McLaren, Porsche and Lamborghini—none of these brands were able to bring Attempto Racing victory in the Blancpain GT Series. The carousel of manufacturers took the team to Audi for 2018. It was a last-minute decision and a top effort to get the team ready for the season-opening weekend in Zolder, but it was good enough to score the team’s maiden win in the championship. While others faltered, Attempto Racing drivers Kelvin van der Linde and Steijn Schothorst drove the Audi R8 LMS GT3 to victory in Zolder.
Back on Saturday reigning Blancpain GT Endurance and outright champions Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart put the rest of the field on notice: the Austrian-Italian team is still the team to beat this year. After their successful 2017 campaign the Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 team returned to the championship as strong as ever, taking the lead away from WRT Audi’s Will Stevens and Dries Vanthoor after the pitstops and going on to win the first race.
Bortolotti and Stevens are bound to go head to head with each other when their cars are lined up on the grid the next day. Looking on from the second row, Kelvin van der Linde has other plans. Determined to go past Stevens at the start, knowing from the end of race 1 that he can take on the Brit, the South African sees Stevens slow down on the start-finish straight to avoid a penalty for a false start and dives into the inside of turn 1 for second position.
As the pit window approaches, Bortolotti has built up an 8-second gap to the Attempto Audi. The team is on its way to the second victory of the weekend when it all falls apart during the drivers change. Engelhart can’t get his seat belts to fasten, losing countless seconds before he can finally take off. Any hopes of reclaiming the lead or even salvaging a podium finish is shattered when he’s handed a penalty due to a mechanic in the working area when he left.
At the same time, it all goes wrong for WRT as well: done with his stop, Vanthoor plows through the cones to mark the end of his pit box.
It hasn’t been WRT’s weekend anyway. First, Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard’s pole position for race 1 was taken away for causing a red flag in qualifying after a track-limit infringement knocked a cone onto the track. Now the Belgian team is bound to take another penalty for the number 2 hitting the cones that have been at pit exit all weekend long.
Through the pitstops Vanthoor has jumped Steijn Schothorst in the Attempto Audi. It’s meaningless, however, as WRT have made their mistake and must pay for it with a drive-through penalty. Frustration sets in and in his push back to the front Vanthoor forces another car into the gravel to earn himself a second penalty.
There’s no more resistance to Schothorst. It’s now an easy ride over the rolling hills of Limburg towards the finish. In the team’s first attempt, weeks after the German squad took delivery of its Audis, Schothorst drives it home to victory.
Photos by Miguel Bosch.