Dries Vanthoor says he’s aiming to ‘stay out of the walls’ of Macau, as the Audi Sport customer racing driver approaches his first-ever street race with managed expectations.
The 20-year-old Belgian is one of three Macau rookies and the youngest driver in this year’s FIA GT World Cup field, having been drafted in by Audi as part of its factory-backed effort.
Teaming with 2017 event runner-up Robin Frijns in the two-car WRT Speedstar operation, Vanthoor admits he’s heading into the unknown but is hopeful of making solid gains throughout the weekend.
“It’s quite a big step but it’s an exciting step,” he told Sportscar365.
“It’s the aim of every driver to come and do something new and exciting. It will be exciting to see how everything goes and how to drive in between two walls.
“When you make one mistake, it’s probably over.
“For sure the goal is to stay out of those walls.”
When asked if his brother, 2016 winner Laurens, has given him any tips, Dries admitted the now-Porsche factory driver has been holding his cards close to his chest.
“I’ve been talking to him but he’s not really giving me anything,” Dries said. “But it will be fun to have me against him.
“As a driver, it’s also really nice to drive by yourself.
“We’ve been driving with two, three or even four drivers, and to now drive by yourself is a nice feeling. It reminds me a bit of my single-seater times where you had to do everything yourself as well.
“It will be cool how this weekend will go.”
Vanthoor, however, said he’s kept his expectations in check, knowing the many firsts he’s checking off this weekend.
“I’m not here to say I’m here to do something special and win the race because I need to be realistic,” he said.
“You need to build confidence and have some experience. You never know what happens; it depends how everything goes. We’ll take it step by step.”
Vanthoor, Haase Rely on Sim Prep
Both Vanthoor and fellow Audi factory driver Christopher Haase, who is also making his Macau debut, have relied on simulator sessions to help prepare for the event.
With only a pair of 30-minute Free Practice sessions on tap prior to qualifying, and red flags likely, track time will be extremely limited in the build up to the weekend.
“It will be an exciting FP1 and FP2 with only 30 minutes; it’s not a lot [of time],” Vanthoor said.
“I’ve been doing some sim work so hopefully it helps out quite a bit. But it’s always different to drive in real life than on the sim.”
Haase, who lines up in Audi Sport Team Rutronik’s solo entry, expects Macau to be “really different” to other tracks he’s driven, even with street races at Detroit’s Belle Isle and Bucharest under his belt.
“At first I was talking to people [who have done Macau] but then I realized, ‘OK, it must be something different!'” he told Sportscar365.
“Then I was on YouTube, the standard thing, to find some good videos. Also I got good support from Audi with on-board [footage] and the normal procedure with simulators.
“With Race Room, there is quite a good track layout of Macau. Even in the simulator, it took me a while to not use the ESC button a lot!”