1 – Brands Hatch – 4/5 May 2019
AUDI R8 LMS GT3 #24 (Stievenart / Ortelli – Pro-Am) – Qualifications : 24 – 24
Withdrawal for Race 1 & Race 2
AUDI R8 LMS GT3 #25 (Gachet / Haase) – Qualifications : 10 – 18
Race 1 : 16 – Pro : 9 / Race 2 : 7 – Pro : 7
AUDI R8 LMS GT3 #26 (Palette / Winkelhock) – Qualifications : 18 – 21
Race 1 : Retired – Pro : NC / Race 2 : Retired – Pro : NC

Championship : 1. Engel / Stolz 29,5 pts – 2. Neubauer / Bastian 18,5 – 3. Schmid / Van der Linde  13,5 
… 10. Gachet / Haase 3 pts – … NC. Palette / Winkelhock  –  Stievenart / Ortelli.

If the French team representing Audi Sport expected not to have the easy game on the circuit of Kent, it did not suspect how it would suffer the race facts during the two days of this first World Challenge Europe round of the season. However, Markus WINKELHOCK’s fourth performance with Audi R8 LMS # 26 in the first free practice seemed to put the hopes of SAINTéLOC Racing high enough. At the same time, with a weather marked by untimely rain, the atmosphere around the # 25 was showered by the clutch problem that prevented Simon GACHET to complete a single lap.

Qualifying 1 on Saturday afternoon saw Simon achieve a very honorable 10th time on a dry track, when Steven PALETTE and Nyls STIEVENART, in relative lack of experience and rhythm, signed the 18th and 24th fastest time. A violent rain came a few minutes after the start of qualifying 2. Unfortunately, Christopher HAASE and Markus WINKELHOCK, who were at the back of the line from the pit lane, had not had time to complete a lap with their slicks, when the red flag appeared. Because Stéphane ORTELLI was trapped by the downpour and crashed on the Audi of christopher Mies ahead of him on the sudden rink. Chassis severely touched and not repairable, the Audi # 24 withdrawn for the rest of the meeting. Christopher was going to be the fastest rider on rain tires, as he did not have any lap times yet, and finished 18th in grid 2 with Markus finishing 21st.

With dry weather on Sunday, the first start annihilated the big results hopes of the two Audi SAINTÉLOC. The scramble in front of them at the first corner forced Gachet to pass in the gravel, while Palette could not avoid a contact. The # 26 unfortunately had to return to the stand, water cooler damaged. From the 21st to the 4th position at the time of his staggered stop, Simon was relayed by Christopher Haase who went back to the 16th, but had to serve a pit stop caused by his teammate during a yellow flag period. After that, the # 25 was again 16th in this race 1.

Race 2 turned into a curse of Paddock Bend for the red and white Audi # 26: Markus Winkelhock, sandwiched and rubbed by two opponents just before the curve entered, felt a steering rod break and could not avoid pulling straight into the gravel. Pointing 15th in the first lap with blue and white # 25, Christopher narrowly avoided the elimination in the 7th lap in a collective clash. After a double spin, with damage to the right door, the German driver went to the stand to repair, then taking advantage of the neutralization to return to contact the peloton. From the 19th rank, he went up two places before leaving the wheel to Simon Gachet. The French driver, with a very good stop made by the team, was going to resume a good pace and enjoy some overtaking, as well as some penalties or technical problems suffered by opponents. Finally ending on a place synonymous with three first points scored was likely to give some smiles to all members of the team, who needed after this tumultuous weekend.

Quotes :

Simon GACHET : “As we did not drive in free practice 1, because of our clutch problem, my qualifying position was not bad. Losing an hour of testing is a lot. This has delayed our plans. For my qualification, the last three or four minutes were completely dry. Even though my theoretical time was 5 tenth faster, which might have put me 6th, my 10th place was correct. The start of the race was very complicated. I avoided the big crash, but I lost a lot of positions to the last one. It’s a shame because we thought there was a good opportunity to score big points on this first race, after the disappointment of the second qualification. In addition, we took a drive through, which relegated us far. During the whole race, I was in traffic, my partial times were not very good because stuck behind less fast competitors. At one point there was a yellow flag when I had just found myself alone with space in front of me. So I did not slow down enough and I was too fast in the sector. In race 2, Christopher made a good start, although he was a little touch on the two rear wheels in contacts. Then there was this big crash where Christopher found himself right in it. It’s a miracle, he was lucky and clever. The door were destroyed, and it is also thought that the car was mechanically touched, because the car was not moving very straight then. We still managed to finish the race and score points was good, which seemed unexpected in race 2. But it’s still grueling to miss out on a race weekend, because honestly we have a crew that has everything to be in front and be able to win races. It must be said that the Mercedes were relatively untouchable this weekend, and we had to be the best underdogs possible.“

Stéphane ORTELLI : „This is the first time in 30 years that it has happened to me to miss the start because of an accident at the tests. First we needed, Nyls Stievenart and I, to measure what was waiting for us. I tried to help him better and prepare what we had to do. Unfortunately, we did very few laps in free practice because of the many red flags. Nyls‘ qualification could have been a bit better in her session, without these already difficult weather conditions. For mine, we left the stands when it was necessary. It was good for this complete lap on the dry … except at the last corner! The rain has come to one side. This turn is blind and downhill. When I got to the top, I started to get some drops, but in front of me, Christopher Mies‘ Audi, though he was also experienced, whom I did not see, not being close enough to him, had already crash the wall outside. Unfortunately, he hurt his knee in the steering column by tapping front and could not put his foot on the brake pedal. As for me, I could do nothing more than brake, not knowing where his car would stop. And with slicks, I lost the car and hitted him. Once back in pits, as I was explaining to Nyls what had happened, I really appreciated Christopher Mies’s apology and why he could not stop his car from bouncing off the track. The car was too damaged to be repaired.“

Photos Sainteloc Racing / Pro-Photos-Sport (Daniel et Davy Delien)
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