There couldn’t have been a better start to the World GT1 campaign for the Speedhunters-backed WRT Audi team: the cars finished first and second in this afternoon’s Qualifying Race at Nogaro, after starting second and third on the grid. The #32 Audi R8 LMS of GT veteran Stephane Ortelli and single-seater convert Laurens Vanthoor came home first, followed by the sister #33 car driven by Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis.
The two Audis had been dominant all through practice and qualifying at the Circuit Paul Armagnac in the south of France, but had been beaten to pole at the death in Qualifying by the #3 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Filip Salaquarda and Ferrari specialist Toni Villander. WRT have changed to a completely flat black this year, which really makes the bright red – and the Speedhunters stickers – stand out on track. I’m looking forward to seeing the cars in the flesh at the Blancpain Endurance Series round at Monza next weekend!
Third in the Qualifying Race was the #24 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo of Albert von Thurn und Taxis (stepping up from FIA GT3) and Tomas Enge. Enge had put in a typically bullish drive in the damp and greasy conditions to take the lead during his opening stint – he was leading within a couple of laps despite starting on the third row – but vT&T wasn’t able to hold off the more experienced Audi drivers behind him when he took over for the run to the flag. However, he did manage to keep the sole Hexis McLaren behind him and retain the final podium position.
The pole-sitting Ferrari had a poor opening half hour and dropped back to fifth by the flag, just ahead of the two All-Inkl Mercedes SLS.
Hexis’ pair of McLaren MP4-12Cs have had a tough start to the defence of their World Championship teams’ title: starter motor and engine problems afflicted both cars early on in the weekend, dropping them down to one car for the opening race.
Tomorrow’s hour-long, full-points Championship Race takes place at 2.15pm CET tomorrow (1.15pm UK, 7.15am PST), Easter Monday. Just watching the mass rolling start from today’s race should be enough to get everyone fired up for the main event!