That’s no way to treat an Audi R8 GT3 car, really. It might be the end of the FIA GT World Cup season, sure. It might be Macau, the most fearsome street track in the entire world. But really…
Young Belgian endurance specialist Laurens Vanthoor is not unknown to Aussie fans, having finished second at the Bathurst 12 Hour in 2015 with Phoenix Racing. He’s also a pretty handy round-the-clock specialist, winning races at Spa, Nurburgring and Dubai. So maybe it’s the shorter distance that caught him out?
The GT World Cup race had been punctuated by yellow flags to clean up various crashes, and Vanthoor held the lead from New Zealand ace – and Le Mans winner – Earl Bamber with just 15 minutes to go in the time-certain race as the field approached the fearsomely fast Mandarin Bend.
Bamber’s Porsche 911 got a good run on Vanthoor’s R8 before the entry of the almost top-speed right hand kink, which is very similar to turn eight at the Adelaide street track. Vanthoor did the right thing and sat in behind Bamber as they approached the corner at close to 250km/h – but then it all went a bit sideways. And upside down.
Vanthoor’s Audi nibbled the inside kerb, which upset the rear of the car, causing him to slap the outside wall. Unfortunately for the Audi, it’s ridden up the wall, the air has caught the flat bottom of the car and sent Vanthoor into a gentle, yet high speed flip.
“It was actually a very scary thing,” he told a TV reporter. “I’ve had some crashes in my career but this is the first time I have flipped over.”
Thankfully, there were no more impacts with walls or following cars, with the R8 sliding at incredible speed down the track. Vanthoor emerged from the sorry wreck without a scratch, and the event was instantly red-flagged.
“The impact was hard but was acceptable. The scary part was to see the car going up, and you land on your roof – and you are facing everything upside down and seeing all the cars coming down the straight at high speed. That was a bit scary.”
Amazingly, because the results of a red-flagged race are taken from the race order at the end of the last full lap of racing, Vanthoor was declared the winner – despite the fact his R8 was being towed to a pick-and-save yard.
And Vanthoor has no qualms about racing at Macau again, despite the tight circuit claiming more cars than an episode of the Grand Tour.
“I am still standing here so it is fine,” he said. “We have safe cars at Audi, the track is safe – otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here after a 250 km/h crash. It is obviously a bit more exciting than other tracks. but that is why a lot of drivers like to come here and find it very challenging.”
It’s a hell of a way to end the season, at any rate.