Laurens Vanthoor and Robin Frijns have a 27-points gap on their most direct rivals,
It’s a long journey for the Blancpain GT Series contenders, as teams and drivers move eastwards for the fourth round of the Sprint Series to take place at Moscow Raceway. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will seek a positive result, following the disappointing outing at the Paul Ricard 6 Hours in the endurance Series two weeks ago.
The Audis R8 LMS ultra should feel more comfortable on the modern facility in the outskirts of the Russian capital, and the entire team is determined to do well and maintain the comfortable lead currently enjoyed in both the Drivers’ and Teams’ standings. Laurens Vanthoor-Robin Frijns have a 27-points gap on their most direct rivals, while in the Teams’ standings, the Belgian squad leads by 23 units. Ortelli-Richelmi, Mies-Ide and Nash-Stippler complete the Team WRT line-up, in its usual configuration, and will also aspire to top results.
I’m happy to go back to Russia, it is always exciting to go to places different from the usual.
This is one of the top priority issues for the team, as underlined by Team Principal Vincent Vosse: “So far we have enjoyed great success in the Sprint Series with one car, but for a number of reasons we couldn’t have the other cars consistently at the same level. We need to achieve this, as we certainly have competitive machines and driver line-ups, and this is the objective for Russia. I am not unhappy to race on the traditional circuit, as we have been there three years ago and were competitive. Knowing already the track will give us a little advantage.”
Initially scheduled on the new street circuit designed around the University in downtown Moscow, the round has eventually been moved to the Moscow Raceway, due to logistical issues. The 3,931 meters long Moscow Raceway, located in Volokolamskiy, 70 km North-West from the Red Square, is a state-of-the-art facility not new to the GT world. In 2012, its inauguration year, it hosted a round of the then FIA-GT Championship and saw a win of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, in Race-1, thanks to Stéphane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor.
“I’m happy to go back to Russia”, admits Vanthoor, “it is always exciting to go to places different from the usual. It would have been nice to race in the urban track downtown, the setting would have been amazing, but it will be for another time. The Moscow Raceway though is a nice track, not my best-liked but certainly interesting. It is a technical track with a bit of everything, but with some good rhythm. It suited us well in 2012 and I expect the Audis to be competitive.”
Alongside Laurens Vanthoor-Robin Frijns, who will aim at asserting their leadership, Stéphane Richelmi-Stéphane Ortelli will try to improve their third position in the rankings while Christopher Mies-Enzo Ide and James Nash-Frank Stippler will aim at podium finishes.
The weekend format of the Moscow round differs from the usual, with both the qualifying and Main races taking place on Saturday afternoon, after qualifying in the morning. The tight schedule is going to be a key factor, as stressed by Vosse: “With such short turn-around times in-between sessions on Saturday, incidents and damage will be forbidden, as there won’t be much time to repair. It is really going to be a weekend where any mistake will be paid cash.” The weather forecasts point to clear skies and mild temperatures, with the region apparently spared by the heatwave currently hitting Europe. The races will start at 12 and 15 hours Central European time, respectively, and will be broadcast live.