Dream weekend for Comtoyou in the WTCR
Further victories for the Audi RS 3 LMS in Japan and Croatia
Audi R8 LMS GT4 extends championship lead in France
The Audi RS 3 LMS touring car continued its winning streak with a total of four victories on the penultimate weekend in July, recording its best performance of the season in the FIA WTCR. The teams in GT2 and GT4 racing also collected valuable trophies for Audi Sport customer racing.
Audi RS 3 LMS (TCR)
Best result of the season for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport: Jean-Michel Baert’s Belgian Audi customer team was delighted with a one-two and another podium result at Vallelunga. The sixth weekend of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup started with a recovery by Gilles Magnus. The Audi Sport driver improved from seventh starting position to third place in a turbulent first race. His teammate Nathanaël Berthon was on course for the podium in third place until the eleventh lap when a puncture robbed him of all chances and Magnus moved up to position three. In the second race, rival Lynk & Co withdrew after the formation lap, as it had done before, for safety reasons. This meant that Gilles Magnus and teammate Mehdi Bennani, who had qualified for row two on the grid, effectively started the race as the best contenders. On the course just outside Rome, they stormed through the first three corners side by side. While Magnus was unchallenged in front in the following laps and Bennani dropped back, Audi Sport driver Nathanaël Berthon improved to second position. For Comtoyou Team Audi Sport it was the first one-two of the season. Magnus now celebrated his second victory of the season after his first success at the fourth round in Spain at the end of June. The 22-year-old talent has thus moved up from sixth to fourth place in the standings.
1–2 victory in TCR Eastern Europe: For the first time this season, the Audi RS 3 LMS managed a 1–2 victory in the TCR Eastern Europe. In temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius at Grobnik, Croatia, Milovan Vesnić in the Audi managed a perfect start from second place while Bartosz Groszek squandered his pole position and dropped to the rear. The Serbian privateer Vesnić won Saturday’s race after 17 laps ahead of Groszek, who had come within half a second of the leader after a strong recovery from eleventh place. The Polish driver Groszek from the Aditis Racing team, who had already managed two victories this season, leads the championship standings with a 13-point advantage with two rounds to go. After the fatal accident of a track marshal, the organizer canceled all competitions on Sunday and thus also the second TCR race.
Two wins in Japan: Masanobu Kato realized a perfect weekend at the third round of TCR Japan. The Japanese qualified on pole position twice at the Sugo circuit and won both races in commanding fashion. In the first sprint he created an advantage of 6.2 seconds in the RS 3 LMS of Audi Team Mars. The performance in the second sprint was again dominant with a lead of more than six seconds. TCR Japan traditionally features two separate championship standings for the races on Saturday and Sunday. Kato is second in both standings at the halfway point of the season.
Three second places in the rain: The third TCR Scandinavia event at Knutstorp, Sweden, was marked by rain and three trophies for the Audi customer teams. In the first sprint, Oliver Söderström was the best of eight Audi privateers in the field. The Lestrup Racing Team driver had overtaken teammate Andreas Bäckman at the start and finished second. In the second race, Tobias Brink for Team Brink Motorsport was the fastest Audi customer. He finished second in the RS 3 LMS after a battle with Cupra driver Axel Bengtsson after 16 laps. In the third sprint, Andreas Bäckman took the lead in the early stages but dropped back to fourth after a mistake. On the penultimate lap, he still snatched third place. When the car in front of him was subsequently penalized for a hard maneuver, second place jumped out for the Swedish Audi driver. Behind leader of the standings Robert Dahlgren, Oliver Söderström is now second with a 32-point gap at the season’s halfway point, followed by his Audi brand colleagues Tobias Brink and Andreas Bäckman.
Audi R8 LMS GT2
Two podium results: At the fourth of six rounds of the GT2 European Series, the Audi teams had to admit defeat for the first time this season. However, they recorded two important podium results with a second and a third place at Spa. While KTM was uncatchable at the front in the first race, Bert Longin in second place in the Audi R8 LMS GT2 engaged in a battle with his son Stienes, who was chasing in the second Audi of the PK Carsport team. When the better of the two GT2 sports cars suffered a puncture five minutes before the end, Stienes Longin, who started with Nicolas Saelens, crossed the finish line in second place. Behind them, Henry Hassid secured his fourth Am class win of the year in an LP Racing Audi in fourth overall. Nicolas Saelens and Stienes Longin were also the best Audi privateer team in the second 50-minute race. This time, the two Belgians crossed the finish line in third place ahead of Aurelijus Rusteika/Michael Vergers in an Audi from High Class Racing.
Audi R8 LMS GT4
Lead extended: Saintéloc Racing increased its lead in the Silver classification at the fourth of six GT4 France rounds. The driver duo Erwan Bastard/Roee Meyuhas improved from sixth on the grid to second in the first one-hour race at Spa. They started the second race from fourth place. Erwan Bastard in the Audi R8 LMS GT4 snatched one rival after the other and took the lead on the demanding Ardennes circuit on lap eight. Twice, race control neutralized the competition due to accidents so that Bastard was unable to extend his lead any further. At the pit stop, his Israeli-American teammate Meyuhas took over the wheel and won the excellently contested race ahead of 40 opponents. It was already Bastard/Meyuhas’ second win of the season. The two young drivers have thus extended their lead in the Silver Cup standings from seven to 25 points after four of six events. In the Am category, Audi Sport also recorded two class victories with the R8 LMS GT4 with the two wins of Christophe Hamon/Michael Blanchemain.
Successes in South Africa: Team Into Africa/Amandla Coal celebrated three successes with the Audi R8 LMS GT4 on the East London circuit in South Africa. Kwanda Mokoena won his class in the South African GT Racing Series in the third one-hour race. On the same circuit, the South African Endurance Championship also held two four-hour endurance races in the east of the country. There, Mokoena shared the cockpit with Tschops Sipuka. In the first competition, the duo managed to take overall victory with a 40-second lead; in the second, they ended up more than 15 seconds ahead of their pursuers.
Coming up next week
28–31/07 Spa (B), round 3, GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup
28–31/07 Spa (B), round 4, GT4 European Series
29–31/07 Nürburgring (D), round 3, GTC Race
29–31/07 Nürburgring (D), round 4, Spezial Tourenwagen Trophy
29–31/07 Ningbo (CN), round 2, TCR Asia
30–31/07 Autopolis (J), round 4, Super Taikyu Series
30–31/07 Algarve (P), round 2, Supercars Endurance