Victory at last! The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT took its first win of the 2019 season in Race 2 at Misano, in the second round of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe. Charles Weerts and Dries Vanthoor materialized in the best way a weekend which saw the Audi R8 LMS of the Belgian squad in excellent form. On top of his first personal win, Charles Weerts took also his first pole position, and the first this year for the team, in Q1, while Shae Davies-Tom Gamble and Rik Breukers-Oscar Tunjo took a podium finish each in the Silver Cup, and the WRT crews brought home once again the Pirelli Pit Stop Challenge. All in all, an excellent weekend, which could have yielded even greater satisfactions, as car #2 went off-track in Race 1 when second in the race, and car #10 narrowly missed victory in the Silver Cup in the closing laps of Race 2.

The Audi R8 LMS of the Belgian squad proved competitive straight from free practice, with car #2 of Vanthoor-Weerts taking P3 in free practice 1 and then topping the rankings in the second session. Qualifying was going to be even more positive, with Charles Weerts signing a superb pole, his first in a GT competition, for Race 1, with Rik Breukers and Tom Gamble also shining, having trusted Row 6. In Qualifying for Race 2, Vanthoor also made it to first row, taking P2, while the two other cars were this time further aback.

Race 1, as per tradition in Misano, was held at sunset time on Saturday, something that allow to partly escape very hot weather. Charles Weerts took a perfect start and mastered perfectly the situation in the initial phases despite his short experience. The 18-year-old came quickly under strong pressure from Andrea Caldarelli, who used all his experience to pass him in lap 3. Still, Weerts remained in contention for the top spot, but in lap 9, as tires started to suffer, he lost the rear of the car in one corner and ran wide. Unfortunately, what could have been a simple off-track resulted in retirement as the car got stuck in the gravel trap. On the other cars, Breukers and Gamble were part of a lively group fighting for P10. A very late pit stop allowed car #17 to pass in front of car #10 after driver changes, with the same close fight going on and being even more intense, as a safety-car period had wiped out the gaps among the various contenders. In the close battle, Oscar Tunjo got hit by another competitor in lap 26 and was forced to the pits where he retired. Shae Davies brought the car home in P14, taking third and podium in the Silver Cup.

Race 2, in very hot weather, had an equally clean start, with Vanthoor keeping P2 and being able to attack the leading Mercedes in the initial laps. Still, positions did not change, with Oscar Tunjo in P20 and Shae Davies in P22, until the pit stop window opened, three minutes later than foreseen because of a safety-car period. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT did again a perfect job, which was not the case of a number of rivals. When all driver changes were completed, Charles Weerts was in the lead, with a 2.5 second advantage, with Rik Breukers in P6 and leading the Silver Cup class and Tom Gamble in P11. Weerts resisted perfectly to the pressure from behind, having again Caldarelli as his most immediate chaser in the closing laps, and brought the car in first under the chequered flag. Rik Breukers was less lucky, having to concede two positions and the Silver Cup win four laps from the end, finishing ninth overall, two spots ahead of Tom Gamble.

Vincent Vosse (Team Principal): “At last! It was about time to conquer a win, and this one feels really good. It’s something that will tremendously boost the morale of everyone in the team, right ahead the test for the Total 24 Hours of Spa. This time, in Race 2, everything went well, and we were spared by bad luck. The crews made again a terrific job. Of course, not everything went perfectly for all cars, and we could have left Misano with two wins, but at least we started a positive trend and now we can focus on next races with renewed motivation.”

Charles Weerts: “We were quite good in qualifying, taking P1 and P2, and I was of course very happy of my first pole. I had a good start in Race 1, but the Lambo was quicker and could not resist for long. I kept pushing not to lose contact, and clearly, went over the limit, finishing the race in the gravel. Today, luckily, things went much better, Dries kept the car at the top and then the guys did a fantastic job in the pit stop. I took the car in P1 and could keep the position. First win for me and this is clearly a great feeling!”

Dries Vanthoor: “A good weekend, especially the second part! Qualifying went very well, we actually tried a couple of set-up changes that worked very well, and could clinch first row twice. In Race 1, Charles did a rookie mistake, it happens, I also had to go through that learning curve a couple of years ago. But the important thing is to learn from mistakes and come back stronger, which is exactly what he proved in Race 2, and he did not crack under the pressure. Congratulations to the mechanics, who actually did a perfect job. This win is for Jules, Vincent’s son, wishing him to recover soon.”

Oscar Tunjo: “It was a hard start of the weekend, especially for me, as I didn’t know the track and I hadn’t been driving for a while. We struggled a bit with the set-up, especially in my qualifying session, which did not go as I wanted. In Race 1, we were doing very well and had a terrific pit stop, which put us in the lead of the Silver Cup. Unfortunately, there was a contact with another car and that was the end of it. In Race 2, finishing in the top-10 after starting from P21, is a good result. It’s just a pity that at the end we did not have the pace to keep P1 in the Silver Cup.”

Shae Davies: “It was a tough weekend, we struggled to find the right set-up balance, and were lagging behind throughout the weekend. Personally, it took me a while to find the right pace. In the races, it was much better and taking a P3 and a P4 in the class was a positive outcome. The team did a great job and I am very happy it could take a very-much deserved first win this season.”

Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe – Round 2
Misano Adriatico, Italy, 28-30 June 2019

Race 1 results:

  1. Caldarelli-Mapelli (Lambo Huracán Evo) 33 laps
  2. Abril-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) + 0s806
  3. Stolz-Engel (Mercedes AMG) + 4s663
  4. Collard-Kirchhöfer (Aston Martin Vantage) + 7s368
  5. Boguslavskiy-Schiller (Mercedes AMG) + 7s834

14. Davies-Gamble (Audi R8 LMS) +29s308
25. Breukers-Tunjo (Audi R8 LMS) 26 laps (xxx)

DNF Weerts-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) 8 laps (off-track)

Race 2 results:

1.Vanthoor-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) 36 laps

2. Caldarelli-Mapelli (Lambo Huracan) + 2s887

3. Gachet-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) + 6s281

4. Stolz-Engel (Mercedes AMG) + 5s904

5. Hutchinson-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) +23s493

9. Breukers-Tunjo (Audi R8 LMS) +30s213

11. Davies-Gamble (Audi R8 LMS) +31s791

Photo: Patrick Hecq Photography