THE BELGIAN AUDI CLUB TEAM WRT TAKES WIN AND HEAVY POINTS AT IMOLA SEASON-OPENER
A delayed season, a long wait but a great start! The 2020 GT World Challenge Europe could not start in a better way for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, as it took a dominant win in the Endurance Cup season-opener at Imola. With a perfect race, the Audi R8 LMS #31 of Matthieu Vaxivière and Audi Sport drivers Kelvin van der Linde and Mirko Bortolotti grabbed the lead shortly before the half-race mark and kept the advantage until the chequered flag, in a race marked by the hot weather and the numerous neutralizations. Car #32 rounded the result, with Charles Weerts and Audi Sport drivers Dries Vanthoor and Christopher Mies finishing in an excellent 4th, very close to the podium. Car #33, entered in Silver Cup for Rik Breukers, Stuart Hall and Benjamin Goethe, was less lucky and paid toll to a race incident while fighting for the honors, finishing 8th in the class.
“It’s a good start!”, admitted a satisfied Vincent Vosse, Team Principal of WRT: “After the difficult 2019 season and a very long winter, with all the complications derived from the pandemic, it’s really spirit-lifting to be back racing and win, on a track that was new to us. The cars were competitive, although not everything went well in qualifying. Still, the entire team did a wonderful job throughout the weekend, and the drivers were outstanding during the race. Matthieu, who was less familiar with the car; Kelvin, who did some breath-taking overtakes, and Mirko, who managed perfectly the last stint, were impressive. And so were also the drivers of car #32, who climbed from 15th on the grid to 4th. We would have had at least a podium also in the Silver class, if our car hadn’t been hit, but that’s racing. Overall, it has been a great weekend and we really deserve some cold beers now!”
The Audi R8 LMS of the Belgian squad proved at ease on the Italian track, topping both paid test sessions on Friday with car #31, and making a 1-2 in the first session with car #32 in second, on a day marked by stormy weather. On Saturday, car #31 was again the fastest in pre-qualifying, before taking 5th in the combined qualifying, with car #32 qualifying in P15 and car #33 in P29 (and P7 in the Silver Cup).
On Sunday, under warm weather, the start saw all cars maintaining their positions in the very initial laps, with Matthieu Vaxivière (car #31) in P5, Christopher Mies (car #32) in P14 and Rik Breukers (car #33) in P28 (7th in the Silver Cup). No less than three, almost consecutive, ‘full course yellow’ periods characterized the first hour, with cars #31 and #32 pitting in lap 22, and car #33 one lap later. The second stint was definitely very entertaining and saw a real show by Kelvin van der Linde (car #31) and Charles Weerts (car #32). The South African entered the top five after all pit stops and put four stunning overtakes in a few laps to take the
lead in lap 35. Similarly, the young Belgian climbed through the field to leave the car in P8 at the end of his stint. Car #33 was less lucky, as Stuart Hall, who was running 4th in the Silver Cup, was hit by a McLaren and went off-track, having to pit for repairs. He lost over two laps and rejoined at the back of the field (P38).
The two best-placed Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars made the second pit stop in lap 57, one lap earlier than car #33, with Mirko Bortolotti retaining the lead and Dries Vanthoor climbing to P4 after another perfect pitstop. Benjamin Goethe started his stint as 8th in the Silver Cup, but shortly after, the race got neutralized for the fourth time. The restart allowed Bortolotti to extend his lead, while followers found themselves tangled with back-markers, putting on a lively show that was interrupted by yet again … another neutralization. With only 12 minutes to go, the group was cleared and Bortolotti was perfect in the last restart, cruising as winner to the flag, while Vanthoor fought with Jaminet and Fraga for the podiums, although positions did not change.
Mirko Bortolotti: “It’s a fantastic feeling to win at home, in a new championship, with a new car and a new team. I can’t describe how I feel. The team did a terrific job and gave us a perfect car. I can only have words of praise for my team mates for the mega work they did. Matthieu, who joined us almost last minute, was perfect in the first stint, and Kelvin had a tremendous drive, with many brilliant overtakes. They really made my job easier in the last stint.”
Dries Vanthoor: “It’s a good result, we certainly didn’t expect it before the race, as we were starting from P15 on the grid. Still, we came so close to second and third… but it’s a great team result and we are scoring very good points. We hope to take even more at the next race at the Nürburgring, which is on a 6-hour format and will offer even more points…”
Charles Weerts: “It’s a good start of the season, and we are happy of our race, which was good. We came back from P15 to take fourth and score some heavy points, so that was good damage limitation.”
Stuart Hall: “Not an easy race and quite a disappointment for us. Rik did a good job in the first stint, then we had a perfect call for first pit stop, rejoining 5th in the class and making another position before being assaulted by one of the McLarens. The team was quick in the repairs and Benjamin had an excellent final stint, but we couldn’t retrieve our position, that’s racing.”
GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup – Round 1
Imola, Italy, 25-26 July 2020
- Vaxivière-van der Linde-Bortolotti (Audi R8 LMS) 86 laps
- Campbell-Pilet-Jaminet (Porsche 911) +3s428
- Marciello-Boguslavskiy-Fraga (Mercedes AMG) +4s754
- Mies-Weerts-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) +5s109
- Winkelhock-Boccolacci-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) +9s403
- Breukers-Hall-Goethe (Audi R8 LMS) + 2 laps (8thSilver Cup)
PHOTO: SRO MOTORSPORTS GROUP