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Jul 24, 2013 - 04:25 PM
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Blancpain Spa 24 Hours Preview
Posted by: newsla on Jul 24, 2013 - 04:22 PM
Sports Cars
Blancpain Spa 24 Hours Preview


In the world of GT racing, the end of July inevitably means one single thing: the Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the world’s greatest race in the category. The landmark one-day race in the Ardennes is around the corner and, as preparations enter the final stage, anxiety grows steadily. For not only this will be probably be the decisive round for the Teams’ and Drivers’ titles in the BlancpainEndurance Series because of the extra points it entails, but this is also a prestige race on its own: winning here does carry a special status… And it is even more so for any Belgian team or driver. The 2013 edition of the Spa 24 Hours promises to be one of the greatest in recent years, given the level of the entry, and one of the most open ones. The Belgian Audi Club and Team WRT are ready for what is without any doubt the most important race of the year and one of the biggest challenges they have faced since their creation. The objective is to contribute all efforts in order to ensure a third consecutive win for Audi and if possible, repeat the team’s fantastic success of 2011.

 

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For the occasion, the Belgian squad will have an additional car alongside the three usual Audis R8 LMS ultra, and the driver line-ups have been reinforced with the adjunction of three top Audi drivers like MattiasEkström, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer.

Car #1 of the Belgian Audi Club will be entrusted as usual to Stéphane Ortelli – René Rast – Laurens Vanthoor, while car #2 will see a German trio formed by André Lotterer – Frank Stippler – Christopher Mies. Sporting #13 will be the Swedish-Swiss trio composed of Edward Sandström – MattiasEkström – Marcel Fässler. Under the Team WRT banner, NikiMayr-Melnhof – Rahel Frey – Matt Halliday will continue to team up at the wheel of a car that has been granted the privilege to sport #0.

“There is no doubt that we have something that can be easily dubbed as a “dream team””, admits Team Principal Vincent Vosse. “We have the best driver line-up we could dream of, a strong and excellent team and performing and reliable cars such as the Audis R8. We have prepared well, we are ready and the atmosphere is excellent. But we all know that a 24-hour race depends on many variables, and we also know that the balance of Performance is not favourable to us… but this is another story. We know what is the challenge ahead of us and what we have to do, we are ready for a great fight, and for the rest, let’s talk on Sunday at 4:30 pm when the chequered flag will go down…”

As Sporting Director, Pierre Dieudonné is the man that will have to coordinate the biggest strategic and logistical effort ever faced with by the Belgian squad, and a team of over 50 people, including drivers and supporting technical personnel. “We are ready and calm”, says Dieudonné, “and I think we can say we have never prepared a race so thoroughly. We know that we can’t expect to be the fastest car on the track, because of the Balance of Performance, but this is a very long race. Only after qualifying and a couple of hours into the race, we will know who stands where…”

Statistics seem to underline both the unfavourable Balance of Performance of the R8 and the team’s effectiveness record. Since the creation of the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2011, the Belgian squad has been able to win twice both Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, despite having achieved only 2 wins (including the 2011 Spa 24 Hours), 1 pole and 1 fastest lap in the 14 events held so far.

Spirits are definitely high among all team members and the squad is simply thrilled by having three of the top Audi works drivers joining for the big race. “We thank Audi Customer Racing for their support, this is an extra motivation boost”, says Dieudonné, “It’s rewarding to have with us Audi’s engineers and technicians, to be able to count on the presence and advice of Dr Ullrich, and to see how committed and happy to be with us are drivers of the like of Lotterer, Ekström and Fässler simply makes us proud.”

Laurens Vanthoor, who will share car #1 with Stéphane Ortelli and René Rast, doesn’t seem to feel any additional pressure deriving from the fact that he is the only Belgian driver in the team. “It’s the biggest GT3 race in the world, and the most important of the year, but you don’t have to think about it…”,explains the young driver from Limburg. “Of course, you realize that it’s the paramount event for the team and you try to prepare even better, but it is also key not to create extra pressure. I feel reassured to race with two team mates like Stéphane and René, who have already won this race, and yes, it would be nice to win. That’s the kind of line in your CV that makes a difference!”

While Laurens may be the only Belgian citizen in the driver line-up, there is someone else that sees this as his ‘home’ race. As widely known, André Lotterer has grown up in Belgium and has very strong personal ties with the country. “No doubt that I feel at home in Spa”, admits the double Le Mans 24 Hours winner, “and that I am very happy to be here with a Belgian team. Last year, I was extremely competitive but my race was ruined by an incident with another car. Together with Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies, we have a very good team and it would be great to be able to fight for a win this time.”

MattiasEkström, who will share car #13 with Edward Sandström and Marcel Fässler, knows already the sweet taste of victory, as he was part of WRT’s winning trio two years ago: “Winning this race really means something in a driver’s career”, explains the Swede, “and I would be delighted to repeat the experience!”

On car #0, Rahel Frey will be sharing driving duties with NikiMayr-Melnhof and Matt Halliday, and the Swiss driver looks forward to making her debut in the Spa landmark race. “This will be my third 24 Hours race”, she explains. “I took part to Le Mans a couple of years ago, but unfortunately we had to retire quite early. Then, I raced the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring this year, a race that was certainly peculiar as it was neutralized during 9 hours because of bad weather, so I am really aiming at my first real and full 24-hour race.”

Track action at Spa will start on Thursday with free practice and qualifying, while the Super-pole is scheduled on Friday. The start of the race will be given on Saturday at 16:30 hours.

Blancpain Endurance Series - Round 4
Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
25-28 July2013

Timetable (all times local = CET)

Wednesday 24 July 2013
16:00-19:25 Parade in the streets of Spa

Thursday 25 July 2013
09:45-11:15 Free Practice
18:15-19:15 Pre-qualifying
20:10-21:25 Qualifying
21:55-23:10 Night qualifying

Friday 26 July 2013
18:15-18:35 Super-pole

Saturday 27 July 2013
09:05-09:25 Warm-up
16:30 Start of 24 Hours race

Sunday 28 July 2013
16:30 Finish of 24 Hours race

Belgian Audi Club

#1 Stéphane Ortelli (MC) - Laurens Vanthoor (BE) - René Rast (DE) (Pro)
#2 André Lotterer (DE) – Frank Stippler (DE) – Christopher Mies (DE) (Pro)
#13 Edward Sandström (SE) –MattiasEkström (SE) – Marcel Fässler (CH) (Pro)

Team WRT
#0NikolausMayr-Melnhof (AT) – Matt Halliday (NZ) - Rahel Frey (CH)(Pro)

Drivers’ Championship Standings (Pro) after Round 3 of 5

1. Zampieri-Rigon-Ramos (Ferrari F458) 45 points
2. Leinders-Buurman-Martin (Ferrari F458) 31
3. Sandström-Stippler-Mies (Audi R8 LMS ultra) 27
Luhr-Kane-Dumbreck 27
5. Turner-Mücke-Makowiecki (Aston Martin) 25
6. Ortelli-Vanthoor-Rast (Audi R8 LMS ultra) 24
16. Halliday-Frey-Mayr-Melnhof 4

Teams’ Championship Standings (Pro) after Round 3 of 5

1. Kessel Racing 47 points
2. Marc VDS 45
3. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 34
4. JRM Motorsport 32
5. Hexis Racing 27


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