As often, the Paul Ricard 1000 kms provided a thrilling finale, with five cars battling for victory in full darkness. As often too, an Audi R8 LMS of Team WRT managed to be part of that breath-taking show at the end of a weekend that was certainly not easy. Dries Vanthoor, Kelvin van der Linde and Charles Weerts, together with the entire team, were right to celebrate the second place as a win, at the end of a perfect race.

Benjamin Goethe-Stuart Hall-James Pull also climbed back from the back to claim an excellent 5th in the Silver Cup, while the car of Frank Bird-Valdemar Eriksen-Ryuichiro Tomita was put out of the race by a rival in the very early stages of the race.

Team Principal Vincent Vosse was impressed at the end of the 1000 kms: “We had negatives, struggling for the entire weekend to find better pace, with the incident that took out car #31 and the two penalties that slowed car #30, but eventually we are here celebrating two good results, and in particular the fantastic podium of car #32. In the race, its pace was suddenly back and everyone did a great job: the drivers were faultless and we gained precious time at every pit stop. Still, I’d like to underline the fantastic performance of Vanthoor and his stunning move in the final lap. That was pure Dries...”

The weekend in Provence started with a promising P5 in Free practice 1 by car #30 of Goethe-Hall-Pull but that level of ranking could not be matched by any of the team’s cars in the following sessions, when all cars started to run full pace. Eventually, qualifying yielded P14 on the grid for car #32, while the two Silver Cup, which showed very similar performance, shared the 13th row, with car #30 ahead of #31. Things worked better at the simulator, with Kelvin van der Linde winning the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race.

The start of the race, in a warm spring afternoon, was relatively quiet, despite the 47 cars on track, although Charles Weerts in car #32 lost a couple of positions in the traffic, stabilizing in P18 in the initial laps, while Stuart Hall in car #30 climbed to P22 and Frank Bird dropped to P34. The young Brit was soon become, in lap 13, the innocent victim of a spinning car which clipped the rear of the Audi damaging a suspension. Forced to the pits for a very long repair, the car would restart for only a few laps, with Ryuichiro Tomita, before definitive retirement.

In the meantime, Weerts managed to climb positions, up to 11th at the end of his double stint (lap 65), with Kelvin van der Linde rejoining as 9th after an excellent pit stop. Car #30 was having a similar race in parallel, with Stuart Hall finishing his double stint in P20 and Benjamin Goethe running 19th. Unfortunately, the car looking for a 2nd podium after Monza in the Silver Cup was inflicted two drive-throughs for incidents in the central part of the race, with James Pull starting the final stretch from P23 (7th in the Silver Cup).

A trouble-free race, a good strategy and great pace from the drivers allowed car #32 to make contact with the front-runners for the final double stint. Kelvin van der Linde brought the car to penultimate pit stop in P7 and Dries Vanthoor rejoined in fifth, narrowing the gap with the front-runners. Thirty minutes from the end, Vanthoor was 4th, only 3.7 seconds from the leader, but the top 5 being covered by only 4 seconds, the Belgian was both in an attack and defence mode. In a fantastic move three corners from the flag, he managed to pass the Lambo for third, which became P2 before the podium ceremony following the penalty inflicted to the Ferrari #71 for a pit stop infringement. Pull also finished on a high, crossing the line fifth in the Silver Cup lapping amongst the quickest on track.

Dries Vanthoor: “I have never been so happy for a P2 finish! Honestly, if someone would have told us we would finished second today, I would have laughed at him or her! We have been struggling all weekend with top speed and set-up... We gave it all and actually in the race, the car was at its best compared to the rest of the weekend. In the last three laps I prepared to try something and when the Lambo did a very small mistake, I attacked...”

Charles Weerts: It was quite a difficult weekend, struggling to find pace for two days, we put a lot of work with the engineers and the mechanics to have the right car for the race and it worked. P2 is a very good reward for the entire team, and I am very happy as this is my first podium in Endurance.”

Kelvin van der Linde: “I’m really happy, we spent two days scratching our heads to find the solution... This is a very good way to turn around the situation, everything was perfect: the strategy, the pit stops, the driving. P2 was really the maximum we could get, there was nothing left in the tank, so it really feels like a victory.”

James Pull: “It’s a little bit disappointing to finish 5th in the Silver Cup, the car was quick and we could have aimed at the podium, without those two penalties. Still, we did a good race and we learnt an awful lot during the race, collecting a lot of data, day and night, that will be very helpful for Spa.”

Frank Bird: “Unfortunately, we had to retire because a heavy impact from a spinning car that collected me. Before that, we had a good start making up some positions before another contact. It was not the best weekend, we struggled a lot, but worked hard with the team and my teammates and recovered well, but we didn’t get to show it with a good result.”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS - Endurance Cup Round 2
Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km, France, 28-30 May 2021

Race Result
1. Campbell-Bamber-Jaminet (Porsche 911R) 182 laps
2. Vanthoor-van der Linde-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) + 5s971
3. Bortolotti-Mapelli-Caldarelli (Lamborghini Huracán) + 6s284
4. Pierguidi-Nielsen-Ledogar (Ferrari 458) + 6s540
5. Fuoco-Ilott-Rigon (Ferrari 458) +14s454
19. Goethe-Hall-Pull (Audi R8 LMS) + 2 laps 5th in Silver Cup
DNF Bird-Eriksen-Tomita (Audi R8 LMS) 15 laps (incident)

PHOTO: Michele Scudiero

twitter icon
10 months ago

@Fhabsburg62 @GTWorldChEu @ValeYellow46 @augustofarfus @weerts_charles @SheldonvdLinde @vanthoordries1…