Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor are crowned 2013 FIA GT Series champions in Baku, Azerbaijan, after taking their first victory of the season in the final race aboard the Team WRT Audi R8 LMS.
The Brazilian Grand Prix wasn’t the only season closing race to be affected by rain. The FIA GT Series finale in Baku was delayed by nearly two hours when heavy rain doused the circuit, a situation not aided by a power failure knocking out the street circuit’s lighting system. Such problems didn’t seem to affect the mood of Team WRT Audi’s Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor who walked away from Azerbaijan with the inaugural FIA GT Series title.
The Vanthoor/Ortelli pair put a poor outing at Zandvoort to bed with a decisive victory in the closing Championship Race after complications at a messy start on the new street circuit dropped the polesitting Audi R8 LMS of Niki Mayr-Melnhof and Rene Rast – winners of the opening Qualifying Race of the weekend – down the order. The strongest challenge to the champions elect therefore came from the HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG of Alon Day and the returning Maximilian Buhk, who missed round five in Navarra. After a difficult opening Qualifying Race in which the pair finished 13th, a long opening stint brought the SLS to the front of the pack. It would not be a repeat of the pair’s victory at Zandvoort however, temporary loss of power to the engine allowing the Vanthoor/Ortelli Audi through and dropping the Gravity Charouz Merc back.
In the last race for Hexis Racing before the squad closes its doors, the McLaren 12C of Rob Bell and Kevin Estre benefited to claim the second step of the podium. It was a remarkable comeback for the pair, who – having finished third in the Qualifying Race – dropped to the tail of the field on the opening lap of the Championship Race with a puncture. Contact between the Hexis McLaren and Gravity Charouz Mercedes just three laps from the end however did not go down well with the race officials, who handed ten second penalties to both cars post-race. Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb and Alvaro Parente were the lucky benefactors, jumping from fourth to second in Loeb’s eponymously entered McLaren 12C. The Grasser Lamborghinis of Dominik Baumann and Hari Proczyk – who secured Pro-Am race victory – and Filip Sladecka and Stefan Rosina (who took Championship Race glory at Zolder alongside Peter Kox) rounded out the Championship Race top six.
It was a weekend to forget for championship runners-up Frank Stippler and Edward Sandstrom, race victors at the opening round in Nogaro. Whilst standings rivals Vanthoor and Ortelli took second in the Qualifying Race, their WRT teammates could only manage eighth. Worse was to come in the season closing Championship Race when a slow pitstop cost them dearly. Despite a noble effort, the pair could only manage 11th overall. Andreas Simonsen and Sergei Afanasiev in the HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG secured the Pro-Am title with a race to spare, taking seventh overall in the Qualifying Race.