Insight: WRT and Audi: Behind GT Racing’s “Most Successful Association”
As WRT parts ways with Audi after 13 seasons, Sportscar365 looks back on GT racing’s eminent manufacturer-customer partnership with input from key figures on both sides…
“It’s probably, for the moment, the most successful association in GT racing.”
It is hard to oppose Stephane Ratel’s first sentence when we sit down to discuss the impact of the partnership between Audi and Belgian team WRT over the last 13 years.
Most of WRT’s accolades have come in series and events run by Ratel’s SRO Motorsports Group, including the 24 Hours of Spa. His summary of the WRT-Audi combination is made at the 3 Hours of Barcelona: the final round of another engaging Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season, but more significantly the curtain call for a manufacturer-customer relationship that has been persistent throughout the GT3 platform’s meteoric rise.
In August, WRT announced that it would stop running Audi Sport GT3 cars at the end of the year. The decision was fallout from Audi’s cancelation of its planned LMDh project, on which WRT would have featured as the factory team for the German company’s FIA World Endurance Championship return.
It is difficult to imagine WRT running anything other than an Audi in GT3. The affiliation even pre-dates its 2009 origin, considering team principal Vincent Vosse -- who co-founded WRT with Yves Weerts -- drove an Audi A4 quattro Super Touring in the 1990s. When he did the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Vosse watched the factory Joest team perform spectacular gearbox changes on their R8 LMP1 cars from a nearby garage.
“They brought sports car racing to another level,” he tells Sportscar365. “I remember being a driver next to them when they decided to change the gearbox in three or four minutes. I was amazed by all of this. Wolfgang [Ullrich, former head of Audi Motorsport] and his troop were leading it, and I was in love with that. I thought: one day, if I do something, I want to do it that way. And if possible, with them.”
That opportunity was realized when quattro GmbH, which became Audi Sport in 2016, launched the R8 LMS GT3 for Ratel’s nascent platform in 2009. That year, a dozen cars were built and campaigned successfully by factory-affiliated teams including DTM competitors Abt, Phoenix and Rosberg.