The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT reopens the game in the Sprint Cup with a double win and four podium finishes at home race in Zolder

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT reopens the game in the Sprint Cup with a double win and four podium finishes at home race in Zolder


At last! The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT finally has had the ‘perfect’ kind of weekend that it had been looking for since the start of the 2017 season, and it happened in the home race at Zolder! Will Stevens and Markus Winkelhock won the Main Race, after taking third in the Qualifying Race. Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard did exactly the reverse, winning on Saturday and securing the fourth podium finish of the weekend on Sunday. Frijns also took the pole position and the fastest lap in the Main Race. More points and satisfaction came from the other three cars of the squad, as they all took some useful finishes. In addition, things have been reopened in the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup standings, as Stevens-Winkelhock are now second, only 5 points from the top, and Frijns-Leonard third two points aback, with both duos definitely back in contention, despite a difficult start of the season. Nothing is lost and the fight is just starting…

Team Principal Vincent Vosse was evidently satisfied and relieved at the end of the weekend: “It’s a fantastic result for the entire team, and I want to underline ‘entire team’ because this is the fruit of team work and everybody has performed at the highest level. Our crews did again a superb job, trusting the entire podium of the Pit Stop Challenge, but I have been impressed by the level of performance of all our driver line-ups as well. Winning both races and taking four podium finishes: I think we could hardly ask for more, even if when you enter five cars, not all of them can be rewarded. Still, this is clearly the kind of weekend we were waiting for since the start of the season, and to achieve it at home is simply great!”

The weekend looked promising since the start, with the Audis R8 LMS in the top positions as from the free practices, which actually saw car #3 of Jake Dennis and Pieter Schothorst signing the fastest lap in both sessions, with the young Dutch putting a very strong performance. In Free Practice 1, two other Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (cars #5 and #1) made it to the top 5, with car #2 third in free practice 2.

Qualifying was going to be quite positive too, despite the very close competition on a relatively short and narrow track. Robin Frijns stunned everybody with a sensational pole (1.29.025), the first one by an Audi this season. Cars #3, with Jake Dennis, and car #2, with Will Stevens, also qualified very well, in seventh and ninth position, respectively, while car #1 (P19) and #5 (P22) missed shortly the Q3 threshold.

The Qualifying Race saw again a collective accident before turn 1, but luckily, this time, no Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars were involved, as Robin Frijns had safely taken the lead and Will Stevens managed to pass unscathed through the turmoil (“Some fifty metres before the accident at the start happened, I knew there would be trouble. I braked a bit early to avoid the mayhem and that paid off”). The Brit was 6th during the safety-car period right in front of Pieter Schothorst, but unfortunately the Dutchman had to pit with a small technical issue, rejoining in P30 and losing all chances to do well. Mies and Vanthoor were 15th and 16th, respectively, in the early stages and both would gain positions further, thanks also to some beautiful overtakes. The race was to be extremely close, but excellent pit stops allowed the Belgian Audis to secure or improve their positions. Stuart Leonard kept everything under control and took a beautiful win, with Winkelhock bringing car #2 to third on the podium, and Ide also taking points (P6), while Fässler finished 13th and Jake Dennis 25th.

The Main Race on Sunday was again a very closely-fought one and started with the Mercedes of Meadows taking the lead, but sanctioned shortly after with a drive-through for jumping the start. “As poleman and pace maker, it wasn’t nice to be jump-started by two cars, but luckily, this did not affect our pace”, admitted Stuart Leonard, who had been passed also by team mate Markus Winkelhock. The German did an excellent first stint, fighting closely with the other Audi of Schmid, who was leading after the sanctions imposed after the start. “On a track like this, you cannot overtake”, explained Markus, “Eventually, I tried not to stress Schmid, to avoid the guys behind us closing the gap and wait for the pit””. A strategy borrowed from … cycling and which paid off nicely, as the much quicker pit stop of the Team WRT crews put the car in the lead, with Frijns keeping the P3 of car #17. For the three other cars, it was a lively and entertaining fight in the first group of the compact pack. A safety-car period in the final ten minutes left only the final lap to real racing, with everybody trying a last move. Things did not change in the top 3, while Dries Vanthoor could clinch an excellent 4th, and Schothorst and Mies eventually finished in P9 and P13, respectively.

The Blancpain GT Series will be back at the end of the month with the Endurance Cup and the traditional ‘longer’ race, of 1000 kms, at Circuit Paul Ricard, on 23-25 June.

Blancpain Sprint Series - Round 3

Zolder, Belgium

2-4 June 2017

Qualifying Race results:

  1. 1. Leonard-Frijns (Audi R8 LMS) 37 laps
  2. Meadows-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) + 0s798
  3. 3. Winkelhock-Stevens (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s375
  4. Schmid-Salaquarda (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s746
  5. Serralles-Juncadella (Mercedes AMG) + 2s749
  6. 6. Ide-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) + 6s996

13. Fässler-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) +23s956

  1. Schothorst-Dennis (Audi R8 LMS) +1m05s075

Main Race Race results:

1. Stevens-Winkelhock (Audi R8 LMS) 36 laps

2. Schmid-Salaquarda (Audi R8 LMS) + 0s467

3. Leonard-Frijns (Audi R8 LMS) + 0s772

4. Fässler-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s041

5. Kane-Abril (Bentley Continental) + 1s906

9. Dennis-Schothorst (Audi R8 LMS) + 5s498

13. Ide-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) + 7s415