AUDI SPORT TEAM WRT TAKES FANTASTIC SECOND IN EPIC FINALE OF THE SPA 24 HOURS
AUDI SPORT TEAM WRT TAKES FANTASTIC SECOND IN EPIC FINALE OF THE SPA 24 HOURS
Team WRT is back to the podium of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa after five years. The Skechers-livered car #32, entered by Audi Sport Team WRT and driven by Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts and Kelvin van der Linde, took second in an epic edition of the greatest GT endurance race in the world. Despite starting from the back of the grid, the car was beaten by only 3.9 seconds in the thrilling finale under the rain.
The good result was completed by the fourth place of the other Audi Sport Team WRT car, in the hands of Robin Frijns-Dennis Lind-Nico Müller, while the two cars entered by Team WRT in the Silver Cup concluded in P6 (Colapinto-Goethe-Pull) and P8 (Bird-Eriksen-Tomita) in the class.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse was a happy man at the end of the extenuating race: “There are podium finishes that taste extremely good, and this is one of those. For sure, we would have preferred to win and got very close to it, but we were beaten by a very strong competitor, and I want to congratulate Ferrari and Iron Lynx for their success, and in particular Alessandro Pier Guidi, with whom I shared the podium here at Spa in 2009 with a Maserati, for his impressive last stint. For us, it is a magnificent result, with all the four cars finishing, two in the overall top-4 and the Silver Cup ones taking points in their class. We have made an almost flawless race, and fought for victory until the end, losing to a very strong rival. I want to congratulate warmly the entire team and all the drivers for a job well done.”
The Audi of the Belgian squad where competitive through the initial sessions of Wednesday and Thursday, with car #32 being the fastest of all in both the free practice and pre-qualifying. The qualifying session, though, would hold a bad surprise for the #32 car, as it got caught without a lap time in one of the four qualifying sessions, which relegated it to P55 on the grid. Car #31 as well found itself at the back of the field (P57) after it hit the wall in the first qualifying session but with too severe damages to participate in Q2 and Q3. Car #30 qualified 30th, while car #37 of Frijns-Müller-Lind was the only one making it to the SuperPole, keeping as final starting position its P15.
The race had a dramatic first couple of hours. If it had a relatively quiet start, with all of the WRT cars gaining some positions, a serious accident involved four of the front-runners at the Raidillon in lap 10, which prompted a long (1h20) safety-car period. Only one lap into restart, a violent storm brought everybody to the pits for a change to wet tyres. On the soaked track,
the Audi performed very well and by the 2-hour mark, car #37, with Frijns succeeding Müller at the wheel, was leading, as car #32 (van der Linde) had already recovered to P12. Car #30, with James Pull, was an excellent 21st (4thin the Silver Cup) before having to serve a drive-through and car #31 eighth in the class.
In the following six hours, the two top cars maintained their positions at the top, varying according the pit stop, without major hiccups. After one third of the race, Van der Linde was second ahead of Frijns, both within 13 seconds from the lead, thanks to another safety-car period. Car #32 even took briefly the lead at that stage. In the Silver Cup, by then, Bird had climbed up to 3rd, with Goethe tenth.
The night and early morning were relatively quiet for the four Audi of the Belgian squad, which underwent the longer technical pit stop between laps 311 and 353, the only issue being a number of drive-throughs for track limits, hitting mostly car #31. On Sunday at noon, car #32 was second within 4 seconds of the leader, with car #37 in fifth, and the two Silver Cup cars in P7 (#31, which suffered a contact with a Porsche) and P8 (#30, which was hit by a blown tyre) in their class.
The attention focused on the fight for the lead, as three hours and a half from the end, van der Linde caught the leader and attacked him, using a couple of moments of traffic. The attempt, unfortunately, was not successful and there were a couple of contacts with lapped cars, which resulted in a drive-through for car #32.
The fight for victory would reach the climax in the last hour when the Audi #32 got in the tail of the Ferrari #51. While the Italian machinery mounted slick tires in its last pit stop, the Belgian squad anticipated the approaching storm, with #32 mounting wet tyres on a dry track. Thirty seconds later, violent rain hit the track, which allowed Dries Vanthoor to take the lead with a comfortable margin. But a final safety car period allowed the Ferrari of Pier Guidi to regain all the lost time. The Italian proved faster and retook the lead nine minutes from the end.
Dries Vanthoor: “It’s an amazing result, coming from P55 on the grid to P2 is a great achievement for the team. Obviously, when you come that close to the win, it’s hard to lose, but the Ferrari was quick all the race and did no mistake. In the last stint, on the wet, they used their advantage and there is nothing I could do.”
Charles Weerts: “To finish second of such an edition of the Spa 24 Hours is something we can be proud of, and it has been a pleasure and a honour to be part of this team and this driver line-up. I would lie if I’d say that I don’t feel a little regret not to have won, but we are a young crew and I am sure there will be other opportunities in the future.”
Kelvin van der Linde: “In the end, a proud day for the entire team, everybody did an amazing job and there is nothing to be blamed on anyone. There was simply nothing more in it, the Ferrari was quicker... Now, we all feel disappointed having lost the lead, but I am sure tomorrow we’ll see things differently.”
Nico Müller: “P4 is not what we came here for, but all in all, is a good performance, in all kind of conditions, like often at Spa. We were not lucky with the strategy, after having led in mixed conditions at some point. The pace was good but we had a few unlucky calls that put us off. Still, I am very proud of the work everybody did and I look forward to the next one.”
Dennis Lind: “Personally, I am very happy with the results, it was looking even better at some point, but then some FCY worked against us. Still, finishing 4th in a race like this is great, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”
Robin Frijns: “At the beginning of the race, everything went our direction, pit stops, weather, yellow periods, but in the night we lost time with FCY and a small fuel issue. All that cost us one lap that we fought to recover in order to be on the podium, but that didn’t happen. P4 at the end is not too bad, but not what we wished...”
James Pull: “At the end, we can be proud to finish, it is an achievement in itself and I want to thank all the guys for the hard work they put on it. Still, I am a little bit disappointed because we didn’t get the result we could expect pace-wise. The car was really good, but during the night there was a lot of confusion with track limits. We got penalized for that and for other things too. Without that, I think we could have fought for the Silver Cup win.”
Ryuichiro Tomita: “I am very happy to finish my first 24 Hours of Spa, and to have done them with Team WRT, it’s like a dream come true. We had a difficult start, because of my accident in qualifying, but we recovered well in the race and at some point, by mid-race, we were 3rd in the Silver Cup and 18th overall, which was great. After, we got some issues and dropped positions, but we could finish. I am not 100% happy, but we have progressed well in driving and set-up work, and it’s important to keep improving.”
Franco Colapinto: “From my personal side it was an amazing experience and an awesome opportunity to be part of this big event. I’m really grateful for ROFGO, WRT and Bullet for making it happen. Obviously, that was not the result we were expecting after showing really good pace in the race, but some small mistakes cost us a lot of time. Apart from the final result, there are many positives and we can be happy with crossing the finish line in 6th position.. I really enjoyed driving a GT car for the first time in one of the most important races in the world and I hope I get another chance soon. Also, congratulations to Benji and James for the great job during all weekend.”
Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS - Endurance Cup Round 3
TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, Belgium, 28 July-1st August 2021
1. Pierguidi-Ledogar-Nielsen (Ferrari 488) 363 laps
2. Vanthoor-van der Linde-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) + 3s978
3. Soerensen-Thiim-Gunnes (Aston Martin Vantage) +1m24s957
4. Frijns-Lind-Müller (Audi R8 LMS) + 2 laps
5. Tandy-L.Vanthoor-Martin (Porsche 911 R) + 2 laps
22. Colapinto-Goethe-Pull (Audi R8 LMS) + 10 laps 5th Silver Cup
24. Bird-Eriksen-Tomita (Audi R8 LMS) + 11 laps 7th Silver Cup
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