There’s been something of a common thread across the two Blancpain Sprint races so far this season, which will be of little surprise to anyone who has followed the series in recent years. At Misano, the WRT mechanics worked their magic to give Laurens Vanthoor a healthy margin over Maxi Buhk after the stops and it was a similar story at Brands Hatch, as Christopher Mies found himself ahead of the pole-sitting Mercedes of Jules Szymkowiak thanks to more trademark WRT pitwork.
But what is the secret to their success? We asked WRT team boss Vincent Vosse.
“We do a lot of racing and we’ve been doing this kind of regulations since 2011,” says Vosse, who won the Spa 24 Hours as a driver in 2002. “We are training a lot, we have a dummy car in the workshop we made ourselves that we use to practice.
“We try to do it twice a day, two stops per crew, but it takes a bit of preparation and sometimes we are not able to do it every day, twice a day because we are travelling, or one of the crew is somewhere else. But we try to do it as often as possible!
“We always try to keep the same crews. The people working with us have been here for a few years, so they are already in a rhythm, especially in the first races of the year when teams are not properly up to speed.”
As a testament to their success, WRT are running six cars in the Sprint Cup and four in Endurance in 2016, their pitstop prowess a big draw for drivers loathe to see their hard-earned track position lost through no fault of their own in the pits.
Ever the perfectionist, Vosse recognises there are positives and negatives to running so many cars, but is determined that it will not affect their level of performance.
“You have more space, but on the other side it is more stressful and when you have a safety car you are not concentrating on two cars, you are concentrating on six, so that side is quite difficult!” he said.
“The quality of the teams has grown a lot in the last few years, so to win races now, all the details have to be perfect. I like to be involved and see who is doing what. I used to make some comments but now they know exactly their roles.
“You cannot always have the right BOP, you can make mistakes with tyre pressure, drivers can make a small mistake but those pit times are something in my eyes which are quite easy to gain time. It’s just practicing.”
Having driven for the Belgian squad ever since making the switch from single-seaters in 2012, Vanthoor has benefitted from their slick pitwork on many an occasion, although as he points out, that wasn’t always the case.
“It’s quite a luxury position for a driver to have,” he says. “It’s a must for teams to be prepared because you can gain five seconds in the pits more easily than you can on track. Okay there can always be something that goes wrong, but in a normal case, we will not lose time on pitstops, most of the time we will win time.
“It hasn’t always been like that, in my first year at WRT in 2012 we were not so good at pitstops, but the guys have worked very hard and now they’re like a well-oiled machine. We as drivers have to practice as well because it would be stupid that they are finished and we are not, but normally there’s no problem.”
With a handsome cheque awarded to the crews who set the fastest pitstops across the qualifying and main races, there’s incentive aplenty for each of the crews. Indeed, WRT swept the podium in this regard at Misano, but Vanthoor says winning is all the motivation that is required.
“It’s kind of internal battle in the team to be quickest and everyone is pushing each other, which makes for good team spirit,” he said. “It’s all down to the guys, they want to win as much as I do, that’s a strong point of WRT is we all want the same goal, people are not just working to get their money, they’re really here for racing and winning and that makes the whole team stronger.”