Intense and dramatic: there are no better words to describe the weekend lived by the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT at Misano in the penultimate round of the Blancpain Sprint Series.
The squad has secured the Teams’ title, and this is certainly good news. But it also lived one of the worst moments of its history, following the massive accident suffered by Laurens Vanthoor in the initial laps of the Qualifying Race. Fortunately, the young Belgian escaped almost unhurt from the crash, suffering of bruises and a sprained foot. He is now back home and will undergo complete checks on Monday. A podium finish, thanks to the third position conquered by Enzo Ide-Christopher Mies in Saturday’s race, was the best result obtained by the Audis R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad, which struggled with overall performance throughout the weekend.
It’s difficult to judge what really happened and if any technical factor played a role from the available TV footage.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse was both relieved and frustrated after the Italian round: “It has been one of the most difficult weekends for our team”, he conceded, “The most important is that Laurens is basically OK after suffering what is the worst accident in WRT’s history. We are relieved, of course, although this will certainly have an impact on the outcome of the Drivers’ championship, as the final round is next weekend in Zandvoort. Following the extensive checks that Laurens will undergo tomorrow in Belgium, we will evaluate the situation and plan for next weekend. For the rest, we secured the Blancpain Sprint Series Teams’ title, and we are happy of that, but we cannot be happy with the performance shown here at Misano”.
The Audis R8 began well in the free practice, but in qualifying both cars #1 (mechanical problem) and #4 (Nash being hit by Mayr-Melnhof), did not make it to Q3. Still, Richelmi and Mies managed to conquer good grid positions: 3rd and 5th, respectively. An engine change added to Vanthoor-Frijn’s misfortunes, as this meant starting from the pits in the Qualifying race to be held on Saturday night.
Both Richelmi and Mies had a relatively difficult initial laps, losing some positions while Stippler and Vanthoor started to climb positions from the back of the field. Unfortunately, in lap 8, Vanthoor suffered his accident while trying to overtake the Bentley of Szymkowiak. Both cars ended their race against the wall, with the consequences known for the Belgian. After the safety-car period and excellent pit stops, Ide was third and Ortelli sixth. These were their final positions, after the Bentley of Buhk was inflicted a drive-through for a pit stop infringement, with Nash taking the flag in P8.
After the race, the incident between Vanthoor and Szymkowiak was investigated by the stewards, who decided to give Vanthoor a penalty of five grid positions in the next Qualifying race, a decision that leaves Vosse sceptical. “It’s difficult to judge what really happened and if any technical factor played a role from the available TV footage”, reckons Team WRT Team Principal, “but I think the sanction is excessive for Laurens, in consideration that a title is at stake and that not being able to take part in the Main Race here is already a sanction”.
Obviously, the Main Race saw only three Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars at the start, in the hands of Ide, Ortelli and Nash respectively. They all had a somehow difficult initial phase, losing a couple of positions each. The race being pretty uneventful, the situation changed little, even after the pit stops. Eventually, Richelmi finished 7th on car #3, right ahead of Mies in car #2, with Stippler closing in P13 on the #4.
The next and final round of the Blancpain Sprint Series is scheduled for next weekend at Zandvoort.
Blancpain Sprint Series - Round 6
Misano Adriatico, Italy
3-4 October 2015
Qualifying Race results
1. Siedler-Seefried (Ferrari F458) 35 laps in &h01m26s521
2. Kujala-Bortolotti (Lambo Huracán) - 1s395
3. Mies-Ide (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -17s395
4. Abreu-Brito (BMW Z4) -23s453
5. Richelmi-Ortelli (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -23s637
8. Stippler-Nash (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -33s368
DNF Vanthoor-Frijns (Audi R8 LMS ultra) 7 laps (accident)
Main Race Race results
1. Seefried-Siedler 5Ferrari F458) 38 laps in 1h01m03s643
2. Abril-Buhk (Bentley Continental) - 7s036
3. Kujala-Bortolotti (Lambo Huracán) - 9s794
4. Abreu-Brito (BMW Z4) -15s315
5. Walkinshaw-Dolby (Nissan GT-R) -15s968
7. Ortelli-Richelmi (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -20s807
8. Mies-Ide (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -21s205
13. Nash-Stippler (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -55s437 (12th in Pro)
DNS Vanthoor-Frijns (Audi R8 LMS ultra)
Provisional Drivers’ standings (Pro Cup) after Round 6 of 7
1. Vanthoor-Frijns 109 points
2. Abril-Buhk 101
3. Seefried-Siedler 92
4. Abeu-Brito 74
5. Ortelli-Richelmi 69
6. Mies-Ide 44
... Nash-Stippler 17
Provisional Teams’ standings (Pro Cup) after Round 6 of 7
1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 151 points
2. BMW Sports Trophy Team Brazil 111
3. Bentley HTP 109
4. Rinaldi Racing 95
5. Phoenix Racing 59
Audi Sport Team WRT