> Perfect weekend in Italy for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT as Riberas-Mies win twice


The visit to Misano, this time, was blessed with a double triumph for the Belgian Audi Club: on the circuit nested in the beach resort on the Adriatic shores, the Audis R8 LMS, although not the fastest cars on track, managed to bring home both Race 1 and Race 2 thanks to faultless performances by the drivers behind and the crews in the pits. Álex Riberas and Christopher Mies were the heroes of the weekend, as they signed both successes, strengthening their lead in the Blancpain GT Series overall standings and taking command also in the standings of the Sprint Cup. Dries Vanthoor-Will Stevens added another podium, after taking second in Race 2, with Stuart Leonard-Sheldon van der Linde twice in the points and Adrien De Leener-Ricardo Feller also scoring on their debut.

For the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, who reinforces its leading position in the Teams’ standings of both the Blancpain GT Series and the Sprint Cup, there couldn’t be a better way to head towards the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the greatest race on the GT scene that will take place on home soil in one month.


Needless to say, Team Principal Vincent Vosse was quite satisfied with the outcome of the Italian weekend: “It’s fantastic… and we value the achievement even more as it was clear that the Mercedes were the fastest cars on this track, as expected. Still, they could not avoid some mistakes, while on our side, we had a perfect outing. The drivers and the pit crews, everybody in the team, did a terrific job, and here is the reward. Except for the issue on car #2 in Race 1, everything went very well. I am very happy, and we are taking a lot of valuable points…”


It was a smooth start of the weekend, with only cars #3 and #17 taking part to free practice 1, in a strategic choice to save fresh tires for the rest of the weekend. In FP2, the Belgian squad put three cars in the top 10, with the Audi R8 LMS #2 best-placed in P3. Qualifying for Race 1 saw Álex Riberas securing a position in front row, thanks to second-fastest lap time, with Stevens taking P7, De Leener P16 and Leonard P17.


At the start of Saturday’s Race 1, late in the afternoon, Riberas kept P2 and Stevens went up to P6, with Leonard (P13) and De Leener (P15) already gaining positions in the first lap. The Spaniard was a very close second for about ten minutes into the race, when he became first following the retirement of the leading Mercedes of Jamin. Few laps later, though, he had to concede the lead to the faster Mercedes of Bastian, with whom he never lost contact. There was drama instead for car #2, as shortly before the pit stop, Stevens had to stop with a wheel issue and would not resume the race. Both Leonard, who had climbed up to P9 during his stint, and Riberas made early pit stops, as opposed to the leading car. Using perfectly the clear space ahead of him and beating twice the fastest lap, Mies retrieved the first position, closely followed and threatened by the Mercedes of Marciello. Van der Linde stabilized in P11, with Feller right behind him. The duel for victory was going to be exciting until the very end, but Mies managed a faultless performance, keeping the advantage until the chequered flag. Both the other Audis on track finished in the top-10, with Van der Linde climbing up to P7 and Feller taking an excellent P10. Christopher Mies was rightly proud at the end of the race: “I had a lot of pressure from Raffaele Marciello, who is really a tremendous racer”, admitted the German, “It might have looked easy to control the race, but it is hard to keep your concentration when someone is pushing so hard behind you. If I had made a slight mistake, he would have passed. The entire team did a wonderful job today, and Álex made a perfect first stint. It’s nice  to have taken the lead in the Sprint Cup and increased our advantage in the overall championship.”


The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audis were well-placed also on the grid of Race 2, with Mies in P3, Vanthoor in P6, Sheldon Van der Linde in P8 and Feller in P15. At the start, an aggressive Mies managed to take second in turn 3, while Vanthoor climbed up to P5, S.Van der Linde kept P8 and Feller took P14. The initial laps saw very close fight, with Vanthoor having to concede two positions, while Mies fought hard and successfully kept P2. A small mistake by Marciello over a kerb, which damaged the front body of his car, allowed Mies to pass him and take the lead in lap 17, shortly before the pit stop, which was again an early one for cars #1 and #2 and earned the team’s crew the Pirelli Pit Stop Challenge. When all driver changes were completed, Riberas was leading on Stevens by almost ten seconds, ensuring an almost quiet cruise to a 1-2 win for the team. Leonard, who emerged in P5 from the pit stops, and De Leener (P12) had to fight much harder in the middle of their respective (and lively) groups to eventually finish 7th and 13th, respectively. “Christopher did most of the job in the first stint”, commented Riberas, “and we knew that the driver change was going to be the determining factor today, so at the end I had a relatively easy job. What is really great is that we maximized all opportunities throughout the weekend.” Dries Vanthoor, on his side, was philosophical: “Second today is the best we could achieve and a good come-back from Saturday’s retirement, given also that we were not entirely happy with the handling of the car during the entire weekend. We aspire at more, of course, so we will have to work harder!”


The Blancpain Sprint Cup will resume only after the summer break (1-2 September) at the Hungaroring. In the meantime, the entire stage will be for the Endurance Cup and its stellar rendez-vous, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, on 28-29 July.   


Blancpain Sprint Cup – Round 3
Misano Adriatico, Italy, 22-24 June


Race 1 results:

1. Riberas-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) 37 laps

2. Meadows-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) + 0s642

3. Engelhart-Bortolotti (Lambo Huracan) +16s760

4. Pérez Companc-Caldarelli (Lambo Huracan) +20s650

5. Siedler-Ortelli (Lexus R-CF) +26s903

8. Leonard-Van der Linde (Audi R8 LMS) +48s461

10. De Leener-Feller (Audi R8 LMS) +57s551

DNF Stevens-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) 18 laps (mech.)


Race 2 results:

1. Mies-Riberas (Audi R8 LMS) 38 laps

2. Vanthoor-Stevens (Audi R8 LMS) +10s059

3. Gachet-Haase (Audi R8 LMS) +13s295

4. S.Schothorst-K.Van der Linde (Audi R8 LMS) +15s044

5. Jamin-Bulatov (Mercedes AMG) +15s998

6. S.Van der Linde-Leonard (Audi R8 LMS) +29s328

13. Feller-De Leener (Audi R8 LMS) +46s971


Provisional Blancpain Sprint Cup Drivers’ standings after Round 3 of 5:

1. Riberas-Mies 66.5   points

2. Leonard 43.5

3. Marciello-Meadows 31.5

4. K. Van der Linde-S. Schothorst 43

5. Vanthoor-Stevens 42.5


Provisional Blancpain Sprint Cup Teams’ standings after Round 3 of 5:

1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 89 points

2. Akka ASP 61

3. Attempto Racing 55

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