at the Spa-Francorchamps round of the ELMS
The news will certainly delight the 25,000 fans who have already bought a ticket for the fifth round of the European Le Mans Series to be held at Spa-Francorchamps on next 24-25 September.
Team WRT will partner with Onroak Automotive to take part for the first time in a LMP2 race, entering a Ligier JS P2 at the Spa 4 Hours, the Belgian round of the ELMS.
The Belgian squad is engaging in a new challenge, and climbing another ladder, after seven years of activity, which have seen Team WRT collecting many titles and wins in GT with Audi, on top of other successes, in the Trophée Andros and the VW Fun Cup, and more recently, also in the International and Benelux TCR Series.
«It’s not a secret that we have been following closely sportscar racing and the LMP2 category which is the backbone of the ELMS », explains Vincent Vosse, CEO of Team WRT. “We now have the possibility to launch a nice new project, together with an effective organization such as Onroak Automotive. This will be a first tasting, on our home track, which will allow us to showcase our technical ‘‘savoir-faire” and also our strategic ability in endurance racing, with Pierre Dieudonné as a manager. It is also aimed at exploring possible new areas of activity for the future. »
To maximize the chances, Vosse has entrusted the LM P2 project to three of the team’s regular drivers in the Blancpain GT Series : multiple GT champion Laurens Vanthoor, who has the advantage of having driven twice the Ligier JS P2 at the Le Mans 24 Hours, will be associated with his younger brother Dries and with former F.1 driver Will Stevens, who drove regularly in LMP2 in the WEC this year, including at Spa.
« It’s of course a very nice development », says Laurens. « I know the Ligier JS P2 well, although I have never driven the Judd-powered version. I’m told this is the best engine for this type of endurance races. My first test with the Ligier LMP2 took place precisely at Spa in 2015, and I loved it! It’s always great to run on a track like Spa with a car having a lot of downforce. For sure, it’s more challenging than a GT. To try this with WRT, my usual engineer on the R8, Pierre Dieudonné, Will and my brother, who is a very good Silver, … all this and the fact we will be in Belgium and on a track I know very well, is great and will make a very nice story to tell.”
With a competitive objective, though ? «Of course ! We are not putting pressure on ourselves for this « one shot », but you know that Vincent always wants to win ! I haven’t yet checked the entry list closely and the team will basically discover the Ligier on site, but I am confident we can aim at a podium finish. »
The younger of the Vanthoors, Dries, is no less thrilled: « It is a great opportunity for me and I am anxious to be at Spa », reckons the young Limburger, « It’ll be great to be with my brother and with Will for this venture. True: I still don’t have a lot of experience with high downforce cars and in real endurance races, but I feel ready to take the challenge, especially at Spa. It really looks like that things are happening fast in my career these days, but I am sure that this new experience will help me progressing and improving. »
As for Will Stevens, he knows he’ll have to play a key role in this project. « It is obviously exciting to be part of this new WRT adventure », reckons the Brit. « I have some experience in LMP2 and hope I can contribute it. It will be a nice way to reward WRT for all the trust they are putting on me since the start of the year. It will be tough to come to ELMS half-way in the season and the level is very high, but we all know how professional the WRT guys are, and everything has been well planned for Spa. For now, it is only a try, but we’ll see what happens… First, it is important to do a good job at Spa! »
An so, WRT is bringing a (big) Belgian touch to the feature race of this great race weekend which, on top of the ELMS, will include the Renault Sport Trophy, the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup and an always very spectacular F.1 exhibition.