Having been one of the standout performers in the constant stream of single seater drivers trying their luck in the Blancpain GT Series, Dries Vanthoor is firmly eyeing a factory deal in the competitive GT3 scene.
After only a single season in Formula Renault, he not only got the chance to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Laurens, he would also enjoy his tutelage sharing the same car in the Endurance Cup.
While the Sprint Cup races didn’t bring the results hoped for, two second places in the longer Endurance Cup rounds still gave the 18-year-old Belgian something to show for his debut season in GT3 racing.
It soon became clear that Vanthoor already possessed the required pace from the outset, although he still had to pay for his inexperience with a couple of mistakes.
“I was really happy about the natural pace I could show during the whole season,” he told Sportscar365.
“It was great to be close to or even as quick as factory drivers from Audi. It’s a nice achievement in your first year in GT.
“The last two-tenths you need to find are really difficult, but that’s always the case with GT3s.”
The youngest of the Vanthoor brothers is open in admitting he made some errors, but believes they are part of the learning curve every up-and-coming driver needs to go through.
“We knew that it would happen. I made two or three mistakes this season,” he said.
“If we didn’t have those mistakes, I think we could have been a strong contender for the championship.
“It’s a pity that it influenced the results of my brother and Fred as well. That’s the risk we had to take and I need to learn from them to make sure the same thing will not happen again.
“The most important is that the pace was always there, I can really be happy about that.”
As is the case with many of the drivers opting to trade in single seaters for GTs early on in their careers, the objective of eventually signing a factory deal is very clear.
“To do this between all the factory guys is a pretty nice feeling and it gives me a boost in motivation to get that contract myself one day,” Vanthoor said.
“I’m still 18 and one of the youngest drivers around. It doesn’t happen that often that a manufacturer signs someone that young, but that’s what I’m here for.”
At the same time Dries got the sudden opportunity to show his capabilities behind the wheel of a Ligier JS P2 LMP2 car during the European Le Mans Series Four Hours of Spa last weekend.
Despite only completing a shakedown session at Magny-Cours and mechanical issues hindering the build up to race, he was still one of the fastest drivers in the race.
After Will Stevens handed over the Ligier JS P2 in second position, Dries went on to take the lead.
Being the obligatory Silver driver, he had to complete a 1 hour 40-minute stint, playing a crucial role getting the car to finish second, with team boss Vincent Vosse describing him as “the best silver you can get.”
Racing together as brothers has always been something special, especially at this level, as Dries feels Laurens played an important role in the current phase of his career.
“My relationship with him has grown immense since I’ve been racing with him,” he said. “We already respected each other a lot, but that has grown even more now.
“Without him it would have been more difficult to get here. I went to most of my brother’s races, so I already know most of the people.
“He’s coaching me with a lot of things, even when I’m on track he gives me tips via the radio.”
While it’s still early days and his LMP2 debut sparking new interest, 2017 should see Dries return for another season with WRT in Blancpain GT.
“I hope I will get everything together to do another year,” he said. “Vincent Vosse and my dad promised me that I would get a two-year shot to try and achieve my goal. I should have more experience by then.”