First blood for Vanthoor and Ortelli at Nogaro
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT drivers Laurens Vanthoor and Stephane Ortelli won the first race of the FIA GT1 World Championship in Nogaro. On a wet track the Belgian and Monégasque kept their team mates Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis behind and made it a 1-2 for the Belgian team and their Audi R8 LMS ultras.
Due to poor weather conditions at Nogaro, the race was declared a “wet race” well before the start. The weather did however surprise Stef Dusseldorp and the Dutchman crashed his Hexis Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3. The damage inflicted was enough to rule the #1 McLaren out of the race.
Immediately after the official start the safety car returned for what became an extra formation lap. It quickly left again, leaving the drivers to fight under full power. Czech driver Tomas Enge made a lightning start and was the fastest driver in the opening stages of the race. Within no time Enge passed the cars ahead of him and after just three laps the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 moved into the lead of the race.
While Enge pulled away from the rest of the field, Filip Salaquarda held up everyone behind him. Only after almost 15 minutes of racing WRT Audi driver Laurens Vanthoor managed to pass the Ferrari. Alvaro Parente in the second McLaren Hexis was the next driver to go after Salaquarda and after 10 laps the Portuguese driver passed the AF Corse Ferrari.
A strong performance by Laurens Vanthoor then ensured that the gap between the numbers 1 and 2 in the race was reduced from nine to five seconds, but even an extra lap of Vanthoor whilst Enge pitted could not prevent his team-mate Stephane Ortelli from returning to the track behind the Reiter Lamborghini. Albert von Thurn und Taxis came past the pit while the Audi was still there and much to his surprise saw the Hexis Racing McLaren of Gregoire Demoustier pulling out of the pit in second position.
Ortelli put things in order quickly and passed the McLaren after only a couple of corners. The second WRT Audi, in which Frank Stippler had taken over from Oliver Jarvis, passed the McLaren a couple of laps later and both Audi’s started to hunt down the Reiter Lamborghini of Von Thurn und Taxis.
The highly experienced Monégasque managed to close the gap to Von Thurn und Taxis in just a matter of laps and on the lap 28 Ortelli took the lead. Third placed Stippler was also closing in rapidly and by lap 33 Stippler also passed Von Thurn und Taxis to take second position.
On the final lap Demoustier tried to get Hexis Racing on the podium, but he was unable to pass Von Thurn und Taxis and finished in fourth place behind the two Audi’s and the Lamborghini. The fastest car in qualifying, the AF Corse Ferrari of Filip Salaquarda and Toni Vilander crossed the line in fifth place.
(Image: © Markus Berns / SRO)