Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and Audi Sport are once again heading to the Total 24 Hours of Spa as one of the clear favorites, but the team is downplaying the expectations after a difficult Paul Ricard weekend.
Fresh off a victory in the Nürburgring 24 with the brand-new Audi R8 LMS, and after claiming wins in the Belgian endurance classic three times in the past four years, Audi has established itself as the force to be reckoned with in the Ardennes.
However, WRT team principal Vincent Vosse remains cautious after a difficult Paul Ricard weekend, resulting in the loss of the provisional lead in the championship.
“It’s clear that we were disappointed about what happened at Paul Ricard. The facts are there; we had quite some damage, punctures and even a mechanic injured during a pit stop,” Vosse said.
“It’s not what we were looking for prior to Spa, but the most worrying is that the performance wasn’t there.”
The official test day for the big race proved to be more crucial than in the past, as mileage with the new R8 on Pirelli tires has been limited.
So far the car has made an appearance at the BoP-test and the Monza and Paul Ricard rounds, meeting the minimum requirement to take part in the 24 Hours.
“We don’t have any additional running scheduled with the new car before Spa,” Vosse said. “We’ll be at Moscow for the Sprint Series, but this has no relevance at all for the 24 hours.”
Both BMW and Lamborghini dictated the pace during the test day, while Audi seemed to keep something in reserve in the quicker afternoon session, dropping down the order as the day progressed.
As ever with GT3 and the unavoidable Balance of Performance, times need to be analyzed with a grain of salt. But so far there has been a different manufacturer on the top step of the podium at each endurance race, showing things are rather well balanced.
Vosse and Audi have never been shy in vocalizing their opinion on the balancing of cars, especially with stakes running high at Spa.
“We cannot have a repeat of the scenario in 2013, when we were two seconds of the pace,” he said. “I have no desire to be one second faster then the rest, I just want to battle with Bentley, Nissan and the others.
“The BoP from Paul Ricard is the same one that will apply at Spa, so that’s where we need to adapt ourselves. SRO will now analyze the data and hopefully we’ll be able to work on that.”
The Belgian also pointed towards refueling times. “On the new car we have very small restrictor to fill up the tank, and that poses a real problem for us right now.”
However, Audi claims the new R8 LMS has better fuel efficiency, but with the duration of driving stints limited to 65 minutes (70 minutes under Safety Car), this element is of less importance at Spa.
Winning the Nürburgring 24 back in May was another milestone in the short history of the Belgian team, but with the two races being massively different the team starts from a clean sheet once again.
“Our victory and the data collected has almost no relevance at all for us at Spa,” Vosse said. “We ran on Michelin development tires at the Nürburgring and the BoP is completely different over there.
“For sure, I think we have the best team, the best drivers. We’re well trained and prepared for every scenario.
“After all, you can’t restrict a team or a car any further based on previous results. We have won a lot during the last three to four years, but that’s mainly because of the effort we’ve put into it.”