Collection of Blancpain titles increased with double crown in the Sprint Cup for the team and Enzo Ide
Laurens Vanthoor takes FIA GT World Cup in Macau
Win at Dubai 24 Hours and seventh podium in six years at Spa
Successful debut in the TCR International Series with Stefano Comini champion and Jean-Karl Vernay 3rd
Engineering activity blossoms with Fun Cup and AMP
As another year is passing by, the moment has come to assess the 2016 season. Like the previous ones, this seventh year of activity has been intense and exciting. The Belgian squad has added key achievements and titles to its collection in GT3 racing; moreover, it has successfully entered into new grounds (notably, TCR racing) and continued the expansion of its activities beyond pure racing.
The overall assessment of Team Principal Vincent Vosse can only be positive: “It has been another fruitful and successful year. One could say that we are getting used to it, but it is never true when you know the level of competition we face and the effort it takes. Nothing is ever granted: when you look at where we were in September, we could have well finished the season with no titles at all. So I’m really happy and proud of how things ended and I want to congratulate the entire team and every single member for the outstanding job and the excellent final stretch of the season, which really proved the strength of WRT.”
GT3 racing has been once again the backbone of WRT’s racing programme. In the Blancpain GT Series, every day more competitive and well-attended, the Audis R8 LMS of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT conquered both titles (Drivers and Teams) in the Sprint Cup. “The competition has been fiercer than ever”, reflects Vosse, “and SRO has done an excellent job in managing the incredible growth of the series. We were not that lucky in the Endurance Cup this year, but were able to bring home both Sprint Cup titles to enrich our collection of Blancpain trophies. Enzo Ide, together with Christopher Mies and Robin Frijns, made a fantastic job, and I am particularly happy of Enzo’s title.
I know I am not the only one in the paddock elated with the fact that a non-professional driver has been able to beat the entire field. It is an interesting reminder to all professional stars that passion and talent are the first pre-requisites to succeed in this sport. Enzo has been linked to WRT since the team’s inception in 2010 and I must say that at that time, when I first met him, I didn’t think that he would be a GT3 champion a few years later. On top of being a lovely guy, he has worked like mad to progress and he got there!”
In the long-distance races, the success of A.Ferté-Leonard-Meadows-L.Vanthoor in the Dubai 24 Hours at the very beginning of the season was the highlight of a year that yielded lesser satisfactions in the Nürburgring and Spa enduros, although a seventh podium in six consecutive years was conquered in the Ardennes.
The season was rounded by the … flipping win of Laurens Vanthoor at Macau, which marked the maiden win of WRT in the FIA GT World Cup at Macau and the last great contribution of Laurens to the team. The young Belgian has recently being appointed a Porsche works driver and will race mostly in America next year. “We will of course miss Laurens, who has played an instrumental role at WRT for many years”, comments Vosse, “but it is also a reward for us to see him bringing his career a ladder up. I have known Laurens since he left single-seater and was immediately impressed: such a mature and understated guy for his age… We have lived so many great moments together, he has made many memorable races with us, and we also went through some difficult times, like his accident in Misano. All this has built a very special relationship that will continue. Laurens will always be part of the WRT family and I’m sure our paths will cross again…At this time, each of us at WRT wishes him all the best with Porsche and thanks him for all the success we had together.”
2016 was an important year for Team WRT, as it marked its debut in touring car racing, having embraced the TCR concept. Entering VW Golf cars and sporting the colors of Leopard Racing, the team has been successful in the TCR International Series since year 1, clinching the title with Stefano Comini and third spot with Jean-Karl Vernay. It also shone in the TCR Benelux series, with very young drivers (Sam Dejonghe and Denis Dupont were third with the RACB-backed SEAT León, and Max Potty on a WV Golf) helping to win another Team title.
“The TCR was a new challenge for us”, explains Vosse, “and it turned out to be one of the greatest satisfactions. Winning the TCR International Series in our first year, after a difficult start of the season, is a great achievement. René Verbist and the team did a fantastic job in developing the car, and the drivers were outstanding. We knew that Stefano, the reigning champion, is top-of-the-class, but Jean-Karl has been a terrific surprise, in what was his first experience with front-wheel cars.”
There were other new categories explored in 2016, as Team WRT also debuted in LMP2 racing, taking part in the Spa round of the European Le Mans Series with a Ligier, taking a brilliant second spot after a hectic weekend, while on a more slippery ground, Team WRT took the Teams’ title in the Trophée Andros, the competition on iced tracks that keeps the squad active in winter time.
In recent years, WRT has been diversifying its activities, entering the chassis-building and engineering sectors. “The industrial activity too is bringing us tremendous satisfaction”, underlines Vosse. The Fun Cup activity has experienced a steady growth in 2016, in parallel with the growing success of this grassroots formula based on the pure enjoyment of motor racing, which will be in action in the forthcoming weeks in Miami after a visit to Dubai last February. WRT is now providing technical service to Fun Cup series in Belgium and France.
All Fun Cup chassis are now built at AMP, the specialized company built by WRT in 2015. The integration of AMP has already generated very interesting synergies, which have led to doubling the AMP staff and the creation of a research unit, while key new projects have been commissioned by external clients.
“As you see, we are keeping busy and 2017 will be no different”, concludes Vosse, “We are working hard to perform even better and to be as successful as in the past.” For now, though, it’s time for the festive break. Best wishes to all!
A quick round-up of the Team WRT’s main achievements in 2016…
WINNER - FIA GT World Cup (L.Vanthoor)
CHAMPION – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Drivers (E.Ide)
CHAMPION – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Teams
3rd - Blancpain GT Series Sprint Silver Cup (S.Leonard-M.Meadows)
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Teams
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Teams
3rd - Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Drivers (L.Vanthoor)
3rd – Total 24 Hours of Spa (L.Vanthoor-R.Rast-N.Müller)
WINNER – 24 Hours of Dubai (A.Ferté-S.Leonard-M.Meadows-L.Vanthoor)
CHAMPION – TCR International Series Drivers (S.Comini)
3rd – TCR International Series Drivers (J-K.Vernay)
RUNNER-UP – TCR International Series Teams
CHAMPION - TCR Benelux Series Teams
3rd – TCR Benelux Series Drivers (S.Dejonghe-D.Dupont)
CHAMPION – Trophée Andros Teams
2nd – ELMS Spa round (LMP2)
> Another successful season for Team WRT, with top honours in Blancpain Sprint, FIA GT World Cup and TCR