In a dramatic turn of events, Laurens Vanthoor held on to his FIA GT World Cup victory last weekend, after walking away from a airborne accident in what turned out to be a bizarre Macau Grand Prix.
The Audi factory driver admitted in the post-race press conference to feeling quite “awkward” about what had happened, and days after the race, still doesn’t feel like he completely deserved the victory.
“I would have preferred to win in a normal way because that would have been more of a proper victory,” Vanthoor told Sportscar365.
“One point is that I actually don’t deserve the victory because I made a mistake and I crashed. If you crash, it means you’re out of the race and you don’t win a World Cup title.”
However, Vanthoor does argue that there is another way of digesting what happened.
“The other point [is that] I qualified on the front row and I led every lap in both races until what happened,” he said.
“On that point, yes, I would have deserved to win and I would have been capable of winning, because even when Earl [Bamber] passed me, Earl had a five-second penalty.”
The incident happened on the restart after a lengthy red-flag period, and Vanthoor had just lost his lead to Bamber at Mandarin.
Heading into Lisboa, the Audi driver clipped the corner, he explained.
“I knew the Porsches were very strong in the last sector and they were strong on the straight,” Vanthoor said. “I knew when he passed me that I had to re-pass them as soon as I can, and immediately up to Lisboa.
“Therefore, I took a lot of risk going into Mandarin, to be fast into braking.
“The problem was I went all in on the corner to try and take him back, but it was the first time in the whole weekend I took that corner behind another car.
“I just misjudged the entry and clipped the curb, and then I lost it.”
The crash itself was a spectacular sight, as Vanthoor’s Team WRT-run Audi R8 LMS became airborne after hitting the barrier, before sliding along the track surface on its roof.
“Obviously, I understood that things were going wrong, and the moment after that I was in the wall,” he said. “What surprised me most, after that, was I saw the car going up in the air and that was a scary part.
“The impact was hard, but it was OK. All of a sudden, I was flying up into the air and landed on my roof, and then that obviously [made] tons of sparks in the car because I was riding on the rollbar at a high speed.
“Then all the cars approaching you and trying to avoid you, that was the scary bit of it all.
“As soon as it happened, I just wanted to get out as quickly as possible, because I knew my wife was there and the team, and they would be worried that I was OK.”
A couple of days after the race, and the injuries began to become more noticeable, he said.
“I’m fine; I was more shocked than anything else,” Vanthoor said. “I didn’t have any pain anywhere, but [a couple of days later], I kind of [felt] like I was hit by a truck!”
With time restrictions in the busy Macau Grand Prix schedule, the GT World Cup race was ended after the incident, and after a few minutes, it was announced that Vanthoor has won.
While he is grateful to have been able to help Audi win the race for the first time since 2013, he still has mixed emotions.
“A lot of drivers, and teams – everybody – would have preferred to see the race distance,” he admitted. “I would have been ten times happier to win in that way. It was just altogether a difficult event.
“One thing’s for sure, it’s not a proper victory, no matter what. I have the trophy here at home, but it’s not the one I’m most proud of.”
In the Macau Grand Prix paddock, rumors circulated of a possible manufacturer switch in 2017 for Vanthoor from Audi to Porsche, although this has yet to be confirmed by either the driver or manufacturer.
“It’s no secret that I’m interested in evolving as a racing driver and growing in my career, becoming better, and driving bigger cars in bigger series and trying to win bigger championships,” he said.
“I’ve spent a long time at Audi and I think we’ve been quite successful together.
“I clearly want to grow with my career, and the question is at the moment, can Audi still help me with that due to all the things that have recently happened?
“Those things will be quite clear in a couple of weeks.”
However, one thing is for certain, with Vanthoor confirming to Sportscar365 that he has indeed signed a contract for 2017. “My future is decided,” he said.