Laurens Vanthoor and Stephane Ortelli in the No.32 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra secured victory in the Qualifying Race at Nogaro, France in a thrilling opening to the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship.
Sun 08.04.12, 7:07PM
Oliver Jarvis and Frank Stippler made it a one-two for Audi by grabbing second place in the No.33.
The final podium place went to Tomas Enge and Albert von Thurn und Taxis in the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo No.24.
After a brilliant opening stint from Enge on a greasy Circuit Paul Armagnac, von Thurn und Taxis held off the late challenge of the No.4 Hexis McLaren of Alvaro Parente and Gregoire Demoustier at the finish.
Pole-sitters Toni Vilander and Filip Salaquarda in the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia No.3 were fifth.
Enge made a storming start from seventh on the grid, throwing the LP600 around the Circuit Paul Armagnac with little regard for the tricky conditions. The Czech driver assumed the lead as early as the fourth lap and led until the pit stop/driver change.
As the track began to dry, von Thurn und Taxis held the lead momentarily but was eclipsed by both Audis as they proved equal to the drying conditions to open their 2012 account in emphatic style.
What the drivers say …
Laurens Vanthoor, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.32 (1st)
“It was a fantastic race, I must say I was quite nervous at the beginning because this was the my first race in a GT car with a roof over my head. It is a little bit more comfortable – and I didn’t get wet.
“We had a good race - it was a difficult start for me because I had to adapt to the situation and it was difficult to pass the Ferrari but once I got past I got into my rhythm and I slowly got closer to Tomas Enge.
“After the pit stop, Stephane (Ortelli) did an excellent job, he was very fast and he did not hesitate at all when making a pass and he finished the job in the perfect way.”
Stephane Ortelli, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.32 (1st)
“It is such a great win for us, I cannot believe we won the first race. We had been testing on Tuesday in the damp and we did not expect to have a car that would cope as well in these conditions. We have a very good car, it was really consistent in the wet.
“I have to congratulate Tomas (Enge) he did a fantastic job, it was really good to watch. Winning the race is a dream start, and making it a one-two for Audi is just amazing.”
Frank Stippler, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.33 (2nd)
“This is a great results. I’m proud to be part of the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, this is a good team to be in for the world championship and I hope that we can have a strong season.”
Oliver Jarvis, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.33 (2nd)
“I think we have had a very strong start in very difficult conditions for everyone, but I think it is very close out there, we have some great teams and some great drivers, I think it will be a close season. In other conditions, at other tracks you’re going to see other teams win and other drivers doing well.”
Tomas Enge, Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 No.24 (3rd)
“I was really surprised how well the Lamborghini handled. I had quite a wet track and Albert (von Thurn und Taxis) had drying conditions so it was much trickier for him. We had a good pit stop and Albert drove really well to secure third position. We hope to continue like this for tomorrow and the following races.”
Albert von Thurn und Taxis, Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 No.24 (3rd)
“It was quite difficult in the end because as the track was drying up the car was proving more and more difficult to handle. As the line became dry I was struggling to keep the rear tyres in shape. I’m very happy to keep the McLaren behind us to finish on the podium. This is more than I expected from my first world championship race. I am delighted.”