It wasn’t to be. In an edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa which saw Audi controlling the race until the last hour, but having to satisfy with a final P2, only 4.6 seconds behind the winner, Team WRT lived added frustration. Only one car, the #30 sporting Audi Sport Team WRT colours and driven by young guns Ferdinand Habsburg, Dennis Marschall and Matthieu Vaxivière, the three drivers called in last-minute to join the team’s line-up, saw the chequered flag, taking P14 after a consistent race. The three other cars of the Belgian squad retired following incidents or technical issues.

Assessing the weekend, Team Principal Vincent Vosse commented: “It’s better to take things with philosophy and a glass of wine, as nothing has worked in the right way during the week! It started with the reshuffle we had to make in our staff and in the driver line-ups, and the race has been very tough, losing three cars out of four. Car #32 was hit by Catsburg, who came to present his apologies, #31 suffered a technical issue and #33 an accident. We bring one car to the finish line, the #30, a car that clearly had a slower pace, and not because of the replacement drivers, we need to analyze what the problem was. Still, everybody in the team has given his and her utmost, and I want to credit them for that. The season is not over, we need to remain motivated, and to Spa we say: we will be back next year!”

After the last-minute reshuffling of the driver line-ups, track activity started on Thursday and the team could advance well in the work through the sessions. That certainly showed in Qualifying, with three of the cars making the top-20 that granted promotion to the Super Pole session, while the car entered in the Silver Cup qualified in an excellent P25 overall (P3 in the category). Car #31 topped the Qualifying rankings, with car #32 in P8 and car #30 in P15. In the Super Pole, Kelvin van der Linde put car #31 in front row, with the second-fastest time, while Charles Weerts was 12th in car #32 and Matthieu Vaxivière was 17th in car #30.

The race, though, was going to bring frustration since the initial phases, with car #33 dropping down through the field after a faulty short pit stop and a couple of penalties. Christopher Mies in car #31 ran second for a few laps and remained always among the front-runners, with Frank Stippler (#32) in the top-15 and Matthieu Vaxivière (#30) in the top-35.

The first blow came at the 3-hour mark, when Charles Weerts, then at the wheel of car #32 was hit from the back by a BMW and had to retire. Car #31 kept always among the front-runners and victory candidates but few seconds before the 6-hour mark, Kelvin van der Linde had to stop along the track at the Raidillon and had to retired due to a drivetrain issue.

The two remaining cars had had smooth runs through the rest of the night and morning, with #30 climbing positions through the field to stabilize in the top-15 and car #33 doing the same and approaching the top-3 in the Silver Cup. Unfortunately, when rain appeared with some force, at the end of the 21st hour, Benjamin Goethe lost the car in the Raidillon, hitting the barriers. No consequences for the driver, but the car sadly joined the list of retirements. The last three hours, under heavy rain and with frequent safety-car periods, did not affect the run of car #30, which crossed the line 14th after a faultless race, although not at expected pace, and performing only the planned pit stops (27).

Ferdinand Habsburg: “It was an honour to be called last-minute by Team WRT and Audi to join one of the biggest motorsports events in the world. To finish in the top-15 with no experience with the car, without making mistakes, it’s quite emotional, although, clearly, there were many things we could have improved. A big thanks to the team and to my team mates.”

Charles Weerts: “It was one of those bad weekends, when nothing seems to go right, especially in the race. The highlights for me will be Qualifying and first Sper Pole experience. Congratulations to the #66 Audi for their podium and we are already looking to take our revenge next year.”

Dries Vanthoor: “I have of course, mixed feelings. On one hand, happy that my brother Laurens has won, on the other hand, quite annoyed because we lost, especially because I think we had a very good chance to fight for the podium and victory, especially given the rain at the end. But it’s always easier to talk afterwards…”

Benjamin Goethe: “We had a lot of issues at the beginning of the race and dropped down the field, but we fought our way up after that phase. Unfortunately, I did a mistake in the Raidillon on the wet and hit the wall of tyres. I am very sorry for the team and my team mates. Definitely, it wasn’t our weekend.”

GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup – Round 3
Total 24 Hours of Spa, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 22-25 October 2020

Race results:

    1. L.Vanthoor-Tandy-Bamber (Porsche 911 R) 527 laps
    2. Drudi-Niederhauser-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) + 4s689
    3. Müller-Engelhart-Cairoli (Porsche 911 R) +28s750
    4. Campbell-Pilet-Jaminet (Porsche 911 R) +36s882
    5. Calado-Nielsen-Pier Guidi (Ferrari 488) +38s481

    14. Habsburg-Marschall-Vaxivière (Audi R8 LMS) + 5 laps

    DNF Breukers-Goethe-Hall (Audi R8 LMS) 453 laps (accident)

    DNF Mies-D.Vanthoor-van der Linde (Audi R8 LMS) 138 laps (mechanical

    DNF Mortara-Stippler-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) 71 laps (race incident)


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    5 months ago

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