The time has come to start the engines of the 2014 season. The elite of GT racing is ready to take the track again next weekend, at the iconic Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, which traditionally hosts the season-opener of the Blancpain Endurance Series. The fourth edition of the SRO-organized championship, which has been growing steadily since its inception in 2011, looks more competitive and exciting than ever, and the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is ready to take the challenge once again. After clinching both Teams’ and Drivers’ titles in 2011 and 2012, the Audis R8 LMS ultra of the Belgian squad are determined to fight again for top honours. The team enters two cars in the Pro category, with three new drivers joining the line-ups. Marc Basseng and César Ramos join Laurens Vanthoor on car #1 while James Nash is paired with Christopher Mies and Frank Stippler on car #2. For the first time, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will have a car entered full-season in the Gentlemen Trophy. It will be entrusted to Yves Weerts, Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Christian Kelders. With such an outfit, the team is ready to give battle throughout the entire field!
As always at this period of the year, when serious things are about to start again, excitement and anxiety are the dominating feelings. The Belgian Audi Club has been preparing the new campaign with the usual professionalism and renewed determination. A lot of work has been performed during the winter time not only to fine-tune the Audis R8 LMS ultra but also to strengthen the team’s organizational chart, and be in the best position to take up the challenge of an increased racing commitment. While the team will continue to run three cars in the Endurance Series, it will also enter three cars in the Blancpain sister championship, the Sprint Series, where it will also prepare an additional fourth car entered by G-Drive Racing. This has naturally resulted in a strengthened organization.
“The team is continuing to grow”, explains Sporting Director Pierre Dieudonné, “and this has brought new demands and an increased work load, which needed to be addressed with a strengthening of the management and technical structure. The professionalism level is the same, the number of people higher. At Monza, for instance, we will have 41 persons on site.”
Team Principal Vincent Vosse confirms: “It makes me proud to see that a number of very talented people have joined WRT this winter in various roles. That proves that they believe in what we do and how we do it. It is going to be a very interesting season and we have worked a lot to be even more competitive, to improve and correct things in all areas.”
With regard to the Blancpain Endurance Series that it is about to start, Vosse avoids making any prediction: “It is the same situation every year: you need to wait the first qualifying session and the first race to have a clear idea of the situation. Before that, is all speculation. Monza, of course, is a very peculiar circuit, very fast, with long straights, so not totally indicative of what the season may be, but it will already give us an interesting indication. I expect the championship to be as tough and closely-fought as always. We come from a 2013 season that was not easy for us, in terms of performance, and I hope things will be more balanced this year. With respect to the last race of 2013, we have gained something in the Balance of Performance, which are steps in the right direction.
The driver line-up, as said, has been renewed by half with regard to the two cars entered in the Pro Cup. “It is always exciting and interesting to work with new drivers, as they bring new skills and a new perspective”, admits Vosse. “I am very happy of the line-ups we have put together for 2014. Laurens Vanthoor will have two new team mates, Marc Basseng and César Ramos. Marc is very experienced and very solid, we know each other well for having been … rivals so many times in the past. Cesar is a young and fast driver, with a strong past in single-seaters and already great experience with GTs. On the other car, Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies are joined by James Nash, who is relatively new to GT racing but has been very successful in the WTCC and will adapt fast.”
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will also be present in the Gentlemen Trophy, with Yves Weerts, Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Christian Kelders. “This is a new challenge for us”, underlines Vosse, “it is going to be the first time that we will be fighting in this class too, and our objective is to bring Yves, Jean-Luc and Christian to the top level in the category.”
Ahead of the Monza season-opener, Pierre Dieudonné sums up the mood of the entire squad: “We have worked and tested a lot during the winter, the team has grown and given itself the means to deal with the new challenges. As always, we have focused more on ourselves, on how to improve, rather than on watching what the competition was doing. In Monza, we will see where we stand!”
Practice at the Italian legendary track will start on Friday with the test session for Bronze drivers (which will see WRT’s Gentlemen car in action) to continue with free practice and qualifying on Saturday. The 3-hour race will kick-off at 14:45 on Sunday.
Blancpain Endurance Series - Round 1 Monza, Italy 12-13 April 2014
Timetable (all times local = CET)
Friday 11 April 201416:25-17:25 Bronze test
Saturday 12 April 201409:00-10:30 Free Practice12:10-13:40 Pre-qualifying 17:20-18:20 Qualifying
Sunday 13 April 201414:45-17:45 Race (3 hrs)
Belgian Audi Club
#1 Laurens Vanthoor (B) – Marc Basseng (D) – Cesar Ramos (BR) (Pro)#3 Christopher Mies (D) – Frank Stippler (D) – James Nash (GB) (Pro) #4 Yves Weerts (B) – Jean-Luc Blanchemain (F) – Christian Kelders (B) (Gent.)