A stormy changeable Spa-Francorchamp circuit saw the return of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the running of Round Six, the Total Six Hours of Spa. The first WEC race since the Austin Lone Star Le Mans round in February 2020 got underway behind the safety car to assist with water clearance following rain before the race, which saw a number of cars caught out en route to the grid.
In sometime difficult conditions requiring the intervention of the safety car just to moderate the pace the four-wheel hybrid drive of the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050’s proved themselves very capable coming home 1-2 with the #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez ahead of the #8 of Sebastian Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley.
The field spent four laps at the start of the race behind the safety car, with pole-sitter #1 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson leading the field to the green flag. He proved a siting duck out of La Source for the following Toyotas which promptly dragged by. Buemi in the #8 led early on, but a brief mechanical issue slowed him and once passed the #7 had a clean and clear run for the remainder of the race.
The #1 sole Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson demonstrated reliability and pace, taking the fastest lap of 2:02.154 but early issues dropped it back and it took to mid-race for it to take control of the third step of the podium. A reliable run for Norman Nato, Gustavo Menezes and Bruno Senna which will have gathered useful data and been a good refresher prior to Rebellion’s final Le Mans attendance in September.
The #4 ByKolles Enso CLM p1/01-Gibson had a solid run Tom Dillmann putting in a considerable stint but also mentioning a number of electronic/mechanical issues. Unfortunately in the final hour the car was backed into its garage and the engine cover removed to deal with issues with the exhaust and they were classified 17 laps adrift of the leaders by the chequered flag. Again useful data collected and a car dusted down for the customary push for Le Mans.
LMP2 – #22 United Autosports can’t stop that Winning Feeling
LMP2 is fast becoming the class to keep an eye on, and for WEC at Spa it was not simply who could sharpen their Oreca 07-Gibson the best, for the battle from the 2-hour mark was characterised as a struggle between Oreca and Dallara, driver line-ups ultimately proving the distinct difference.
In Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul di Resta United Aurosports have found a great combination and they sealed their third consecutive WEC win in LMP2 for United Autosports. Filipe started the #22 Oreca 07-Gibson from class pole and lead comfortably in the early stages even challenging the position of the LMP1 #4 ByKolles. But an astounding drive from the rear of the grid (not class) saw the #29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07-Gibson of Giedo van der Garde take the lead at the conclusion of the second hour.
Van der Garde handed over to Job van Uitert who extended the bumblebee black-yellow liveried prototype’s advantage necessarily as third driver bronze-rated Frits van Eerd needed to deliver a minimum stint duration in the fifth hour.
Van Eerd continues to do his best, but against the irresistable talents of former formula 1 talent like United Autosports’ Paul di Resta and #36 Signatech Alpine’s young gun, Thomas Laurent, resistance is futile. Should you have witnessed the full-send battle between Di Resta and Laurent you would be in little doubt Van Eerd would not stand a chance, ‘Do or Die’ was never a more fitting statement! Di Resta won that fight set about Van Eerd and was gone, never to be seen again.. Laurent however well…
Whether youthful over-exuberance or a tired gentleman caught out, we can settle for a racing incident, the Red River Sport GTE-Am was swallowed up, Van Eerd to the right, Laurent to the left on approach to Blanchimont, a fourth car the #4 ByKolles an idle observer, as Van Eerd resumed the sweeping racing line to bear-left around the left-hander, Laurent briefly was forced partially to the grass, a clip, air taken from the Signatech and the car rotates sideways across the track onto the opposite grass and leftsided into the thankfully deep tyre-layered barrier. Mercifully slight rebound and a now battered Alpine retains its upright stance and comes to rest battered, the left side wiped mostly off but with the tub intact.
Laurent was able to collect his thoughts and hobble from the car as the race once again went under Safety Car (fourth & final) for the clean-up.
On resumption of the race, Paul Di Resta took his comfortable lead onto victory, while the appropriately named #42 Cool Racing ORECA 07-Gibson of Nicolas Lapierre, Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny took second place with the #29 Racing Team Nederland making a stop to swap Van Eerd for more of Giedo van der Garde. A move that was rewarded with the third step of the podium.
GTE-Pro – Porsche Pole to Podium…
Reigning Champions, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen had to fight for the duration of the race to take their first class victory of the season in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19. The automated BoP has created a fine balance between the three brands in GTE-Pro, and the changeable weather conditions only went to highlight just how fine that balance is.
The initial wet conditions appeared to favour the AF Corse Ferraris and the Porsche RSRs seemed to have a better ability to go with them whilst the Aston Martin Vantage AMRs struggled. However as the track dried the pendulum swung back the other way with Aston Martin and Porsche seemingly able to apply their power advantage to move back to the front of the GTE-Pro field.
The #95 Aston Martin suffered an early puncture through Blanchimont but was able to swiftly pit and Sorensen/Thiim were able to make an impressive recovery. They were able to take the class lead late in the fourth hour when the #92 Christensen Porsche locked up at Les Combes, but on the restart from the last safety car, the sister #97 Aston Martin of Lynn and Martin took the class lead.
Kevin Estre #92 pressured Maxime Martin and the #97 driver cracked at La Source running wide, the #92 resuming its run to victory. Furthermore the #97 was running low on fuel and had to make brief stop. The Aston held onto third, while Christensen and Estre took the chequered flag ahead of the #95 of Sorensen/Thiim in second place. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi finished fourth in the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, just ahead of the second Porsche.
Ferrari further proved how close the competition is in GTE by picking up the win in GTE-Am. The #83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo crew of Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen, drove a measured clean fast race to come out on top. For two-thirds of the race it looked like a Porsche-fest, but each faded away as the Ferrari picked up pace.
The polesitting #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried, Riccardo Pera and Matt Campbell came home second, pursued by the TF Sport crew, who struggled in wet conditions but the Vantage’s grunt was well applied as conditions improved, resulting in a third and final class podium place for Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood.
Click below for a quick video review of proceedings.
Next… Le Mans…