BACK-TO-BACK ROUNDS: A CHALLENGE IN BOTH THE BLANCPAIN ENDURANCE CUP AND THE FIA WTCR FOR TEAM WRT THIS WEEKEND

BACK-TO-BACK ROUNDS: A CHALLENGE IN BOTH THE BLANCPAIN ENDURANCE CUP AND THE FIA WTCR FOR TEAM WRT THIS WEEKEND

09/05/2019


It is another busy, double-commitment weekend for Team WRT! The Blancpain Endurance Series is back with another of its landmark rounds, the 3 Hours of Silverstone, where the three Audis R8 LMS of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will try to materialize in good results the good pace shown at Monza. The team has stayed in the UK after the Brands Hatch round of the GT World Challenge Europe last weekend and quickly healed the wounds suffered by the cars in the eventful two races in Kent.

For the FIA WTCR Cup it is already the third call of the season, setting its tents in Orechová Potôň, which is the official name of the municipality where is located the Slovakiaring, the very technical track in the outskirts of Bratislava. The Audis RS 3 LMS entered under the colours of Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport should find there a relatively more favorable ground where to continue collecting valuable results, before heading straight to Zandvoort for the following round.


Blancpain Endurance Cup

The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has arrived to Silverstone with the clear intention of opening its 2019 score board, after a somehow frustrating season-opening event at Monza. Although showing excellent pace, the Audis R8 LMS of the Belgian squad could not score points in Italy due to various incidents, partly induced by the weather conditions. Those can again play a role at Silverstone, as always in the United Kingdom, on a very fast track which has often been challenging in the past.

This year, all the 48 cars entered will have the advantage of extra testing time, as a total of 4 hours of practice are available, spread into four sessions between today and tomorrow. It will be a perfect opportunity to work on the set-ups and ‘rehearse’. The cars are in perfect order after being repaired and prepped following a tough weekend at Brands Hatch in the season-opening of the GT World Challenge Europe. Driver line-ups are the regular ones in the Endurance Cup, with Vanthoor-Riberas-Pérez Companc in car #2, Weerts-Breukers-Sánchez in car #10 and Davies-Petit-MacDowall in car #17.


Sébastien Viger, Project Manager:“It’s being a tough back-to-back week in the United Kingdom. All cars were damaged at Brands Hatch, where we stayed until Tuesday evening for repairs and re-preparation, which went smoothly. Yesterday we travelled to Silverstone where track activity starts earlier than usual, today [Thursday], with the extra testing sessions. We must say that this testing opportunities introduced by SRO, which will again happen at Misano and Barcelona on top of the usual test day prior to Spa, are very useful to work on the cars and give mileage to the drivers. All this means that the British tour, with so many cars and such busy schedules, is being quite challenging. We left Belgium with trucks fully loaded, given also the different equipment that we need to carry for sprint and Endurance races, and we have on duty a staff of about 40 people, of which 20 were staying in the UK in-between the two rounds.”

Dries Vanthoor:“Hopefully, things will go better at Silverstone than in the previous two outings of the season. Brands Hatch was a very frustrating weekend, but it’s behind us. Silverstone is not the best track for us, but we took a 4thlast year, and it would be great to score good points this time too. A podium finish may be too far, but if we stay focused, are fast and make no mistakes, we can go for a good result.”

Charles Weerts: “What we really need at Silverstone is a little bit of luck! The positive out of Brands is that the pace was good, and I hope we can have that at Silverstone too. It is another circuit where I have never raced before, and again I prepared watching footage and at the simulator. Contrarily to Brands, it’s wide and with big escape zones, that gives more confidence as you try to find the limit. Clearly, the free testing sessions are going to be very useful, especially for me.”

FIA WTCR

The logistics challenge is not simpler for the crews involved in the FIA WTCR, as they too are involved in a back-to-back expedition, starting this weekend in Slovakia and including then a long journey to the Netherlandsfor the Zandvoort round the following weekend. The event in Slovakia, shared with the EWC, the World Endurance Championship for motorbikes, another series promoted by Eurosport Events, poses another challenge, as the track needs to see the configuration of its safety features (tire barriers, marshal positioning, etc) adapted switched to the specific needs of car and bike racing. This has led to an event format where all FIA WTCR activity will be grouped on Friday (free practice and all qualifying sessions) and Sunday, with the three races almost in sequence. A situation that will make very difficult to repair any damage or failure incurred in the early stages of each of the two days. It will therefore be important to avoid mistakes and incidents.

Jean-Karl Vernay and Gordon Shedden, the drivers of the Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport-entered Audis RS 3 LMS will have to take this in consideration, on a technical and mixed track which is not much more suitable to the team’s cars than Marrakesh and the Hungaroring. Still, the good results obtained in Morocco and Hungary (including two podium finishes for Vernay, who currently lies fifth in the overall standings) proved the competitiveness of the Team and allows hoping for more satisfaction and heavy points.


Pierre Dieudonné, Project Manager: “With its succession of slow and fast corners, and of narrow and broad sections, the Slovakiaring is not an easy track where to find the right balance, but we are confident that we can continue the trend of good and consistent performances and results seen since the start of the season. For this event, the compensation weights have been modified and we’ll have to see how this will impact on the gaps, which have been tremendously close so far. The important thing, given the format of the event, is to avoid set-backs of any nature at an early stage, something that could heavily impact the entire weekend.”

Jean-Karl Vernay: “The Slovakiaring is not the best track for us, although we took a podium finish last year. The long corners are not what our car likes the most, especially when you carry extra weight. Still, with the improvements brought to the car during the winter, I expect we should be more competitive there than at Marrakesh or Budapest. The schedule is very tight, especially on the Friday: in case of problem, one’s weekend could be ruined by Friday’s evening. But, on the other hand, we have always been very good at finding the good pace and being at the top quite early, so the unusual schedule could also turn into our advantage.”

Gordon Shedden: “We should have overcome the multitude of small issues we had in the previous rounds, and I hope we can have a good weekend at the Slovakiaring. It’s a difficult track, with three very different sections. The first has two high-speed corners, especially Turn 2, which are not easy, and the second, with many changes of direction, is probably one of the most challenging in the entire season. It’s difficult to find the right balance and the work of engineers there is really crucial. For the rest, I see we could have rain on Sunday, and I am curious of seeing how the event will look: it’s nice having the car and bikes worlds mixing together!”


Blancpain Endurance Cup – Round 2
Silverstone, United Kingdom, 11-12 May 2019

Timetable (all in local time = CET-1)

Saturday 11 May 2019
10:40-12:10 Free practice

15:40-17:10 Pre-qualifying session

Sunday 12 May 2019
09:40-10:40 Qualifying
15:00-18:00 Race (3 hrs)

FIA WTCR - Round 3
Slovakiaing, Slovakia, 10-12 May 2019

Timetable (all in local time = CET)

Friday 10 May 2019
09:15-10:30 Free Practice 1
11:30-12:00 Free Practice 2
13:45-14:15 Qualifying Race 1
16:40-17:40 Qualifying 1/2/3
Sunday 12 May 2019
10:45-11:15 Race 1 (9 laps)
15:15-14:45 Race 2 (9 laps)
16:45-17:20 Race 3 (11 laps)

Photo: Audi Sport, Patrick Hecq Photography

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