The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to the Ricard 1000 kms with the sight put on Spa

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to the Ricard 1000 kms with the sight put on Spa


It will be hot this weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Southern France, in all senses! On one side, the current heat wave anticipates torrid temperatures in the Var, already a warm place at this period of the year; on the other, the French 1000 kms enduro will again serve as a rehearsal ahead of the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the high point of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season, to be held in one month. This year too, the Ricard 1000 kms (which runs over an almost double length with respect to the standard race format of an Endurance Cup round, and gives almost double points) has attracted a huge entry, with 59 cars ready to use it to prepare for Spa. This will be the main objective for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, who, following a frustrating start of the season at Monza and Silverstone, is now focusing primarily on Spa. In France, Audi’s works R8 LMS cars will be present, with the Belgian squad sporting two of them under the Audi Sport Team WRT banner, along its usual 4-car line-up.

This brings the number of cars fielded by Baudour-based squad to six, a true challenge as explains Team Principal Vincent Vosse: “A 6-car entry, including two Audi Sport cars, entails a special effort, in all aspects: technical, sportive, logistical and human. Still, we are perfectly ready and go to the Ricard fully prepared and motivated, with all the human and material resources needed. The Ricard is a relatively complex track for us, as we know, but we have done well there in the past, and we took a podium finish last year. What is sure is that we will give everything, as always, and will use the opportunity as a rehearsal for Spa. Being competitive at the Ricard doesn’t necessarily mean you will be competitive at Spa, but the track is a little bit more indicative than some others, say Zolder for example, could be!”

The two cars of Audi Sport Team WRT will sport #1 and #2. In the #1, Nico Müller will be associated to Antonio García, the Spanish GT star who already raced for Team WRT in some occasions last year, and the current DTM standings leader René Rast.

In car #2, two well-known faces, Christopher Mies and Fred Vervisch, will share the wheel with a last minute recruit, Pieter Schothorst. The Dutchman has been called in last minute to replace Connor De Phillippi, as the American is out of contention because of illness. For Vervisch, this will be his first Blancpain Endurance Cup race of the year: “I am very happy to join the Blancpain again”, explains the Flemish driver, “Contrarely to many colleagues, I am one of those who really like the Ricard, which I see as a very interesting track, and I’m not afraid of warm weather…I have been driving the Audi R8 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and some VLN races this year, where there is a different tire supplier, so the Ricard is a perfect opportunity to acquire mileage with the new tires and also with the new rules that have come into force in the sporting area. It will be an excellent preparation ahead of Spa and I am looking forward to work again with such a great team and be in such a competitive environment as the Blancpain.”

The four cars usually entered in the Endurance Cup by the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will be in the usual driver line-up configuration, except for one change, which relates to car #3 (now included in the Pro-Am category) entrusted to Josh Caygill, Jonathan Venter and Niki Mayr-Melnhof. The Austrian not being available for this event, as anticipated, his place will be taken by Hugo de Sadeleer, the promising 19-year-old ‘young gun’ who has taken an excellent P4 in LMP2 at the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend. The Swiss-born driver of Belgian ascent will be making his debut with the team.

In car #6, Frenchmen Benoît Tréluyer and Nathanaël Berthon and Monegasque Stéphane Richelmi will be playing the role of local heroes, while car #17 will be shared by Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Jake Dennis.

No changes neither in car #5, with Marcel Fässler, Will Stevens and Dries Vanthoor, except for an important ‘status’ variance: Marcel is no more the only Le Mans winner in that trio, as Will and Dries were crowned winners of the 24 Hours in the GTE-Am category last Sunday, after a superb performance at the wheel of a privateer Ferrari. The achievement has left Dries extremely happy but with both feet on the ground. “It is great to win Le Mans at the first attempt, it wasn’t certainly the objective before the race”, reckons the Belgian, “and it’s nice to be the youngest winner ever in a GT class. We had a good package and did a good job. Will, who had some more experience at Le Mans than me, helped me a lot with his advice, we did no mistakes and stayed out of trouble. I understand that winning Le Mans really means something, I only hope it will bring some extra visibility and I will be called again for some nice one shots like this.” Dries is now completely geared at the Blancpain race at the Ricard and not worried ahead of another long race in the heat: “Physical recovery is not an issue”, he explains, “We are trained for that, I am just using this couple of days to sleep longer, as I only slept two hours during the race last weekend. The Ricard 1000 is seen by all as preparation for Spa, but I hope we will have a real race and everybody will go for it! The Audi doesn’t like much the very long straight but in the third sector it is one of the best cars, so I believe we can be competitive, like last year, when only a contact barred us from the podium. I am confident, as I think that the last race at Zolder has marked a turning point in our season. We are back!”

Action at the Ricard will be condensed in two days, with free practice and pre-qualifying on Friday and qualifying on Saturday morning. The 1000 kms race, as customary, will be held on Saturday evening, kicking off at 6 pm and finishing in full darkness, before midnight.

Blancpain Endurance Cup - Round 3

Circuit Paul Ricard, France

23-24 June 2017

Timetable (all times local = CET)

Friday 23rd June 2017

10:00-11:00 Bronze test

13:30-15:00 Free Practice

16:25-17:55 Pre-Qualifying

Saturday 24th June 2017
10:00-11:00 Qualifying

18:00-24:00 Race (1000 kms)

Audi Sport Team WRT entries

#1 Antonio García (E) - Nico Müller (CH) – René Rast (D)

#2 Christopher Mies (D) – Pieter Schothorst (NL) – Frédéric Vervisch (B)

Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entries

#3 Josh Caygill (GB) – Hugo de Sadeleer (CH) - Jonathan Venter (AUS) (Pro-Am)

#5 Marcel Fässler (CH) – Will Stevens (GB) – Dries Vanthoor (B)

#6 Nathanaël Berthon (F) – Stéphane Richelmi (MC) – Benoît Tréluyer (F)

#17 Jake Dennis (GB) Robin Frijns (NL) – Stuart Leonard (GB)

Provisional Drivers’ standings after Round 2 of 5:

1. Caldarelli-Bortolotti-Engelhart 50 points

2. Perera-Buhk-Eriksson 33

3. PierGuidi-Rugolo-Lathouras 27

4. Rigon-Molina-Shaytar 22

5. Soucek-Soulet-Abril 18

Provisional Teams’ standings after Round 2 of 5:

1. GRT Grasser Racing Team 50 points

2. HTP Motorsport 33

3. AF Corse 27

3. SMP Racing 24

5. Bentley M-Sport 20

13. Team WRT 1