Following the first 24-Hour race of the year performed by the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT last weekend at the Nürburgring, the FIA GT1 World Championship is back on the focus of the Belgian squad, with the third round taking place this coming weekend at Navarra, in Spain. For the team, the objective is simple: maintain, and possibly, extend the leadership it currently enjoys in both the Drivers’ and Teams’ overall standings. The two Audis R8 LMS ultra of Stéphane Ortelli-Laurens Vanthoor and Oliver Jarvis-Frank Stippler are ready to take up the challenge on a circuit where Team WRT has some very good memories.
Last year, indeed, the Belgian Audi Club cars won the European FIA GT3 event in Northern Spain and took pole and second in the Blancpain Endurance Series. “Clearly, this doesn’t mean much ahead of this weekend’s event”, clarifies Team WRT Sports Director Pierre Dieudonné, “It only shows that the R8s like this track. It’s also a circuit where we have been testing last winter, so we certainly have a good amount of information and data. As we all know, it is a natural track, with a very interesting design, and one that can be tough on brakes, especially in case of high temperatures, which is something that we can expect at this period of the year.”
For Team Principal Vincent Vosse, the objective is clear: “We had an excellent start of the season, with the double win at Nogaro, and then a difficult second round at Zolder. The objective in Spain is to be closer to what we achieved in France! Realistically, we go there to get some heavy points and to be in the top three, in order to keep a very good position towards the championships.” Vosse reckons that “Navarra is a circuit that we know well and where we have done well last year, but every event is a different story. The Balance of Performance has slightly changed once again before this race, and not in our favor, but this is something that will always keep changing and we have to live with it.” ./..From a driver perspective, Navarra is certainly one of the most appreciated rounds in the calendar, as Stéphane Ortelli, who shares the wheel of championship leading R8, confirms: “It is a fantastic track, very technical, the kind of track that every driver likes. It goes up and down through the hills, and in a number of corners the surface has some inclination, positive or negative. The turns are mostly medium-slow, which generally is not the most interesting configuration, but here they are really technical, and Turn 1 is a nice fast curve. On top, it is a nice venue, very well managed and, despite being only a couple of years old, this is a circuit that is becoming a reference in motorsports.”
One of the drivers of the other Belgian R8, Frank Stippler, is of course a very happy man these days, as he still savors his success in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring: “Audi made it, it was the objective for this year and it comes as a nice reward to many years of hard work”, explains one of the key players in the development of the Audi R8 LMS, “I feel very happy also because the competition this year was really of a high level, with 30 top cars driven by professional drivers and able to win”. Together with his team mate, Oliver Jarvis, the German is anxious “to be at Navarra on Friday and see where we stand, although this is a circuit where our cars should do well.”
The event will respect the traditional schedule of the FIA GT1, but with a Saturday Race almost in the evening (at 19:45) and Sunday’s at 12:45.