After a successful weekend in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone, which saw both Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars finishing on the podium, the Belgian Audis are off again to the FIA GT1 World Championship. The fourth round of the world’s top GT series takes place this weekend at the Slovakiaring, the recently-built track in the outskirts of Bratislava. While Silverstone has been reassuring on the potential of the entire package, the team knows this Slovak round of the FIA GT1 World is going to be challenging.
On one side, the Slovak track – where Team WRT has raced last year in the European FIA GT3 – is not, on paper, the most fitting for the R8 LMS ultras, and on the other side, the current balance of performance is not very favorable either. However, the entire squad and the two driver line-ups composed of Stéphane Ortelli-Laurens Vanthoor and Frank Stippler-Oliver Jarvis are determined to do their utmost.
Despite the anticipated difficulties, spirits are high in the Belgian camp, as pointed out by team principal Vincent Vosse: “We want to stay on the trend reinitiated at Silverstone, although we know it is going to be a challenging task in Slovakia. The governing bodies of the series have decided not to change the balance of performance, so we will be in the same configuration as in Navarra. It’s the principle of balance of performance and there is little we can do to change that. Hence, we will have to fight with the weapons we have, and we are determined to do well and bring back heavy points, which start to be crucial at this stage of the championship. The Audis struggled a bit last year on this track, we will have to see if we can improve from one year to the other, and I rely a lot on our drivers, as we definitely have the best line-ups in the series.”
Since 2011, the circuit has undergone some modifications, with the addition of a chicane ahead of the uphill section, in order to avoid cars jumping. This is not necessarily good news for the Audis, as it will add another braking and re-acceleration zone. The team is in no way deterred from its objectives and, as part of its ongoing working programme, will be on Thursday in Spa-Francorchamps for a testing session, aimed principally, but not exclusively, at the forthcoming 24 Hours race.
In Slovakia, the four drivers of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will be confronted to an additional inconvenience: none of them have raced at the Slovakiaring before. Having to discover the track, nevertheless, doesn’t pose a major challenge to nowadays’ professional drivers, as Laurens Vanthoor explains. “What I usually do when I have to go to a new circuit is try to have as much information before-hand”, says the young Belgian, “This includes watching TV footage, talking to colleagues that have experience on that track, study whatever data available from previous races and exercising at the simulator. Of course, reality is always different from what you can see or hear before, but at least you have some pretty good idea of the place. Once on spot, the first thing is to explore the circuit, by foot, to see all the details about the tarmac, the kerbs, etc. and corroborate what you already know.” Vanthoor hasn’t yet a firm opinion on what weekend could be like: “Difficult to say, we will have some first answers after free practice, but from what I can tell, the circuit looks interesting, with a good mix of slow and fast corners.”
The event will respect the traditional schedule of the FIA GT1, with the Qualifying Race taking place on Saturday at 13:45 and the Championship Race (both of 60 minutes) on Sunday at 14:45.
GT1 World - Round 4Slovakiaring, Slovakia8-10 June 2012
Friday 8 June 2012 10:15-11:35 Free Practice 115:00-16:20 Free Practice 2
Saturday 9 June 201209:15-10:15 Qualifying13:45-14:45 Race 1 (Qualifying Race)
Sunday 10 June 201210:00-10:30 Warm-up14:45-15:45 Race 2 (Championship Race)
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra#32 Stéphane Ortelli (MC) – Laurens Vanthoor (BE) #33 Frank Stippler (DE) – Oliver Jarvis (GB)
Drivers’ Championship Standings after Race 6 of 20
1. Makowiecki-Dusseldorp 46 points 2. Jaeger-Pastorelli 463. Ortelli-Vanthoor 424. Bartels-Buurman 415. Basseng-Winkelhock 397. Jarvis-Stippler 29
Teams’ Championship Standings after Race 6 of 20
1. All-Inkl Münnich Motorsport 85 points2. Hexis McLaren 733. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 71 4. Vita4One Racing Team 515. AF Corse 37