In Imola Stienes Longin and Nicolas Saelens made their debut in the Fanatec GT2 European Series. The PK Carsport duo immediately made a strong impression in the Pro-Am class, taking pole position for both races and claiming their maiden win at the wheel of their Audi R8 LMS GT2. Time to catch up with the Belgian duo.
How did it feel to take your maiden win on your very first weekend in the series?
Saelens: “That was obviously absolutely fantastic! Imola is a great track, and we managed to get a great set-up, thanks to the hard work of the team. It took some time before I fully got used to the car in race conditions, but in the second race I managed to make a mental switch and immediately the lap times improved.”
What did you find was the biggest challenge in the first round of the season?
Longin: “We had one year less experience than most of the other drivers, so we had to try and make up that deficit as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we prepared well for the start of the season, so we were able to catch up rather swiftly. Otherwise we would never have claimed pole position and a win.”
These were your first races with a GT2 car, for both of you. How did that feel?
Saelens: “There is an obvious difference with a GT3 car, but I was very impressed by the GT2 Audi. It’s a powerful car, and it really suits me. Now it’s up to us and the team to make some further progress, something that will be necessary in this competitive field.”
Did you expect to be on the top step of the podium on your first race weekend?
Saelens: “No, not at all. I was aiming for a top-five finish. We knew that the level of the other drivers would be high – not in the least our PK Carsport teammates Bert Longin and Peter Guelinckx – and that it would be very difficult to achieve a good result.”
How did you find the level of competition in your first GT2 races?
Longin: “It’s impressive. I’ve done my fair share of sprint championships in the past, and the level of competition in the GT2 European Series is quite high. In every race, every lap, every corner, you have to be at your best. If you don’t fully focus, and miss a couple of corners for example, the other drivers will catch you very quickly.”
Next up, it’s the Red Bull Ring in Austria. How do rate your chances there, can you deliver more of the same?
Longin: “I have never driven on the Austrian track, but Nicolas has, and our PK Carsport team have tested there as well, with the other Audi of the team. So, we will have a good base to start from, just as in Imola. My expectations are quite similar: I don’t expect to be P1, but I would like to score plenty of points for the championship.”
Saelens: “I have indeed done some races in Spielberg, winning the Pro-Am class in the Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux last year. We’ll see what we can do in the Fanatec GT2 European Series. It is very important that we remain realistic in our ambitions, but it would be great if we could again fight for a podium finish.”
The #11 PK Carsport duo will be back in action for round two of the Fanatec GT2 European Series at the Red Bull Ring, Austria, 20-22 May.