Zolder local Laurens Vanthoor took victory in the Qualifying Race for round two of the FIA GT Series with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT co-driver Stephane Ortelli.
Stefan Rosina led from the start in the pole-sitting Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter entry, followed by Vanthoor in the #11 WRT R8 and Rene Rast behind the wheel of the sister #12, making a superb start from seventh on the grid.
The lead three stretched away from the rest of the field, before Vanthoor got past Rosina to claim the lead on lap 12. Rast followed past soon afterwards.
The driver changes followed soon afterwards, with Ortelli returning to the lead and winning by a commanding margin of ten seconds.
“I did a good start and I found myself second behind Stefan Rosina right away,” said Vanthoor. “I felt from the beginning that I had the potential to go quicker but it was difficult to pass. In the end I put some pressure on Stefan and he made a mistake, so I could pass.
“Then, we could make a gap with Rene Rast, who I was surprised to see in my mirrors. Stephane did a great job, and was the quickest car on the track again. It is my home race, so I am really happy to have this result in front of all my friends, family and fans.”
Ortelli added: “It may have looked easy from the outside but from inside it was hard. I had to fight to be sure the pace was good because during the qualifying the Lamborghini was super-fast, so I needed to put safety seconds between the two of us.
“I have to congratulate Laurens because he did most of the job. He did a very good move, and it is important for us to be there today because last time we won it was in Russia last August. I am very happy we won that qualifying race here, and we will try to do it again tomorrow for the main race.”
Rast’s co-driver Niki Mayr-Melnhof emerged from the pits just ahead of Peter Kox in the Lamborghini, and succumbed to the experienced Dutchman’s pressure later in the lap. Mayr-Melnhof fell into the clutches of the Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren that Andreas Zuber had taken over from Mike Parisy, but held on to take fourth.
Crossing the finish line in formation behind Zuber were the #13 WRT Audi of Nogaro winners Edward Sandstrom and Frank Stippler and two HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes of Sergey Afanasiev/Andreas Simonsen and Alon Day/Maximilian Buhk. After a superb qualifying effort, Afanasiev was unable to hold onto his starting position of second and slipped to fourth at the start, but Simonsen still brought the car home first in the Pro-Am Cup.
“I was really excited for the start and very concentrated on the first corner, but this was my first mistake, as I went completely wide there at the start,” said Russian ex-single-seater ace Afanasiev. “It was an interesting race, but I am not so delighted with myself, because finishing sixth when we started in second is really not what I expected. I brought the car in fourth position to my team mate and we also did a mistake during the pit stop, so I was a bit disappointed but we will do better later on.”
Home pairing Enzo Ide and Anthony Kumpen took a quiet eighth overall in their Phoenix Racing Audi, ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari of Fabio Onidi and Filip Salaquarda, who were contesting their first race after a qualifying crash ruled them out in Nogaro. Tenth was the Mercedes of Jan Seyffarth and Karun Chandhok.
HTP Gravity Charouz took another class win in the Gentleman Trophy, Petr Charouz and Jan Stovicek overcoming the fact that one of the gullwing on their Mercedes kept opening, albeit finishing five laps down. Their only rivals in the race, the similar Seyffarth-entered machine of Duda Rosa and Paolo Bonifacio, retired.