The 2015 Blancpain GT season gave to Belgian Audi Club Team WRT some more honours as the squad secured the Teams’ title in the Sprint Series.
Two thrilling races at Zandvoort put an end to the 2015 Blancpain GT season and gave the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT some more honours as the squad secured the Teams’ title in the Sprint Series and Robin Frijns was crowned, at home, in the overall Drivers’ competition of the Blancpain GT Series. The young Dutchman kept with his personal record of winning a title every season – this is the fourth time in a row he succeeds in this achievement.
He could have very well doubled his toll today, but fell short of a few hundredths of a second in his chase for the Sprint Series Drivers’ title. Still, the intense battle until the last meter of the Main Race was superb and delighted the fans, after a race incident at first corner of Race 1 had made things pretty uphill for Robin.
On top of the second place of Frijns-Mies on Sunday, there were two more podium finishes with Fred Vervisch-Nicki Thiim taking 2nd in the Qualifying Race and 3rd in the Main Race, rounding up a perfect weekend. Stéphane Ortelli-Stéphane Richelmi had a nice weekend as well, taking 5th twice, while James Nash-Frank Stippler were once again unlucky and forced to a double retirement. With these results, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT closes an excellent 2015 season in the Blancpain GT Series, having conquered four out of six titles: the Teams’ honours in all competitions (overall, Endurance and Sprint) and the Drivers’ overall one.
It’s at the same time great to win the overall title and miss the Sprint one for so little.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse’s assessment at the end of the weekend is both positive and balanced: “We fought well until the very end, contributed to a wonderful show and took everything we could! It’s nice to bring home two more titles and we got close to conquer also a third one. The challenge, after Saturday’s misfortune at the start, was huge and still, Christopher and Robin managed to finish second in the tail of the Bentley after starting from the back of the grid. Fred and Nicki also had a great weekend. Clearly, I would have preferred to win the three titles at stake, but given the circumstances we have gone through in the last two weekends, we could have hardly done better. I am very happy of the wonderful job done by all the drivers and the mechanics, who have won again the Pit Stop Challenge. I also wish to thank Jean-Michel Baert for lending us his car to replace the one destroyed at Misano. This very closely-fought GT Sprint season proves how important it is to score points at every outing. We’ll be back next year and we’ll try to do better!”
After good free practice sessions, the Audis performed well in qualifying, with Frijns taking P2 and first row alongside the Bentley and Thiim in P3. Ortelli was just off the Q3 cut (9th) and Stippler 11th.
The Qualifying Race on Saturday immediately delivered high drama, with the start ending with Frijns in the gravel trap of the first corner. The Dutchman, who was on the outside line at the Tarzan bend was slightly hit by Siedler, which sent him into a spin. It was a mere race incident but with serious consequences: it took one lap and a half for the Audi to be rescued and put into the track again, which annihilated any chance of scoring points. Mies took the chequered flag in P15. Thiim-Vervisch, 2nd, and Ortelli-Richelmi, 5th, brought more than consolation to the team, while Nash-Stippler were stopped by a mechanical problem after only 6 laps.
On Sunday, with glorious but chilly weather, the start was again quite lively, with a collective collision at first braking. Luckily, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars escaped unscathed, with Vervisch and Mies particularly alert at the restart at end of the virtual yellow period. This allowed the two to take P3 and P4 in the initial laps, gaining quickly one more position after Bonanomi lost the lead. Soon after, Mies took second and started chasing the leading Bentley.
The two R8s always kept the pressure on the Bentley, reducing the gap at the pit stop, thanks to the wonderful job of the crews. Frijns could have even hoped to take the lead at that moment if it hadn’t been for a slight delay at re-ignition. Still, the Dutchman, well protected by Thiim and supported by Laurens Vanthoor and the entire team from the pits, kept pushing during his entire stint but could never really attack the Bentley, crossing the line only 376 thousandths behind Buhk. Ortelli-Richelmi finished solid 5th again, with Nash-Stippler having to retire shortly after mid-race after a slight off-track.
Robin Frijns, as the true racer he is, was not entirely happy as he headed to the podium: “It’s at the same time great to win the overall title and miss the Sprint one for so little, especially after the great work done by Christopher to recover from P14 on the grid. In my stint, I pushed as hard as I could, I don’t think we could have extracted anything more from the car. I’d get very close to the Bentley in some corners, especially in sector 2, but in the last corner, where I had much oversteer, and in the straight, the Bentley would take the advantage again, and it was impossible to pass it.”
The Blancpain season is now over, but the 2015 is not, as the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will take part in the newly-created FIA World GT Cup mid-November in the legendary street circuit of Macau. More news about that soon…
Main Race Race results
1. Abril-Buhk (Bentley Continental) 36 laps in 1h01m07s509
2. Mies-Frijns (Audi R8 LMS ultra) - 0s376
3. Vervisch-Thiim (Audi R8 LMS ultra) - 0s886
4. Bonanomi-Salaquarda (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -41s794
5. Ortelli-Richelmi (Audi R8 LMS ultra) -42s457
DNF Nash-Stippler (Audi R8 LMS ultra) 19 laps (off-track)
Final Blancpain Sprint Drivers’ standings (Pro Cup)
1. Abril-Buhk 135 points
2. Frijns 127
3. Vanthoor 109
4. Siedler 95
5. Seefried 92
6. Ortelli-Richelmi 76
8. Mies 62
11. Ide 44
19. Thiim-Vervisch 21
22. Nash-Stippler 17
Final Blancpain Sprint Teams’ standings (Pro Cup)
1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 177 points
2. Bentley HTP 143
3. AH Competiçôes BMW Brazil 118
4. Rinaldi Racing 98
5. Phoenix Racing 60
Final Blancpain GT Series Drivers’ standings (Pro Cup)
1. Frijns 170 points
2. Buhk 158
3. Vanthoor 152
4. Abril 136
5. Ortelli 126
8. Richelmi 90
9. Mies 83
13. Stippler 68
… Verney 45
… Ide 43
… Nash 17
Final Blancpain GT Series Teams’ standings (Pro Cup)
1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 248 points
2. Bentley HTP 148
3. Rinaldi Racing 129
4. AH Competiçôes BMW Brazil 118
5. Phoenix Racing 77