Belgian Audi Club Team WRT began their home round of the FIA GT Series at Zolder the way they finished the first race weekend at Nogaro, at the head of the field.
In the first practice session, Stephane Ortelli, who shares the team’s #11 car with local driver Laurens Vanthoor, was the only man to go below the 1m31s barrier in his Audi R8.
The McLaren of Sebastien Loeb and Alvaro Parente was second, 0.479s adrift. The Mercedes of Maximilian Buhk and Alon Day were third, ahead of Nogaro race-winners Edward Sandstrom and Frank Stippler. The Phoenix Racing Audi of local racers Enzo Ide and Anthony Kumpen completed the top five for the morning.
The BMW Team India Z4 was the top Pro-Am entry in sixth, but an accident in the afternoon caused significant damage that has ruled the car of Julien Jousse and Armaan Ebrahim out for the rest of the weekend.
In session two, Rene Rast joined Ortelli as the only driver to get into the 1m30s, behind the wheel of WRT’s #12. He and Niki Mayr-Melnhof have been moved up to the Pro Cup after their strong performance at Nogaro – Rast taking the chequered flag first before later being penalised. Rast went half a second quicker than Ortelli’s earlier benchmark before rain showers set in.
“Obviously this session was not too bad, as we are in front,” said Rast. “We were a bit lucky because we put a good set of tyres on just before it started to rain, so I was able to do a good lap. In Free Practice 1 we already saw that we were quite strong, so we will see how it goes tomorrow in qualifying. For me this track is quite new as I only raced once, two years ago, and did 10 laps today but I am confident for the rest of the weekend.”
The Pro-Am Grasser Lamborghini took second spot this time with Dominik Baumann behind the wheel, ahead of the Novadriver Audi of Cesar Campanico and Cesar Vieira. Fourth were Ricardo Zonta and Sergio Jimenez for BMW Team Brazil, and fifth was a new addition to the series for this weekend, the Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter machine of Peter Kox and Stefan Rosina. The remaining two WRT Audis completed the top seven.
“It was not worth risking too much for us when the rain came this afternoon,” said Kox. “The forecast is good for the rest of the weekend so it made sense to be cautious and save the car. Prior to that it was all very constructive to us. We have done two races immediately before this which has been good for the team to bond back together after a long winter. We made some useful mechanical changes to the car before the rain came so all in all it was a constructive day for us.”
Another new entrant, a second Seyffarth Motorsport Mercedes driven by Brazilians Duda Rosa and Paolo Bonifacio, topped the Gentleman Trophy in both sessions despite the lateness of their deal.
“It is great to be here in the FIA GT Series,” said Rosa. “We are very fresh to everything here with a new car, new circuit and new team. However, the start could not have been better. Paolo and I are here to learn and we plan to contest the whole season. Our sessions were good today and I believe that if we respect our competitors and concentrate then we can have some very nice results for us in the Gentlemen Trophy class this weekend.”