The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS No.1 of Christopher Haase, Christopher Mies and Stephane Ortelli (MCO) secured overall victory in an incident-packed race at Circuit Paul Ricard.
“This is great not just because of the podium but we also came ahead of BMW. I really think this comes down to the team, they gave us such a great car,” Mies said. “Our strategy and pit stop were brilliant and at the correct time and all this together combined to this excellent finish. This wasn’t a normal race for me, right from the start to the end we were really pushing extra hard; now we leave with some good points.”
Light rain fell just before the start but cleared by the formation lap and the action began on a drying but greasy track surface. Rain was never a factor in the race unlike at Monza and Silverstone in the opening two rounds.
The 2011 PRO teams’ champions led home the 2012 season pace-setters Bas Leinders, Maxime Martin and Markus Palttala in the No.3 Marc VDS Racing BMW Z4. It broke a sequence of four straight wins in Blancpain Endurance Series races for the Belgian team.
“I have been racing here many times but never with so many cars so it is a good feeling to win here in such tough competition,” Ortelli said. “I am pleased for my co-drivers and for the team. We have a great family feeling at WRT. It was a good comeback after a difficult Free Practice. I want to dedicate this win to my dad Jean who first brought me here in 1973.”
Third place went to the No.71 PRO Kessel Racing Ferrari of Italian trio Stefano Gattuso, David Rigon and Daniel Zampieri.
In fourth overall and first in PRO-AM was the No.52 AF Corse Ferrari of Niek Hommerson (NLD), Louis Machiels (BEL) and Andrea Bertolini (ITA). It was a stunning performance from 27th on the grid.
“Yesterday we did not expect to be on the podium because everyone has been really competitive this weekend, but last night I had a good glass of wine, some people say it’s not a good idea but it helps,” Machiels said. “It was one of the most difficult races for me, it was quite hot in the car but we managed.
“Our whole race came together nicely due to good pace and I have to thank Niek (Hommerson) for his excellent start and a brilliant finish by Andrea (Bertolini).”
The tale of the race was a string of retirements from the front runners. As a consequence, the finishing order both overall and in class had a fresh look about it as the incidents and accidents took their toll.
There were some notable casualties among the contenders at the sharp end. Among them was the pole-sitting PRO-AM No.64 Black Bull Swiss Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Mirko Venturi (ITA) which made an unscheduled visit to the pit lane after 12 minutes with a terminal gearbox problem. The Ferrari had been on the pace all weekend and had been expected to finish strongly in the race. Venturi was credited with the fastest lap of the race – a 1:57.845.
There was also drama in the Gentlemen Trophy class with the GCR Racing/Guy Clairay Dodge Viper No.82 catching fire at T12 with one hour remaining.
The mishap allowed the Swedish trio of Jan Brunstedt, Mikael Bender and Jocke Mangs, the pole sitters in the class in the JB Motorsport Audi R8 LMS No.98, to take the spoils.