Only a couple of days after the season’s triumphal debut in the FIA GT1 WorldChampionship at Nogaro, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is heading to Italy and to thelegendary Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for the season-opener of the BlancpainEndurance Series, the other championship on the team’s busy 2012 agenda. The AudisR8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad have a key mission to accomplish in this highlycompetitiveendurance series: to defend the Driver and Team titles conquered last year.
To be the reigning champion gives the Belgian Audis the privilege to carry the mostcoveted numbers, #1 and #2, on their doors but also entails new responsibilities that willbe entrusted to two high-level driver line-ups: Ortelli-Haase-Mies and Bonanomi-Sandström-Vanthoor.
After the very successful debut in the FIA GT1 World Championship on Easter weekend atNogaro, where Ortelli-Vanthoor and Stippler-Jarvis posted a double 1-2 victory, there is a logicalsense of satisfaction in the team. As team manager Pierre Dieudonné explains, “to start theseason well is always positive, because it eases the pressure a bit and gives reassurance aboutthe work done. We have to take the good results as an encouragement to keep up themomentum, as it just the beginning of a very long season…”
This said, the Blancpain Endurance Series is a totally different challenge, as it is an endurancechampionship and this year’s level is expected to be unprecedentedly high. No less than 57cars are entered for the full 6-event season, proving that the series format put together byStéphane Ratel and his SRO team is a huge success.
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT team principal Vincent Vosse is conscious of the challengeahead: “We are anxious to be back at Monza, because every motorsports fan loves Monza, andto the Blancpain, which has given us so many satisfactions last year, but it is obvious thatdefending the titles against such a competition won’t be an easy task. Our first challenge atMonza is to reset the cars and ourselves to endurance mode and get back to the Michelin tires,which we know well since last year. For the rest, it is clear that 57 cars on the track pose anumber of challenges, in terms of traffic and strategy. We will have to be very careful with racemanagement and all our strategic choices.”
Special attention has been given to the driver line-ups for the B.E.S., which see a perfect blendof competences, backgrounds and nationalities. In the number #1 car, Stéphane Ortelli willshare the wheel with Germany’s two Christophers, Haase and Mies, a pair that was crownedFIA GT3 European Champions in 2009 and who have already driven for WRT. In the #2 car,Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor, the “kid” of the team, will share driving duties with Italy’s AndreaBonanomi and Sweden’s Edward Sandström, who are at their first race with WRT. ForBonanomi, an Audi Sport official driver, who gained experience with the R8 LMS in the ItalianGT championship, this will really be what can be called “home race”, as he was born in Lecco, afew kms away from the circuit.
The B.E.S. season-opener is scheduled on Sunday at 14:15 hours, on the 3-hour racetraditional format.
Blancpain Endurance Series - Round 1Monza, Italy13-15 April 2012
TimetableFriday 13 April 201212:00-13:30 Free Practice16:05-17:35 Pre-Qualifying
Saturday 14 April 201211:25-12:00 Qualifying 113:35-14:35 Qualifying 2
Sunday 15 April 201214:15-17:15 Race
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra#1 Stéphane Ortelli (MC) – Christopher Mies (DE) – Christopher Haase (DE)#2 Marco Bonanomi (IT) – Edward Sandtröm (SE) – Laurens Vanthoor (BE)