After winning the Driver and Team titles in the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is ready to start an even more international 2012 season. On top of defending its titles in the continental endurance series, the Belgian squad will represent the Ingolstadt manufacturer in the FIA World GT1 Championship. Finally, it will attempt to reconfirm its successes in the 24 Hours of Spa and Zolder, while aiming at conquering Audi’s first win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours.
In only two years, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has experienced an extremely steady raise. After helping Greg Franchi and Anthony Kumpen conquering the Driver title in the Belcar at the end of its first year of existence, the team managed by Vincent Vosse, René Verbist and Yves Weerts has won last year the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the Team and Driver titles (again with Greg Franchi) in the Blancpain Endurance Series. These achievements have further strengthened the bonds between Audi Sport and the Belgian squad, which aims at having again the four rings shine in 2012.
FIA GT1 World Championship : « A significant challenge »This year, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will step up its efforts and compete in the new FIA GT1World Championship, now featuring GT3 cars, with two Audis R8 LMS ultra. “The challenge ahead ofus is significantly bigger than anything we have known in our first two seasons”, acknowledges TeamManager Vincent Vosse. ”We know what a World Championship means as a sports programme.Logistically, it also represents another dimension, but I am confident we can make it. This winter, wehave taken time to reflect and analyse the functioning of our team. We have been focusing on the areaswhere we can further improve, such as logistics, the way we prepare the races, the team’sorganization… We have also strengthened the relations among all team members, including drivers, byorganizing a constructive team-building exercise.”
Let’s talk about drivers, precisely. For the World Championship campaign, the Belgian Audi ClubTeam WRT has managed to perfectly mix youth and experience. Having played a key role in thedevelopment of the Audi R8 LMS ultra, Germany’s Frank Stippler (soon a 37-year-old) will bepartnering with Briton Oliver Jarvis (28), who will also be driving for Audi in the World EnduranceChampionship. At the wheel of the other car, the Monegasque Stéphane Ortelli (42) will be able toshare all his racing know-how with the youngest driver in the team, Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor(21), who comes straight from the Formula 3 Euro Series.
“We have an excellent poker of drivers”, says a cheerful Vincent Vosse. “But it is difficult to set aprecise objective for ourselves. We will have to deal with a number of unknown variables, as the newAudi R8 LMS ultra and the Pirelli tires. We’ll therefore rely a lot on the experience of our drivers and onteam spirit to climb as high as possible in the rankings.”
Blancpain Endurance Series : « Reconfirm the titles »The approach will be logically different in the Blancpain Endurance Series. “After winning the 24Hours of Spa and the two titles, we cannot aim at less than doing as well as last year”, says Vincentwith a smile, “To that end, we have elaborated to top driver line-ups.”
Besides his programme in the World Championship and in the French GT Tour (where WRT defendsde colours of Audi France), Stéphane Ortelli will also take part in the Blancpain Endurance Series. Hewill be associated with the former FIA GT3 Europe champions Christopher Mies (22) andChristopher Haase (24), both from Germany. Also Laurens Vanthoor will compete in the two series,but he will have different team mates in the Blancpain, as he will be associated with Italy’s MarcoBonanomi (27 and an Audi Sport driver), to be replaced at Silverstone by Andrea Piccini, andSweden’s Edward Sandström (33).
Three 24 Hours in 2012These two main campaigns will clearly form the skeleton of the 2012 racing programme of theBelgian Audi Club Team WRT. Still, there will be two additional 24-hour races in the agenda, on topof the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, already part of Blancpain Endurance Series calendar.End of May, the Belgian team will enter one Audi R8 LMS in the “green hell”, at the famous 24 Hoursof the Nürburgring. “For this race, we will have a trio of drivers that we know well: Edward Sandström,Andrea Piccini and Oliver Jarvis”, confirms Vincent Vosse. “Following the Ring and the Spa 24 Hoursend of July, we will defend our crown at the 24 Hours of Zolder, the other day-long race in Belgium. Forthat commitment, we still have to designate our drivers.”
In conclusion, it won’t be a restful season for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT! “Everybody in theteam is well aware that the third season is of the utmost importance”, admits Vincent Vosse, “butnobody is willing to rest on past successes and we all are committed to continue to grow and improve. Iam convinced that we are better prepared than last year and we are anxious to be at the first race!”Who are the drivers of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT
Marco Bonanomi (IT)Born 12 March 1985 in Lecco, Italy2006 : Italian&European F3000 Vice-Champion2008 : Winner in Dubai race of GP2 Asia Series2010 : Italian GT Vice-Champion (Audi Sport Italia)2011-2012 : Audi Sport works driver
/Christopher Haase (DE)Born 26 September 1987 in Kulmbach,Germany2007 : ADAC GT Masters Champion2009 : FIA GT3 Europe Champion (Audi R8 LMS)2012 : Winner at the 12 Hours of Sepang (Audi R8 LMS)
/Oliver Jarvis (UK)Born 9 January 1984 in Burwell, United Kingdom2005 : UK Champion of Formula Renault 2.0,2007 : Winner of the Macau F3 Grand Prix2008 – 2011 : Audi works driver in the DTM (9th in 2009)
Christopher Mies (DE)Born 24 mai 1989 in Velbert, Germany2008 : ADAC Procar Series Division 2 Champion2009 : FIA GT3 Europe Champion (Audi R8 LMS)2011 & 2012 : Winner of the 12 Hours of Bathurst (Audi R8 LMS)
Stéphane Ortelli (MC)Born 30 March 1970 in Hyères, France1998 : Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans2000 : 2nd at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (Audi Sport Team Joest)2003 : Winner of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps2007 : Le Mans Series (GT1) Champion
Andrea Piccini (IT)Born 12 December 1978 in Sansepolcro, Italy2006 : 2nd (GT1) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans2011 : 3rd in the FIA GT1 World Championship
Edward Sandström (SE)Born 4 January 1979 in Örebro, Sweden2007 : Scandinavian Porsche Carrera Cup Champion2010 : 2nd at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring2011 : Winner of the 24 Hours of Barcelona
Frank Stippler (DE)Born 9 April 1975 in Cologne, Germany2003 : Porsche Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup ChampionSince 2004, development driver of quattro GmbH2005 & 2006 : Audi works driver in the DTM
Laurens Vanthoor (BE)Born 8 May 1991 in Hasselt, Belgium2009 : German Formula 3 Champion2010 : 2nd at the Macau F3 Grand Prix2010-11: Volkswagen Motorsport works driver in the Formula 3 Euroseries