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A superb podium finish in the Blancpain Endurance Cup at Silverstone and many good points in the FIA WTCR in Slovakia

It was another intense racing weekend for the Team WRT squads around Europe, but one that brings the satisfaction of a first podium finish in the Blancpain GT Series this year. In the extremely closely-fought second round of the Endurance Cup at Silverstone, Dries Vanthoor, Ezequiel Pérez-Companc and Álex Riberas took a brilliant third position that rewards the team of its hard work and of the frustrating Sunday lived in England by the two other Belgian Audi Club Team WRT cars of Weerts-Breukers-Sánchez and Davies-Petit-MacDowall.

In the FIA WTCR Cup, the Slovakiaring confirmed its reputation of a tough track, but the Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport took the best possible out of it, with Jean-Karl Vernay finishing fourth in Race 1 as his best result and Gordon Shedden scoring in the three races.

Blancpain Endurance Cup

Present at Silverstone, Team Principal Vincent Vosseadmitted: “This podium finish feels very good and was certainly not given to us. It is clear for anyone seeing the action here at Silverstone that the Audi cars lack speed and that some of our rivals are in a completely different situation. This time, we got a little bit of luck as our first pit stop happened during a full yellow course and then we benefitted from the effects of rival fights ahead of us, but this should not hide the reality. Our two other cars, unfortunately, were more unlucky.”

The entire field had the possibility of testing during extra sessions on Thursday and Friday, with official free practice and pre-qualifying on Saturday confirming a lack of top speed for the Audis, although car #2 was the best-placed WRT R8 LMS (17th), with cars #17 and #10 quite close and completing the Audi top quartet.

In Qualifying, car #2 took an excellent P6 that placed Vanthoor-Riberas-Pérez Companc in third row, and Petit-MacDowall-Davies also shone with P9 for car #17. There was bad luck for car #10, as it suffered a spin in Q1, which resulted in significant suspension damage. The session was over, with the car forced to start from last row.

Car #10 later escaped the huge collective crash occurred in first lap but could not complete more than 15 laps, as it stopped along the track with a mechanical problem. Car #17 had also a lively first stint, as Shae Davies, then in P9, had a contact with a Bentley, having to pit for repairs, first, and then for a drive-through. In car #2, Riberas kept 6thposition for a long while and arrived as third to the first pit stop, a phase that got confused by a full yellow course. Pérez-Companc stabilized in fifth during his stint, with gaps very reduced given the various yellow or safety-car periods. In the
last stint, Vanthoor, who had rejoined as 4thafter the pit stop, had to concede one position before ascending to third after the fierce duel and contact opposing two rivals.  

Dries Vanthoor:“We didn’t expect to finish third, but we are very happy with the podium. We were not the quickest car on the track for sure, and we need to understand why and how. Today, we had a little bit of luck but that compensates for the luck we didn’t have at Monza and Brands Hatch! We took some good points and now let’s look forward.”

Charles Weerts: “We had a good Saturday, having found a good balance and good pace. On Sunday, I could only do very few laps in Qualifying, as the car had been damaged in the spin that Ricardo suffered in Q1. In the race, an issue emerged quickly, most probably related to the morning’s incident. We still have to explore what went wrong exactly.”

 

FIA WTCR

The Slovakiaring, as in the past, proved challenging for the Audi RS 3 LMS cars, and the peculiar schedule of the event, with all free practice and qualifying action in succession on Friday and the three races one after the other on Sunday. Still, the Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport was able to collect valuable points, with Gordon Shedden scoring in all races and Jean-Karl Vernay twice.

The cars showed good pace in free practice and in Qualifying for Race 1, with Vernay in 7thand Shedden in P17, but Qualifying for Races 2 and 3, was disappointing. On a drying track,  it was all about finding the correct balance between safety (high risk of yellow flags) and staying on track as late as possible. Still in the top 5 in the penultimate lap of the Q1, J-K Vernay finished the session in…19th, while Shedden was disturbed  by another car in his fast lap attempt and took P22.  

Race 1 yielded good results, as Vernay took 4thin the initial phases and managed to keep the position until the flag, despite a damaged car after a contact suffered in the always eventful 1stlap. Shedden did exactly the same, climbing 10 positions in the early stages and finishing in P12.

In Race 2, both cars climbed positions consistently: Vernay, who started from P19 found himself 24that the end of the first lap following some contacts but managed to storm upwards to finish 12th, right in front of Shedden, who climbed up from P22 in the grid.

Race 3 would see Shedden again in the points, finishing 15thafter another solid race, while Vernay had to pit early in the race because of a puncture resulting from a contact. Unfortunately, there were extra hidden damages on the car and the Frenchman had to retire.

Jean-Karl Vernay: “An average weekend, I would say, but unfortunately, we paid the toll to poor qualifying for Races 2 and 3. Race 1 was very good, I could take 4thand very useful points. It wasn’t so in Race 2, where we had not a good pace and I took a very poor start, as I could not see the starting lights from my position on the grid. In Race 3, I was hit in the first lap, got a puncture but there was more damage than that and had to retire.”  

 

Gordon Shedden:  “It was another hard weekend in Slovakia, with changing weather conditions and a difficult qualifying. But on Sunday, I could fight back hard, had some good fights and scored points in the three races. I look forward to the next round at Zandvoort, a track that bring me some success last year.”

 

Blancpain Endurance Cup – Round 2
Silverstone, United Kingdom, 10-12 May 2019

Race results:

  1. Rigon-Molina-Aleshin (Ferrari 488)             767 laps
  2. Perera-Venturini-Lind (Lambo Huracán)           + 2s631
  3. Vanthoor-Riberas-Pz-Companc (Audi R8 LMS) +12s215
  4. Dumas-Jaminet-Müller (Porsche 911R)            +14s100
  5. Hawksworth-Gore-Williamson (Mercedes AMG) +56s399
  6. Petit-Davies-MacDowall (Audi R8 LMS) +1 lap
    DNF Breukers-Sánchez-Weerts (Audi R8 LMS) 15 laps (mechanical)

 

 

FIA WTCR - Round 3
Slovakiaing, Slovakia, 10-12 May 2019

Race 1 Result
1. Fred Vervisch (Audi RS 3 LMS)                11 laps
2. Ma Qinghua (Alfa Romeo Giulietta)          +2s834
3. Norbert Michelisz (Hyundai i30N)             +3s243
4. Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi RS 3 LMS)       +7s503
5. Augusto Farfus (Hyundai i30N)                +13s949
12. Gordon Shedden (Audi RS 3 LMS)     +22s532

Race 2 Result
1. Néstor Girolami (Honda Civic)                  9 laps
2. Esteban Guerrieri (Honda Civic)               + 0s651
3. Kevin Ceccon (Alfa Romeo Giulietta)       + 0s983
4. Nicky Catsburg (Hyundai i30N)                + 2s626
5. Rob Huff (Volkswage Golf Gti)                  + 4s208
12. Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi RS 3 LMS)     +17s832
13. Gordon Shedden (Audi RS 3 LMS)     +18s095

Race 3 Result
1. Ma Qinghua (Alfa Romeo Giulietta)          11 laps
2. Norbert Michelisz (Hyundai i30N)             + 0s242
3. Kevin Ceccon (Alfa Romeo Giulietta)       + 0s694
4. Niels Langeveld (Audi RS 3 LMS)            +11s818
5. Mikel Azcona (Cupra)                               +12s413
15. Gordon Shedden (Audi RS 3 LMS)     +25s427
DNF Jean-Karl Vernay (Audi RS 3 LMS)   3 laps