'Tour of England' is continued at the tample of speed with a second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
After racing at Brands Hatch last week in the Sprint Series, the Blancpain competitors continue their ‘tour of England’ by visiting this weekend another temple of speed, Silverstone, but switching into Endurance mode. The 3-hour GT race is an event rich in history and tradition and is this year the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series. Following the positive debut at Monza five weeks ago, where the fastest of the Audis R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad finished less than one second off the podium, the entire team is extremely motivated to go for good results, on a track theoretically more favourable to the R8. Laurens Vanthoor-Marc Basseng-César Ramos are ready for a good fight in the highly competitive series, and so are as well James Nash-Frank Stippler-Christopher Mies, with the British driver having, of course, the additional adrenaline of racing at home. In the Gentlemen Trophy, Yves Weerts and Jean-Luc Blanchemain will again seek heavy points, this time associated with Pierre Hirschi.
From Brands Hatch to Silverstone, the journey is short, and both tracks carry the same legendary status, but everything will be different in the Northamptonshire track, not only because it will be an endurance race, but also because it will probably unlikely to have again the … gorgeous weather that blessed the Sprint races in Kent last weekend.
The objective though remains the same, as underlined by Team Principal Vincent Vosse: “We were competitive in Monza in the first race, but missed the podium for a few tenths of a second, lost in one of the pit stops. This year, the level is so competitive, be it in the Sprint or the Endurance series, that you cannot afford the slightest glitch. We will do our utmost to avoid any mistake and aim at a very good result to stay among the front-runners in the championship. Silverstone should be better than Monza for the Audis. It is also quite a fast track but with shorter straights and flowing fast corners that suit us well. This said, I expect the fight to be intense, and some cars, like the Nissans, the Astons and the Bentley, to be very competitive.”
With two races in one week in England, the team has obviously stayed in Britain, but re-preparation of the cars has been as accurate as at the factory. “The good thing is that we haven’t had any damage at Brands Hatch”, explains sporting Director Pierre Dieudonné, “and that always makes things much easier. We are in a standard re-preparation scenario, changing only consumable parts and parts having reached the natural end of their usage cycle. The team could stay and work at Brands Hatch until Tuesday afternoon and then travelled to Silverstone, where they will have access to the paddock on Thursday. Wednesday is a well-deserved relaxation day for all crew members.”
Laurens Vanthoor, Marc Basseng and César Ramos, the drivers of car #1 are determined to improve the 4th position gained after a strong fight at Monza. “We were on the podium twice in the last two years at Silverstone, and want to keep the trend”, confirms Vanthoor. “Silverstone is another exciting track, with fast curves and more possibilities for overtaking. Dry or wet, I don’t mind, as the Audi is quite good in the rain. This year, the series is even more competitive than before, so it will be crucial to have everything in order. There is no doubt that such a level of competition gives even more value to the championship.”
The stop at Silverstone will certainly have a very special meaning for James Nash, the young Brit that has recently joined the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and shares car #3 with Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies. “I live a few kms from the track”, explains the Englishman, “so this is really very local for me. I haven’t raced much in the UK in recent years, therefore I am really excited. I know Silverstone well but have actually raced only once on the configuration used for GTs. The R8 should be competitive, as it has very good grip on fast corners and straights are not that long. For me, at this stage, it is important to continue familiarizing with GT cars and endurance racing, which are relatively new to me. I’m still completing the physical and mental change they require, and want to improve fast to be at the same level of my team mates, who are so competitive and experienced with these cars and race format.”
As known, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is also competing this year (for the first time) in the Gentlemen Trophy. Yves Weerts and Jean-Luc Blanchemain will try to build up on the excellent 5th position obtained at Monza to further progress and collect more heavy points in the Gentlemen Trophy. With Christian Kelders taken by other commitments, they will be joined at this occasion by the Swiss Pierre Hirschi. “Pierre is a real enthusiast and a very good driver, with great experience”, says Pierre Dieudonné, “and I am sure he will be a valuable addition on car #4.”
Practice at Silverstone will start on Friday with the test session for Bronze drivers (which will see WRT’s Gentlemen car in action) to continue with free practice and pre-qualifying on Saturday, and qualifying on Sunday morning. The 3-hour race will kick-off at 14:55 (British time) on Sunday.
Belgian Audi Club