar of the championships I have raced in so far! Of course, I expect a lot of people to be around, and that will be special, but that will not distract me from my work and the team’s objectives.” Neither is Laurens distracted by the statistics that some Belgian journalists have dig out: following the two wins in Nogaro that have given him and his team mate Stéphane Ortelli the provisional leadership in the Drivers’ standings, Vanthoor is the first Belgian to be leading a FIA World series since motorsport legend Jacky Ickx was in the élite of Sportscar racing in the early ‘80s. “That’s cool, but that makes not much sense after Round 1 of the championship…”, says Laurens.
On the team’s other R8 LMS ultra, Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis will seek to reconfirm the excellent form shown at Nogaro, where they took two second places but proved to have the same winning pace than their team mates.
The two one-hour races in Zolder are scheduled on Saturday at 13:45 and Sunday 16:15 hours respectively.
André Lotterer to make a guest appearance with 1981 Audi Coupé Group 2
There will be more emotional moments for the Audi fans at Zolder, as Audi Sport driver and Le Mans 24 Hours winner André Lotterer, who has a close link with Belgium where he grew up, will be taking part to the BHC historic race at the wheel of the Kamei-livered Audi Coupé Group 2 that André’s father, the late Henri Lotterer, prepared in 1981 when he worked for Nothelle. The car has been recently brought back to full splendor by Stefco in Antwerp and by Nothelle after a 13-month restoration.