A brilliant stint in horrible conditions from Rene Rast secured a first victory of the season for the WRT Audi squad during a chaotic Blancpain Sprint Series race at Zandvoort.
The R8 had not been in contention for the victory until quick work in the pits and a series of stunning laps from the German closed #3 to the back of the #84 HTP Mercedes of Max Buhk.
Rast, taking over the car from team mate Enzo Ide at the first opportunity, put in some astonishing laps to push the R8 into contention as Buhk’s teammate Max Gotz stayed out for much longer.
When Buhk took to the wheel he still retained several seconds advantage over Rast, but could do nothing to respond to the hard charging Audi.
After running behind the Mercedes for several laps, and with the series newcomer Schubert BMW closing in on them both Rast made his move, utilising his confidence in the tricky conditions to steer the R8 around the outside of the SLS at the chicane.
Rast then continued his pace, pulling a three second gap to Buhk and the #76 BMW in third at the hands of Dominik Baumann.
Baumann would soon follow Rast past Buhk, when the German lost control of the SLS with just over 10 minutes to go.
That seemed to leave Rast with a clear run at the chequered flag, but as usual with GT3 racing it would not be that simple.
As the track began to dry the R8’s pace evaporated with the water and, sensing a chance at a debut victory Baumann hunted down the #2.
Rast was forced to fight a rearguard action for the last ten minutes of the race, with the #76 regularly pulling almost alongside the defensive Audi.
But the fairytale victory wasn’t to be as Rast held on to award the WRT squad their first triumph of 2014.
Buhk, who slipped down to sixth after the spin, was able to move back up to fourth before the finish, but came across the line 17 seconds behind the final podium spot, taken by the second series debutantes, Robert Renauer and Jaap van Lagen in the #21 Herberth Porsche.
The race had started in dramatic circumstances. As the field accelerated to the first corner Roman Rusinov bounced his #3 G-Drive R8 off two more Audis before slewing across the track and taking out himself and the Bhaitech McLaren of Fabio Onidi.
The incident brought out the safety car as marshals were forced to undertake barrier repairs where the cars had made contact.
The Grasser racing pair of Hari Proczyk and Jeroen Bleekemolen, who had taken pole after a stunning defensive drive during the qualifying race led the first half of the main race before Proczyk dove for the pits as soon as the window opened to hand over to the dutch GT ace.
But their challenge would end there, an incredibly slow pit stop dropped them way out of contention, and then the usually ultra consistent Bleekemolen suffered an uncharacteristic spin shortly after exiting the pits.
The second WRT Audi, which qualified third after the rain soaked first race, managed to snag a single point after it fell down the order as the rain arrived.
Laurens Vanthoor, at the wheel of the #1, made the last second decision to make a second stop for rain tyres, but he was so late the WRT mechanics were completely unaware and Vanthoor was left stood on the R8’s jacks before being ordered to head back out.
Sascha Halek and Stefan Landmann took the Pro-Am Trophy victory in the second Grasser racing Lamborghini, losing fifth to Bleekemolen in the closing stages as the #26 raced back through the grid.
The Silver Cup went to the #4 WRT Audi of Mateusz Lisowski and Vincent Abril. They had looked in contention for an overall podium as the rain fell just when Lisowski brought the R8 into the pits.
That allowed Abril, with far more grip than the cars around him, to charge up through the pack, but as the track dried his grooved tyres overheated and he was forced to settle for ninth.
The result means Buhk and Gotz extend their lead in the Sprint Series to eight points over Proczyk and Bleekemolen while HTP’s lead in the team’s championship is slashed to just two points as WRT move up to second.
Despite struggling Alessandro Latif and Marc Basseng retain a two point advantage over Landman and Halek in Pro Am while Losowski and Abril extend their lead in Silver Cup.
In the overall championship Buhk now holds a 22 point lead over teammate Gotz while HTP’s lead in the teams standings is cut to just two points by WRT.
The Blancpain series now moves on to the showpiece Spa 24 Hours later this month.