After only four years of competing with the Audi R8 LMS, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has managed to establish itself as one of the references within GT3 racing, a status the Vincent Vosse-led team is keen to retain, having announced its 2014 program at its workshop in Baudour last Thursday.
“Once again we have managed to put together some very competitive driver lineups bringing together youth and experience, and prepared cars that are able to win championships,” Vosse told Sportscar365.
After deciding to field a third car in both the Blancpain Endurance and FIA GT Series last year, the Belgian squad continues to expand this season with no fewer than four entries in the Blancpain Sprint Series, pushing the team to re-evaluate its internal operations.
“We decided to split the team into two car squads in the Sprint Series, as last season we already noticed that, although we had the quickest pit crew sometimes, the cars were getting a bit too close for comfort in our pit area,” Vosse said. “I think it will be easier for the team, from the mechanics to the management, to work with two separate entities.”
With extra emphasis and rewards on the new overall Blancpain GT Series title, which combines both Sprint and Endurance Series, WRT is clearly one of the favorites for this prize, as it already claimed the Pirelli GT Trophy in 2013.
“Of course we want to fight for the victory in all the races and win every championship,” Vosse said. “But we will keep looking at it as two separate series. Both need need their own specific approach, so we will continue to use the same tactic.”
Although WRT managed to claim the teams and drivers’ titles in the FIA GT Series, one of the buzzwords last year was BoP. For a couple of races, the team even opted to switch back to the 2012-spec car mid-season.
“This season we welcome a lot of new drivers but not all of them are pro’s, meaning that we’ll also enter cars in the Silver Cup and the Gentlemen Trophy,” Vosse said. “I think this diversification is a good way to show if the BoP is good or bad.
“If you solely run pros, who always do a very good job in the given circumstances, there’s a risk of it becoming more of a balancing of results. The BoP should not be worse than last year.”
One of the most notable new arrivals for this year is Roman Rusinov, the Russian will combine his FIA WEC LMP2 duties with an entry in the Sprint Series together with Stéphane Ortelli under the G-Drive Racing banner.
“I had a great experience with the Audi at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring last year, and it seemed a good idea to do a full GT program this season”, the Russian told Sportscar365.
“WRT is without a doubt the best team for this championship and we have every chance to win it with Stéphane Ortelli. Back in 2004 I won the Le Mans Series championship were he finished second, so Stéphane and I go back quite a few years.”
This, however, means that reigning FIA GT Series champions Laurens Vanthoor and Stéphane Ortelli will no longer team up.
“Of course it’s a bit unfortunate. I’ve always enjoyed working with Stéphane and he has become a very good friend of mine, but it is obvious that we cannot work together for the rest of our careers”, said Vanthoor.
“I have excellent teammates in César Ramos and Marc Basseng, so the goal is the overall Blancpain GT Series title, which I think is the biggest championship for GT’s in the world.”
Another new trend seemed to be the arrival of a couple of touring car drivers, with Mateusz Lisowski (VW Castrol Cup), Marc Basseng (WTCC) and James Nash (WTCC) making the switch.
“I have wanted to do it a long time and you can’t not take an opportunity like this. It’s going to broaden my horizons and put me out there”, said Nash. “Every two years I have made a change in my career. Of course I want a sustainable future and GT racing could be that.”
The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT already started its testing program last week with a two car test at Nogaro which was attended by Ortelli, Rusinov, René Rast and Enzo Ide. The team will now continue to ramp up its preseason preparations with several additional tests session planned.