FIA GT1 World – Navarra Report
It was definitely a difficult weekend in Spain for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audis, which found themselves struggling to find the right pace on a track that is normally favorable to the characteristics of the R8 ultras. The changes in the balance of performance adopted by the FIA ahead of the Spanish round certainly took a toll on the Audis. Team WRT and the four drivers did everything they could to get the best possible results, but there was little reward for their efforts: Oliver Jarvis-Frank Strippler took two eight finishes, while Stéphane Ortelli-Laurens Vanthoor collected a ninth and a tenth. As a consequence, the Belgian squad has provisionally lost the leadership in the Teams’ and Drivers’ overall standings.
There was, logically, some frustration in the pits of the Belgian squad at the end of the weekend. “There is little we can say”, concluded Team Principal Vincent Vosse, “It is disappointing to see that the entire team did a great job, that the drivers put together outstanding races, … and that the results are not what they should be. We did not have the pace to stay with those in front of us nor to resist to those coming from the very back of the grid, and this is not normal. We’ll see what happens at the next race in Slovakia, but the balance of performance needs to be looked at closely.”
As proven during qualifying, where car #32 of Vanthoor-Ortelli qualified 6th, while car #33 of Jarvis-Stippler was 10th, the performance of the Audi R8 over a lap was not bad, but in race configuration, the handicap with respect to the competition was bigger. As Sports Director Pierre Dieudonné pointed out: “We have been out-powered at the very start of the races, losing positions ahead of the first corner. In such a competitive championship, it is very difficult to regain positions, once you have lost them. On top, we lost some time during pit stop because of the wheel screwing system and equipment that we use.”
In the Qualifying race, which took place in the late afternoon of Saturday, Vanthoor and Stippler raced together during first stint, with their cars gaining one position during the pit stop to stabilize in P9 and P10 in the second stint. The two R8s kept together and fought between them in sportive manner, gaining one more position when both passed the Ferrari of Vilander in the closing laps.
The screenplay did not change much for the Audis in Sunday’s Championship race, with Jarvis in P9 in the initial phases and Ortelli in P12. In a strategic move to see how to improve things, Ortelli was among the very last to pit, even taking the lead for a while, but that didn’t change the fate of the #32, which ended the race in P10 (two spots behind #33), after a close fight of Vanthoor with the Porsche of Parisy and the Ferrari of Ide. After a sweet-sour weekend such as this, it is now time for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to focus on the other series it is competing this season, the Blancpain Endurance Series, which will hold its second round next weekend in Silverstone.