- Superb double (Drivers and Teams) 1-2 in the Blancpain Sprint Cup
- R. Frijns grabs runner-up honours in Macau’s FIA GT World Cup
- J-K. Vernay crowned in the TCR International Series
- TCR Benelux Teams title confirmed
- Teams’ and Elite Drivers’ titles in the Trophée Andros Elite
- Saudi GT title rewards international expansion
Time flies and it is almost difficult to believe that the 2017 season is over and furthermore, that this was the eighth year of track activity for Team WRT! Since 2010, the organization has grown significantly and expanded into different areas of motorsport, both in terms of categories and territories, and into engineering activities.
2017 has been another year of success, yielding no less than 7 titles, in GT racing (and notably, the Blancpain’s competitions, the core activity of the Belgian squad), touring car racing (TCR) and on the frozen tracks of the Trophée Andros.
Taking a step back to assess the 2017 season, Team Principal Vincent Vosse reflected: “It has been another fruitful year, although not an easy one. Seven titles is an exceptional result, and although we have been blessed with success since the team’s inception, we cannot get ‘used’ to it or take it for granted. We need to stay with our feet on the ground and realize that this level of competitiveness and achievement is exceptional and that we are lucky to be where we are year after year. Not every team can say the same. I really want to thank everyone, all the drivers, team members and faithful partners, for their work and commitment. We want to continue like that and we know that it is going to be every year more challenging to keep this form. This is why we are already completely focused on 2018”.
GT3 racing is clearly enshrined in Team WRT’s DNA. The Blancpain GT Series, the pinnacle of the discipline, was again the most competitive scenery in the world, and the Belgian squad was present with its largest entry ever in both the Endurance and the Sprint Cups. While it was definitely a challenging year in the Endurance series, the Sprint Cup yielded great satisfaction, with the conquest of the two top spots in both the Teams’ (where following the Blancpain regulation part of the squad ran under the Belgian Audi Club banner and part under Team WRT’s) and the Drivers’ titles, Robin Frijns-Stuart Leonard beating narrowly team mates Will Stevens-Markus Winkelhock, with also Dries Vanthoor-Marcel Fässler (eventually 5th) fighting for the title until the last breath.
In the long-distance races, there were no winning celebration for the Belgian Audis R8 LMS, despite a promising third spot for Fässler-Frijns-Muller-Rast at the Nürburgring 24 Hours in a race with a thrilling finale. At the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the most prestigious GT race in the world, the team could not keep up with the tradition of a podium finish which it had maintained for six years in a row; still, it brought two cars (Mies-DePhillippi-Vervisch and García-Müller-Rast) in the top-6, in the same lap of the winning car, in what has been the closest finish in the story of the legendary race.
The season was rounded by a fine second by Robin Frijns in the FIA GT World Cup at Macau and by the Saudi GT title conquered by Mohamed Al Saud, an exotic and valued crown that is an additional reward to the increasing presence, direct or indirect, of Team WRT in the fast-growing GT racing markets of Asia and the Middle East.
“It has been an intense and challenging GT season”, reckons Vosse, “Without wanting to repeat myself, we somehow had a difficult start of the season… I prefer to underline how well the team reacted to the initial set-backs and how successful was our second half of the season, also in the endurance Cup, as shown in Barcelona. In the Sprint Cup, we took everything possible and our drivers and crews did a fantastic job. In the FIA GT World Cup, it’s three years in a row that we are either first or second, which is definitely positive when you know how treacherous Macau can be.”
TCR racing has become now the other main ground of activity for Team WRT, and one that brought great satisfaction. With the Volkswagen Golf in the colours of Leopard Racing, the Drivers’ title in the TCR International Series was retained, thanks to Jean-Karl Vernay, with Leopard Racing Team WRT retaining also the third spot in the Teams’ competition, sporting the Belgian flag higher than any other country-fellow squad. Teams’ title was also retained in the TCR Benelux, where the squad entered both the VW Golf of Maxime Potty-Mathieu Detry (3rd overall in the Drivers’ standings) and the RACB-backed SEAT León of Sam Dejonghe-Denis Dupont. Over 6 racing weekends but 30 races in the home-ground TCR series, Team WRT achieved no less than 23 podium finishes, including 7 wins.
“TCR competitions, where we debuted last year, are now a crucial area of activity for Team WRT”, explains Vosse, “and I can’t stress enough how much we wanted to retain the TCR International Series top title. Jean-Karl Vernay and the entire team perfectly managed a campaign that was not easy, in a series much more closely-fought. We are very proud of this achievement and thrilled at the series’ growth prospects for next year.”
The Trophée Andros, the competition on iced tracks that kept the squad active last winter time, continued to provide great show and great fun, with Team WRT doubling its harvest, as besides retaining the Teams title and bringing home the elite Drivers’ crown with Nathanaël Berthon.
More satisfaction came from the industrial and engineering activity, with the Fun Cup activity reaching new heights in the Belgian and French series, as well as at the iconic Spa 25 Hours. The Fun Cup car chassis are built at AMP, the specialized company part of WRT since 2015, which has also seen a steady expansion of its client portfolio to also include worldwide car manufacturers.
“Everything is in place for having an exciting and busy year also in 2018”, concludes Vosse, “We are already working hard to make it as successful as the previous years. Still, I reassure you: this will not prevent us from enjoying good time with family and friends, and a few drinks, during the festive season! Best wishes to all and see you in 2018!”
Track activity in 2018 will resume early, with the Dubai 24 Hours (11-13 January) where
Team WRT will enter an Audi R8 LMS for Dries Vanthoor – Christopher Mies –
Mohammed Al Saud – Michael Vergers.
Team WRT’s 2017 main achievements in a glance…
CHAMPION – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Drivers (R. Frijns - S. Leonard)
CHAMPION – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Teams (as Belgian Audi Club Team
CHAMPION – TCR International Series Drivers (J-K Vernay)
CHAMPION – TCR Benelux Series Teams
CHAMPION – Trophée Andros Elite Drivers (N. Berthon)
CHAMPION – Trophée Andros Teams
CHAMPION – Saudi GT Driver (M. Al Saud)
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Drivers (M. Winkelhock-W. Stevens)
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Teams (as Team WRT)
RUNNER-UP – FIA GT World Cup at Macau (R. Frijns)
3rd - Blancpain GT Series Teams
3rd – Nürburgring 24 Hours (M. Fässler - R. Frijns - N. Müller - R. Rast)
3rd – TCR International Series Teams
> A successful 2017 for Team WRT, with seven titles added to its roll of honour