Six cars and 19 drivers for the Belgian Audi Club and Team WRT at the Total 24 Hours of Spa

Six cars and 19 drivers for the Belgian Audi Club and Team WRT at the Total 24 Hours of Spa


The 69th edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa kicks-off today with the first free practice for Bronze drivers. Among the favourites for victory are, quite clearly, the Belgian Audi Club and Team WRT. The Belgian squad is entering no less than six Audis R8 LMS GT3 in the Ardennes’ legendary enduro: five will bid for the overall victory and one will aim at top honours in the Pro-Am category.

« When you have the support of a manufacturer and the driver line-ups we have, you can only aim at winning », confirms Vincent Vosse, the Team Principal of Team WRT. « Still, we all know how thin is the gap between victory and defeat. Last year, René Rast, Laurens Vanthoor and Nico Müller were leading the race when René was hit by a car he was lapping. The trio then lost 4 laps before climbing back to the third step of the podium, in the same lap of the winners… To win, you also need some luck and that is an element you do not master. »

To maximize the chances of success, the former winner of the Total 24 Hours of Spa knows that one has to rely first of all on people. « On top of very fast and harmonized driver line-ups (and here I want to thank André Lotterer for joining us last minute with so much enthusiasm), we have an extraordinary team, able to go the extra step when needed », says Vosse. « The Total 24 Hours de Spa is a race where the team factor can make the difference. At Spa, if everything goes well and you respect the planned pace, you can perform the perfect race. To win this year, it will take a perfect race, although, with so many variables that play a role, that won’t be enough in itself.”

The driver line-ups are composed of a subtle mix of experienced endurance specialists and fast young guns. Let’s have a closer look…

#1 – Audi Sport Team WRT

René Rast

German, born 26.10.1986

After being for a long time one of the reference drivers for Audi Sport customer racing in GT3 and taking part also to the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours on the third Audi LMP1 car, René Rast has seen his race programme change this year, as he now defends the colours of Audi in the DTM. With great success, by the way, since he currently lies a close second in the standings. The priority given to the DTM programme doesn’t prevent him to take part in some of the main endurance races with the R8 LMS... Having already conquered a win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours (2014) and two class wins at the Daytona 24 Hours (2012 and 2016), the 30-year-old aims at a third triumph at Spa after the ones in 2012 and 2014. Having narrowly missed winning in the Eifel earlier this year, René is looking for revenge and he remains a key asset for Audi Sport Team WRT!

Nico Müller

Swiss, born 25.02.1992

Following his career with single-seaters, Nico Müller has definitely established himself as a driver at Audi Sport. On top of his DTM programme, the smiling Swiss has been involved in the top GT3 races, like the Nürburgring 24 Hours and the Total 24 Hours of Spa. A winner at the Ring in 2015 (and third this year), Nico is chasing a first success at Spa. No need to tell what his objective for the 2017 edition will be…

Antonio García

Spanish, born 05.06.1980

Last year, WRT surprised everybody by recruiting Antonio García, one of the world’s GT stars thanks to his wins at Le Mans and in the top US endurance series, the IMSA. His career demonstrates his talent: a winner of the World Series by Nissan back in 2000, the Spaniard then switched to touring car racing (ETCC and WTCC) and GT racing. In 2008, he won the GT category at the Le Mans 24 Hours with Aston Martin, later becoming one of the top drivers of Corvette Racing. Since then, the Madrid-born has added two other successes at Le Mans and one at Daytona. His experience and fastness could be two effective weapons at this year’s 24 Hours.

#2 – Audi Sport Team WRT

Christopher Mies

German, born 24.05.1989

The career of Christopher Mies is closely linked to Audi and the R8 LMS. In 2009, the German won the European FIA GT3 Championship in the launch year of the German car. Since then, his collection of trophies and titles has increased, including the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2012 and the ADAC GT Masters in 2016. He’s also won twice the Bathurst 12 Hours (2011-12) and has taken this year a second win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, after a first success, already with WRT, in 2015. Still, something is missing in his trophy collection: the Total 24 Hours of Spa. What if it would be for this year?

Connor De Phillippi

American, born 25.12.1992

A former kart and single-seater driver (with several successes in the Star Mazda Championship Series), Connor De Phillippi has started racing with GTs in 2013, at the same time he crossed the Atlantic to race in Europe, in the German Porsche Carrera Cup, and as from 2015, in the international Supercup. Last year, the Californian made the real step forward by joining Audi and GT3 racing. Winner of the ADAC GT Masters together with Christopher Mies, he has obtained Audi Sport customer racing’s confidence to defend his title this year and to participate in the big endurance races. A good choice, as he has won the Nürburgring 24 Hours together with Mies, Winkelhock and van der Linde. And Connor certainly looks for more!

Frédéric Vervisch

Belgian, born 10.08.1986

His career has been varied, to say the least, but Fred Vervisch has now reached his goal: to become an Audi works driver. A great reward after his titles (German and Asian) in Formula 3, his successes in the Superleague Formula and his performances in GT, despite not always benefitting from the best package. A good 2016 season with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has finished to convince everybody about his talent. Now the Kortrijk-born is ready to clinch the big race win that is still missing in his CV.

#3 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (Pro-Am)

Josh Caygill

British, born 22.06.1989

He started his career on two wheels, first in motocross and then on track, but a serious accident during a race of the British Supersport Championship at Donington Park changed the course of things and brought a switch to racing cars. After competing in the VW Scirocco R-Cup and the Audi Sport TT Cup, the 28-year-old Brit has taken up the challenge of GT racing.

Niki Mayr-Melnhof

Austrian, born 09.11.1978

Following a first full season in 2013, with a 3rd place in the final standings of the FIA GT, Nikolaus – aka Niki – Mayr-Melnhof is back to the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT for a full year in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, where associated with young guns Josh Caygill and Jonathan Venter, less experienced than him, the Austrian plays the role of captain of the trio.

Jonathan Venter

Australian, born 20.02.1996

Best performer in the GT Asia last year, Jonathan Venter has decided to leave Australia to take his chance on the Old Continent. Aged only 21, the young man is full of ambition but the former F.Ford driver knows that he is still has a lot to learn. His debut at the Total 24 Hours of Spa is one of the challenges he has to face this season.

Richard Lyons

British, born 08.09.1979

He may not be the best-known name in the entry list, and still… At 37, Richard Lyons can claim a very nice CV. After shining in single-seater formulae in the U.K., it’s in Japan that the Ulsterman made his success. In 2004, he achieved to win both the Super Formula (then labelled Formula Nippon) and the prestigious Super GT. Still very active in the country, Richard currently defends the colours of Audi in the Super GT’s GT300 category. A member of the Hitotsuyama Racing, which is technically assisted by WRT for the third season in a row, he has finished 3rd in the GT300, and best GT3 car, last year. No doubt that Lyons will be a top addition to the team.

#5 – Audi Sport Team WRT

Marcel Fässler

Swiss, born 27. 05.1976

Is it still needed to present Marcel Fässler ? A triple winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours and an World Endurance Champion in 2012, the Swiss could have called it a career after Audi’s withdrawal from the WEC. But passion was stronger: Marcel has accepted to take up a new challenge, contesting a full season in both the Sprint and the Endurance cups of the Blancpain GT Series. Already a winner of the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2007 and third at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, the « Swiss knife » could be again very useful in the Ardennes this year…

Dries Vanthoor

Belgian, born 20.04.1998

Despite his young age and with only one GT season under his belt, Dries Vanthoor is already established as one of the top drivers of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. The velocity of the 19-year-old boy from Limburg leaves no doubts. After living one season in the shade of his brother Laurens, the younger Vanthoor continues to build a first name for himself. To race in GT, he has given up his Formula 1 dreams, and yes, he can materialize soon his other dream: to be a works driver for a major manufacturer. Six weeks after winning the GTE-AM category at Le Mans in his first participation, victory is again his only objective at the Total 24 Hours of Spa!

André Lotterer

German, born 19.11.1981

Anyone who knows André Lotterer is in admiration in front of his incredible passion for motorsports. Officially holding a German citizenship and living partly in Japan, where he races in the Super Formula series, which he won in 2011), André is Belgian by heart and a great fan of Spa-Francorchamps, where the triple winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours and 2012 World Endurance Champion has contested his only Formula 1 Gran Prix back in 2014. To date, his best finish at the Total 24 Hours of Spa is a 3rd place in 2013. Currently a Porsche works driver in the WEC, André is back to the Audi family with the firm intention to become one of the very few drivers having both Le Mans and Spa in his CV.

#6 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT

Nathanaël Berthon

French, born 01.07.1989

He went very close to a Formula 1 drive, having been a test driver for Caterham in 2014. Over a decade, Nathanaël Berthon has raced in almost every single-seater formula, from Formula Renault to GP2 Series, not forgetting Formula 3 and Formula E. As from 2014, he has also been active on the endurance scene. After racing with Prototypes and winning the Elite category in the Trophée Andros last winter (with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT), the driver from Auvergne is performing his first full season in GT with the Belgian squad.

Stéphane Richelmi

Monegasque, born 17.03.1990

The son of a well-known rally driver, Stéphane Richelmi did not follow into his father’s footsteps, opting for racing on track. Like many others, the Monegasque dreamt of Formula 1, but his single-seater career peaked in GP2 Series, where he clinched one win and one pole in 2014. One year later, he raced his first GT full season with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT. In 2016, he took the LMP2 Drivers’ title in the WEC, and this year he made his come-back to the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to get closer to a big manufacturer. To be watched…

Benoit Tréluyer

French, born 07.12.1976

His ‘joie de vivre’ is definitely contagious, his passion for motorsports more than evident… Why on earth would he stop his career after Audi’s withdrawal from the WEC? Like Marcel Fässler, he has never considered that option! Be it on an enduro bike, at the Trophée Andros or in GT, the triple winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance champion of 2012, still wants to enjoy racing. With the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, he has found the perfect environment, a team both very professional and friendly. For the former champion of the Super GT (2008) and the Formula Nippon (2006), the two top series in Japan, a win at the Total 24 Hours of Spa would be an additional great line in his list of successes.

#17 – Belgian Audi Club Team WRT

Jake Dennis

British, born 16.06.1995

A former Karting World Champion (in 2010, in the under-18 category), Jake Dennis has later shone with single-seaters, taking among other a third spot in the European FIA F.3 Championship in 2015. While he’s not giving up his formula career, he knows that it is endurance racing that offers him the best prospects to become a works driver. Following some races with Prototypes last year, he is now a full-time contender in the Blancpain GT Series, and not the least ambitious one!

Jamie Green

British, born 14.06.1982

In 2004, Jamie Green took the Formula 3 Euros Series title. He then seemed bound to Formula 1, but he accepted an offer to race in the DTM. Since then, the Brit has become a reference in the series, as proven by his runner-up position in 2015 and his third position overall last year. This year again, he is in fight for the title. Still, he has accepted to sub for Robin Frijns at the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT when the Dutchman is taken by his Formula E commitments. Would he know that in 2011, WRT’s first win at the Total 24 Hours of Spa was signed by two DTM drivers in activity, Mattias Ekström and Timo Scheider (along Greg Franchi) ?

Stuart Leonard

British, born 13.06.1991

Stuart Leonard is with no doubt a very good learner! Having joined the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT at the end of 2015, the Briton has already won the Sepang 12 Hours and the Dubai 24 Hours with the Belgian team during the winter 2015-16. More recently, together with Robin Frijns, he has taken his first Blancpain Sprint Cup win, in the qualifying race at Zolder. His confidence is growing steadily, and in a longer race such as the Total 24 Hours of spa, his consistency could make of him a very valuable asset.