source: Audi Sport Italia
• Mike den Tandt faces fast-improving learning curve in Audi Sport Italia car
• Central stint under relentless pressure doesn’t make blink Charles Weerts
Campagnano, Italy — Before the Italian GT Endurance field was unleashed for the third round of the domestic Endurance series, Charles Weerts and Mike Den Tandt were adamant about their goal: they were focused on mileage and willing to put in an many laps as possible onboard Emilio Radaelli’s Audi R8 LMS. Which was supposed to translate for them in precious track time at the Rome venue which is to host FIA Nations Cup in early November. Therefore with their sight on the opportunity to shoot for the big prize in a Belgium-liveried WRT car, they didn’t wish to have their plans dereailed by tussles. They succeeded in this, completing a flawless 3 Hours race that did not spare casualties as well as a volley of penalties among front-runners in seventh place, after starting from the fifth row.
The 20-car field took on the 4.085 kilometer venue on a Sunday afternoon more in sync with the retreating summer than the forthcoming autumn. Den Tandt had his hand full with the first stint: the Leipzig, Germany based Flemish driver at the end of the opening lap was occupying the same ninth position he had started from. He managed to comply to his task of improving steadily lap in and lap out as he actually trimmed a few tenths of a second in each of the seven laps that opened the race. As he headed to the pit lane, Den Tandt had a 46-second gap from the Lamborghini of Postiglione/Mul/Frassineti –the Huracan led starting from pole, but eventually was cut off from victory chase due to a mechanical problem. As Weerts started the central shift, he was eighth and 48-second adrift of the top spot. The young Aubel, Belgium-based driver spent nearly the whole stint defending the position from the attacks of the Ferrari 488 of the South African David Perel — not an easy customer, if you think in mind that he had set the best time in the second of three qualifying sessions yesterday. However, the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari was unable to pip the lone Audi and both, just like most of the opponents, returned to the pit lane at the same time when a safety car was deployed just as the second mandatory driver change was opening.
The final hour saw Den Tandt back on track in seventh place. Courtesy of a track for most of the stint clear of close GT3 foes — lapping GT4 traffic was a whole different story — the Belgian resumed his roadmap. Despite an intermittent and annoying problem that prevented him from always counting on all the available power, Den Tandt improved lap after lap and on the 92nd lap, with the checker looming close, he did the best time of the day for the Belgian four ring line-up, also putting in laps at a pace not unlike the Top5 drivers. His fast improving learning curve allowed him to keep the seventh place safe from the comeback of the Ferrari 488 of Balzan/Veglia/Cioci, a car that was leading after 2 Hours but was then forced to an unexpected pit-stop by a puncture. The Vallelunga race ultimately maked the second season win for the BMW M6 GT3 of Sims/Johansson/Comandini, with the Briton shining at clutch time.