Enthusiasts eyes were on the WRT Team, for its strong driver line up, and they did not disappoint. Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor driving the Audi R8 LMS ultra No.32 for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, won the Qualifying race on Sunday which gave them 8 points and 25 points again on Monday, they took the first position in the Championship Race at Nogaro, France for the opening round of the FIA GT1 World Championship.
The second WRT car, the No.33 of Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis finished second as they had done on Sunday. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has established its capacity for dominating the entire series, and as per GT1 regulations will carry ballast in the next race in Zolder, Belgium on the 20-22 April to make the race more competitive.
Third was the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG of Marc Basseng and Markus Winkelhock, from sixth on the grid, just ahead of their team-mates Nicky Pastorelli and Thomas Jager.
Ferrari’s debut with the revised Mondiale GT1 looked promising on Saturday with the AF Corse car driven by Toni Vilander taking pole for the qualifying race. However, things turned south for Ferrari thereon. The two AF Corse cars were not competitive enough in the race, partly because of the difficult weather conditions which meant the very damp track limited the cars’ potential. The Toni Vilander-Filip Salaquarda duo managed fifth in the Qualifying race and and sixth in the Championship Race. The Enzo Ide- Francesco Castellacci duo finished 10th in the Qualifying Race and fifth in the Championship Race.
The No.3 Ferrari 458 Italia of Toni Vilander and Filip Salaquarda was also given a drive-through penalty after a false start.
Peter Kox and Darryl O’Young were seventh in the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini LP600 No.25. Peter Kox also set the fastest lap of the race – 1:27.881 and is also reported to be at least two seconds faster than the competition midway through the race.
The No.24 Gallardo LP600 for Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Tomas Enge. Von Thurn und Taxis was swamped at the start dropping from third to 15th but fought back to finish eighth.
Mike Parisy, driving the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Exim Bank Team China, was given a drive through penalty for a false start, but with co-driver Matt Halliday the team eventually finished ninth. The No.8 of Benjamim Lariche and Ren Wei was 15th.The Vita4One BMWs finished 10th and 11th just ahead of the Valmon Racing Team Russia Aston Martins while the Sunred Ford GT was 14th.
We’ve written a separate news article for the MP4-12C GT3s fielded by Hexis Racing, read it here.
Laurens Vanthoor (BEL) Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.32 (1st)
“I never expected, even in my best dreams, that we would achieve this result at the first race. I am still quite speechless, but I think it is because we did a great job, we worked hard together, and we did a lot of testing. Audi have put a lot of effort into it, as well as Belgian Audi Club WRT, and then the co-operation with Stephane (Ortelli), everything is going the perfect way at the moment. I am really happy, this is one of the most beautiful victories I have had, so I hope we can continue in this direction.”
Stephane Ortelli (MON) Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.32 (1st)
“For Sure it is great to win, but Frank (Stippler) and Oliver (Jarvis) did a great job as well. All the week we have been testing, sharing the information, we are looking strong because we know how to share the job. We have really experienced drivers, I really like the team, and for the rest of the season I think it is looking very good, it is very special.”
Oliver Jarvis (GBR) Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.33 (2nd)
“First of all the team did a fantastic job, two fantastic pit stops. Its not easy down there, a lot of action going on, but the guys did fantastic. It was very close to Laurens (Vanthoor) for a few laps, where he’d been out already for a couple of laps his tyres were a little bit warmer, but we had a great fight.
“In the end Laurens was just a bit too quick for us, but we’ve had a good weekend, with two second places so we’ll go away very happy and remember that it is a long season. Hopefully we can beat them in the future, it is going to be a great fight throughout the year.”
Frank Stippler (DEU) Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.33 (2nd)
“For the first race it was quite a nice weekend and a nice Birthday present. Congratulations to Laurens (Vanthoor) and Stephane (Ortelli). It was a nice fight, and it was good for the team, they have worked hard, and work over in other series as well, such as the Blancpain Endurance Series, and it would be good for them to get some rest now, as they have worked extremely hard.”
Marc Basseng (DEU) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG No. 38 (3rd)
“At the end the pace was quite good, especially at the very end of the race the performace of the car was good. I treated the tyres softly most of the time, and I think that may have helped at the end.
“In testing at the start of the week we were struggling a bit, but we improved the car quite a lot over the week and we are getting more and more competitive. Markus did a good job today, we started in a similar way last season, so hopefully we can push for a win in Zolder.”
Markus Winkelhock (DEU) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG No.38 (3rd)
“We slowly improved the car step-by-step but the weather yesterday did not help us at all, but today the car was great and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is known to be good to the tyres over a long stint, so that helps us as well.
“My stint was good, I had to wait to pass the Ferrari for a while but next time, at Zolder, there are some faster corners and that will maybe help us. We know that Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will make it hard for us to win at their home track.”