- Success in the Blancpain GT Series continued with Teams’ title in the Sprint Cup and triple runner-up honours
- Bathurst 12 Hours win enriches the collection of successes in iconic endurance races
- Five race wins in first year of FIA WTCR Cup
- Double title (Drivers’ and Teams’) in TCR Benelux
- J-K Vernay also takes runner-up glory in TCR Europe
The ninth season of race activity for Team WRT has come to a close; once again, the Belgian squad, which this year focused its activities on GT3 and TCR racing, was at the forefront and added more titles to its impressive roll of honour.
The team actually was in contention for title honours until the very last race in all the competitions it contested, bringing home 3 crowns and being a close runner-up in 4 other standings.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse assesses the season with balance: “In 2018, we have been again extremely competitive, I am proud and happy of the terrific job produced by all drivers and all members of the team, and I value a lot the fact that we have been in contention for the titles until the very last moment in all the competitions we entered. We may have not won as many titles as we could, but that’s racing, we lacked a bit of ‘réussite’, a French word that has no perfect translation in other languages, but refers to both success and luck. There is of course a glimpse of disappointment as we missed 4 extra titles finishing runners-up instead, and there are always lessons to be learnt but that doesn’t question the fundamentals of our team, which remain solidly valid, and our aim to win.”
GT3 racing remained the core activity of Team WRT, who was again, under the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT banner, one of the top forces in the Blancpain GT Series, the world’s most well-attended and competitive series for GT3 cars. In the Sprint Cup, the Belgian outfit retained the Teams’ title, the sixth in a row, which means being unbeaten since the Sprint Cup was created in 2013, and the 22nd crown in a Blancpain-labelled series. Unfortunately, the Drivers’ crown eluded Christopher Mies-Álex Riberas in the closing laps of a dramatic finale at the Nürburgring. This, and a more challenging season in the Endurance Cup, left the team and the German - Spanish duo with runner-up honours also in the overall standings of the Blancpain GT Series.
The long-distance races saw again the Audis R8 LMS ran by Team WRT among the front-runners, but yielded frustrating results at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The squad though conquered a fantastic win in the Bathurst 12 Hours with Stuart Leonard-Dries Vanthoor-Robin Frijns. For a first attempt on the legendary Australian race, there couldn’t be a better reward to the very long journey.
Team WRT also had the pleasure to sport Belgium’s historic yellow livery at the inaugural edition of the FIA GT Nations Cup held in Bahrain, where the young duo composed of Mike den Tandt-Charles Weerts shone by winning the first Qualifying Race before being victim of a race incident in the Main Race. The international outings were completed by a top-5 finish with Robin Frijns at the FIA GT World Cup in Macau.
Reflecting on the GT3 racing season, Vincent Vosse notes: “We proved once again extremely competitive, and against very strong competitors, and we proved as competitive in sprint races than in endurance races, like shown by our wins at Monza, where no Audi ever won before, or at Bathurst, where we were total rookies. We were though faced with more events and incidents in some of the key races and the key moments, and this is why we will probably keep a sour-sweet taste of this 2019 season…”
TCR racing was the other main ground of activity for Team WRT, with the Audi RS3 LMS again among the top contenders. The newly-launched FIA WTCR Cup, resulting from the merge of the FIA WTCC and the TCR International Series, proved very competitive, with Team WRT (under the colours of Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team) finishing the world ranking as the best Audi Team in fifth in both the Teams’ and Drivers’ standings, while Jean-Karl Vernay remained a title contender until the season closure in Macau thanks to victories at Marrakesh, Zandvoort, Wuhan and Macau. His team mate Gordon Shedden rounded the team’s achievements with an emotional win at Wuhan.
As Leopard Lukoil Team, Team WRT was also involved in the TCR Europe, held for the first time as a full-fledged series, with Jean-Karl Vernay finishing a close runner-up with three race wins. The result left some frustration, as the Frenchman had to miss the two races in Zandvoort, where the TCR Europe shared the event with the FIA WTCR. As sporting regulations prevented to take part to both events, Vernay could not contest in the TCR Europe there, missing crucial points.
The Frenchman though signed a perfect campaign in the TCR Benelux (ran within the TCR Europe), clinching 5 wins and the Drivers’ title, with Leopard Lukoil Team clinching Teams’ title, the third consecutive for Team WRT in the three-country series.
“TCR racing has given us a lot of satisfactions”, reckons Vincent Vosse, “The new FIA WTCR Cup was very closely-fought and I find it telling that we took five out of the six wins of the Audis. In the TCR Europe, we probably lost the title because of the Zandvoort clash. In a series with only 7 events, and which proved competitive, the risk unfortunately was there…”
While 2019 is still a couple of weeks away in the calendar, it has already started for Team WRT, which is working around the clock to prepare a season that promises to be busy and exciting. Besides the continuing programmes in GT3 and TCR racing, Team WRT will make its debut in one of the most high-level and spectacular series, the DTM… “It will be a new, tough and exciting challenge”, reckons Vincent Vosse, “but it is clear that our commitment and determination will be exactly the same in the three areas of activity: GT3, TCR and DTM. We are aiming at doing well and winning everywhere!”
A quick round-up of the Team WRT’s main achievements in 2018…
CHAMPION – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Teams (as Belgian Audi Club Team WRT)
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Drivers (C.Mies-A.Riberas)
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Teams (as Belgian Audi Club Team WRT)
RUNNER-UP – Blancpain GT Series Drivers (C.Mies-A.Riberas)
WINNER – Bathurst 12 Hours (R.Frijns-S.Leonard-D.Vanthoor)
5th - FIA GT World Cup at Macau (R.Frijns)
WINNER – FIA GT Nations Cup Qualifying Race 1 (M.den Tandt-Ch.Weerts)
5th – FIA WTCR Cup Drivers (J-K Vernay) and Teams (as Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team)
RUNNER-UP – TCR Europe Series Drivers (J-K Vernay)
CHAMPION - TCR Benelux Series Teams (as Leopard Lukoil Team)
CHAMPION - TCR Benelux Series Drivers (J-K Vernay)