Laurens Vanthoor and Cesar Ramos dominated the Blancpain Sprint Series Qualifying Race at Zolder this afternoon with their Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra.
Vanthoor lost out to teammate Rene Rast into turn one at the start of the race, but a controversial overtaking maneuver into the final chicane on lap nine, which sent Rast into a spin, handed the lead back to the young Belgian driver.
The No. 1 Audi pulled away from Jeroen Bleekemolen and Nick Catsburg, but a safety car just before the pit window opened reduced the team’s lead.
Teammate Cesar Ramos held onto the lead after the stops and eventually crossed the finish line almost 16 seconds clear of the NSC Motorsports / Syntix Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Nick Catsburg.
Vanthoor apologized after the race for the move on lap nine. “It was not correct and I want to apologize from my side towards WRT and especially also Audi, because that was not the way it should work,” he said.
“I was behind René and he made a small mistake the corner before, so I was closer than I ever was. I showed myself on the side pretty early, we have clear rules in the team what we can and can not do, and I thought he saw me so I said I’m not going to do any crazy things during the braking, just brake later than usual.
“I was next to his door and he turned in. Probably my mistake because I was the car behind.”
Catsburg pitted the No. 95 NSC Motorsports / Syntix car in third place, but quick pit work from the Reiter Engineering-supported team resulted in teammate Kox rejoining in second place.
Kox, however, was unable to keep up with the WRT Audi, but finished five seconds clear of the third placed Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini.
“I was not as close as I wanted at the restart because I misjudged it a little bit and my tires came maybe a bit later than his (Ramos),” said Kox.
“But then actually when I put my fastest lap together I was able to catch him back a little bit. Than I don’t know what he did, he disappeared in the first sector so quickly that I thought… there’s no point (in chasing him). We had some problems so I just maintained the gap.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen and Hari Proczyk led the race for the first couple of meters, before being pushed down by the two Audi drivers.
After the pit stop Proczyk rejoined in third place and while Enzo Ide (Audi) and Caca Bueno (BMW) pushed hard the Austrian once again kept his rivals behind, scoring valuable points for the championship.
“This was probably one of my hardest races, I had a lot of oversteer in the car and also struggled a bit with the brakes near the end,” said Proczyk after the race.
“In the pitstop we lost one place. Enzo (Ide) was especially in sector 2 very fast, he was really really fast in the second chicane, the Audi can fly there, but I was always a little bit better on the exits and I think this was the key.”
In a rather hectic finale, the battle for the final points ended in tears for Bueno.
Beechdean AMR’s Andy Soucek passed the BMW with one lap to go. On the last lap Bueno was hit by HTP Motorsports driver Maximilian Buhk, sending the Brazilian BMW into the gravel and giving the Buhk and points leader Maximilian Götz the point for sixth.
Tomorrow’s main race will start at 1:45 pm local time. The teams will be back in action at 10:10 am for warmup.