25 year old Belgian becomes Champion of the European GT Academy 2012
On Saturday, August 25, 2012, the 8-day European racecamp of the GT Academy 2012 held at the Silverstone Circuit of the UK came to a close, and the 25 year old Belgian, Wolfgang Reip was selected as the champion from the 36 finalists who took part. The GT Academy started this year with online qualifiers held through the limited time download title, "GT Academy 2012". With both skill and determination Wolfgang has come through to the top from 830,000 participants, gaining his ticket to becoming a real racing driver.
The European GT Academy now being held for the 4th time this year has been expanded with richer scale and content. The racecamp went on for 8 days, the longest ever, with 36 participants on site, the largest number ever to enter Racecamp together. And a group of ultra professional mentors for each of the participant regions gave advice and tutoring during this period. With names like Sebastien Buemi, Johnny Herbert, Rene Arnoux, and Tim Coronel in the list, you can understand the incredibly high level of the mentors gathered for this event.
There was also a change in the participant countries this year. This year there were 6 members from each of the 6 regions; France, Italy, UK/Ireland, Iberia (Spain/Portugal), Benelux (Belgium/Holland/Luxemburg) and Switzerland/Austria/Poland for a total of 36. Germany and Russia had their own independent racecamps as with the United States, and they will select their own champions for this year.
On Friday, August 17, the 36 finalists were flown in by helicopter to give them a full view of the grounds where they will fight for the top. From the following day on the 18th, they were in for a grueling, tight schedule that would last for 8 days straight. Racecamp started with a driving benchmark in Nissan 370Z's. From there they repeated uncountable numbers of circuit tests, as well as experiencing rally driving and even drag strip racing to gage their racing potential.
Of course the benchmarking is not limited to driving alone. The group underwent top athlete level physical testing, the ARDS test for acquiring a circuit license, a setup challenge where they are tested for cooperative skills and leadership, as well as analysis by a sports psychiatrist. The long list of the curriculum went on and on, with every last minute of their week scheduled for one activity or another.
Through these tests and challenges, the number of finalists were narrowed down for each region. On the third day 2 members from each region were eliminated, reducing the remaining total to 24. On the 5th day when Kazunori Yamauchi made his visit, another person was eliminated for a total of 18. And on the 6th day, the top finalist for each region was selected, narrowing down the group to the final 6.
On the 7th day with just 2 days remaining, the 6 finalists were given a challenge on an incredible stage; They were to compete in a "GT Academy Race" that will be held as a part of the WEC (World Endurance Championship Series) event going on this weekend. The Champion of the European GT Academy 2012 will be determined from the content and results of this race. And in the WEC, former GT Academy Champion Lucas Ordonez and Jordan Tresson are racing LMP2 class cars, making this a climax that brings together both the past and present of the GT Academy.
On August 25, the 6 man race in the Nissan 370Z started with crowds of spectators on the grandstands. The Belgian Wolfgang took off in the lead, having attained pole position in the previous qualifying day. He assesses the difficult course conditions carefully, and pulls away from the rest. The Italian driver Andrea put up a great fight attempting to get ahead, but Wolfgang held fast to his position and received the checkered flag for a pole to win finish. With this undeniable victory, he secured himself the seat of this year's GT Academy Champion.
Wolfgang shed tears of joy on the podium, but as with previous years, there are still trials ahead for the champion. With only a short time to rest, he will return again immediately to the UK to participate in the intensive training program that will earn him his international racing license. He will gain experience by racing in various events, and prepare for the prestigious Dubai 24 hour race happening in January.
[Commnet from Wolfgang Reip:]
"It is incredible, just incredible. I cried on the podium because there was so much emotion. It has been such a long week. There were so many different challenges and so much to learn and experience. To come out at the end of it as the winner, out of so many people who took part is just unbelievable.
I really wanted to win in the race. It was a very difficult track because of the rainy conditions. There were constant changes, corner after corner the track got wetter in some parts and drier in others. I had the race under control. (The Italian) Andrea tried to pass me going into copse, but I knew I could re-pass him on the exit of the corner so it wasn't a threat."
[Comment from Benelux mentor Bas Leinders:]
"In the race there were two guys who did a great job. The Italian, Andrea, started from the back of the grid but got a good start and was quickly up to second and challenging. For 'Wolf', it was hard to start from pole in the wet, but he was able to pull away until the last lap. Both have real potential and everyone felt they both deserve the chance to be racing. However, we had to make a decision, and the logical choice was the guy who had qualified on pole and won the race. I feel really strongly about this guy. He is top notch and can really do it. In the deliberation I put my reputation on the line arguing his case."