Summer is coming and beach resorts are getting full of holiday-makers; so it will be in Misano Adriatico this weekend, on the track carrying the name of Marco Simoncelli, located just meters away from the coast. The Italian track hosts the third round of the Blancpain Sprint Cup, a little later in the season than usual, which will guarantee an even bigger crowd of spectators for the two races. The first one, on Saturday eve, will be a sunset race rather than the night one it used to be, but will certainly have its magic. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT is not going to Italy only to enjoy the atmosphere, but mainly to defend the current leading position it enjoys in the four overall standings (both the Drivers’ and Teams’ rankings of the Sprint Cup and the Blancpain GT Series). As from this round, the Belgian squad is upgrading its effort in the Sprint Cup and will enter for the reminder of the season a fourth Audi R8 LMS, entrusted to Belgium’s Adrien de Leener and Swiss young gun Ricardo Feller.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse weights the importance of the event ahead: “It’s the last race before the Total 24 Hours of Spa, so it would be nice to get a boost, especially after a somehow disappointing race at the Ricard. Misano has not been the most successful track for us in the past, but we know we can do well there too. The temperatures will be higher, as we go there later in the season than in the past, and this may have an influence. We will now have a four car entry in the Sprint Cup, of which two in the Silver Cup class, and this will be a plus. I am happy to welcome back in the team Adrien and have another young gun as Ricardo in our ranks”.
The fourth car of the squad, which will complete the Sprint Cup, is indeed the big novelty ahead of Misano and will be entrusted to Adrien de Leener, who is back to the Blancpain and to the team after two years, and 18-year old Ricardo Feller, who drives an Audi R8 LMS in the ADAC GT Masters this season.
Also entered in the Silver Cup for this round is car #17, as the Sprint Cup points leader Stuart Leonard is joined by Sheldon Van Der Linde, another Silver driver in the FIA categorization list. The Brit is both focused and realistic ahead of the weekend: “Misano is traditionally not an easy track for us, but the biggest concern is how track limits rules are applied. Implementation in the last two years has been really inconsistent, and results have come down to that. I can’t say I like this situation, it’s not fair racing. We’ll see how things will be managed this year, but 100% strictness is impossible to achieve, so it would be better to have a completely open approach. I don’t have specific expectations for this event, to keep the leadership in the championship would be great, but it’s still early days, the title won’t be lost or won at Misano.”
Also championship leaders, but in the overall Blancpain GT Series, are Álex Riberas and Christopher Mies on the Audi R8 LMS car #1. The pair will clearly try to keep the advantage, as the Spanish driver confirms: “We are currently leading the GT Series and the Endurance Cup standings and a close third in the Sprint Cup, but it doesn’t mean much, as we still have half season ahead of us. The important, for now is trying to obtain the best results for the team and score heavy points. I go to Misano with this in mind and with the intention to use free practice time to the fullest to learn the circuit, as the only time I tested in Misano, during last winter, it was full wet…”
Only 3 points behind Riberas-Mies is Dries Vanthoor, who shares car #2 with Will Stevens. The young Belgian admits: “I haven’t had a lot of success at Misano in the past, but this is a new weekend and a new challenge. It’s not a bad track for the Audis, we can compare it to Brands Hatch, and we have tested there often. A couple of changes have been made to the track, in turns 2 and 5, and I hope those will ease a bit the problem of track limits. The objective will be to go all-in and score a maximum of points. If possible, to seize again the lead in the standings.”
Action at Misano will start on Friday, with free practice, while Qualifying will take place Saturday mid-day ahead of Race 1, which will kick-off at 19:40 to finish in sunset light. Sunday’s Race 2 will be in full heat, as it starts at 2 pm.
Blancpain Sprint Cup – Round 3
Misano Adriatico, Italy 22-24 June 2018
Timetable (all in local time = CET)
Friday 22nd June 2018
16:20-17:40 Free Practice 1
20:10-21:30 Free Practice 2
Saturday 23rd June 2018
19:40-20:40 Race 1
Sunday 24th June 2018
14:00-15:00 Race 2