The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT shows right pace at Monza, despite hopes watered down in crazy wet race

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT shows right pace at Monza, despite hopes watered down in crazy wet race

14/04/2019


It was a disappointing first round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup at Monza for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, as bad luck hit the Audi R8 LMS cars of the Belgian squad since Sunday morning’s qualifying, in a day where changing conditions, with heavy rain at times, made tire choice difficult and resulted in numerous incidents, punctures and full-course-yellow or safety car periods. Car #2 of Álex Riberas, Ezequiel Pérez-Companc and Dries Vanthoor proved competitive and was in the top-3 throughout qualifying and the first part of the race, while car #10 of Ricardo Sánchez, Charles Weerts and Rik Breukers was bound to a podium finish in the Silver Cup. Unfortunately, a cascade of punctures hit several Audis including #2 and #10, sending them out of the top-10. Car #17 of Shae Davies-Paul Petit-Alex MacDowall could not even take the start following an accident in qualifying. On the positive side, the team leaves Italy having proven competitive in terms of path.



This was also the main take-away of Team Principal Vincent Vosse, who commented: “We are clearly disappointed, but that’s racing. We lost one car in qualifying, the bet to go for slick tires with car #2 in the second stint did not prove successful and then we were hit by punctures, which can be explained also by the weight we carry. Still, there was some positive too. The pace shown was good, and the Silver Cup car proved very quick. Let’s look now at the next races!”

The weekend started with somewhat reassuring indications, as car #2 ended Saturday activity as sixth-fastest in pre-qualifying, with car #10 in P23 and car #17 in P35, with very close gaps throughout the field.

Heavy rain and foggy weather welcomed everybody on Sunday morning, with Qualifying taking place in challenging conditions. Team WRT’s Pro car took a brilliant 3rd spot on the grid, with car #10 qualifying in a good 18th position (and 5th in the Silver Cup). It was drama though for car #17, as Paul Petit was left with no other possibility than hitting a car in front of him that braked suddenly when overtaking another car in the treacherous conditions. Unfortunately, chassis damage on the front was too serious and the car had to be withdrawn from the race.

Rain was still falling at the moment of the start, given behind the safety car. Álex Riberas kept third position, in contact with the front-runners, during the first half-hour, climbing up to P2 when the leader had to pit because of a puncture amidst of a full-course-yellow. In car #10, Ricardo Sánchez had a cautious first stint in P26. It was a late pit start (lap 28) for car #2 in order to check the evolution of weather conditions, with the rain ceasing and the track drying slowly. The team betted for slick tires and the move seemed to work as Pérez-Companc gained one position up to 3rd. Shortly after, though, the rain came back and the Argentine had to reduce the pace, dropping positions down to 12th. In car #10, on wet tires, Charles Weerts did an impressive stint, bringing his car back 9th overall just behind the leading car in the Silver category.

With the track and the air getting damper, the choice for wet tires was obvious at second pit stop. After all cars pitted, and yet another safety-car period, Rik Breukers was 10th and Dries Vanthoor 14th. At the restart, they were in a compact group that fought fiercely, exchanging positions and providing a great show to the brave fans withstanding the conditions on the grandstands. When they stabilized in P9 and P12, drama broke again as both Audis, as well as other cars, suffered punctures as wet tires started to deteriorate. Vanthoor eventually finished 18th while Breukers, who had to do almost an entire lap at very slow pace to get to the pits, was hit by another puncture, crossing the line in P27.



Driver Quotes

Dries Vanthoor: “It was a difficult race in mixed conditions. The gamble to go for slick tires did not work, and when I took the car in the last stint, we were out of the top-10. I tried to push as hard as I could, but then there was this puncture… Bad luck, but we’ll come back stronger.”

Álex Riberas: “It is obviously not the result we wanted, as we aimed at a podium finish. In my stint I managed to stay in P3, which is what I wanted but then we had a wrong call on the tires and we suffered a puncture. We’ll learn from all that and are already focusing on Silverstone.”

Ezequiel Pérez-Companc: “The strategy of putting slicks in the intermediate stint did not work, it’s a pity because Álex did a mega job, but the good thing is that we proved the pace was good, also in qualifying.”

Charles Weerts:We had a pretty good race, but unfortunately it lasted 20 minutes too much! I had a good second stint, and we were even 2nd in the Silver Cup at some point. Unfortunately, we suffered a double puncture in the time frame of two laps and that ruined our efforts.”

Blancpain Endurance Cup – Round 1 Monza, Italy, 13-14 April 2019

Race results:

1. Rizzoli-Ashkanani-Bachler (Porsche 911) 77 laps
2. Caldarelli-Lind-Mapelli (Lambo Huracán) +14s852
3. Buurman-Stolz-Engel (Mercedes AMG) +17s193
4. Bastian-Boguslavskiy-Fraga (Mercedes AMG) +17s527
5. Haupt-Passenheimer-Piana (Mercedes AMG) +18s063
18. Companc-Riberas- Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) +1m32s511
27. Breukers-Sánchez-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) - 2 laps

source: Team WRT
photos: Patrick Hecq Photography
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