The World Endurance Championship’s debut in Monza couldn’t have been more exciting with duels, incidents and ultimately failures in in every class. Despite a valiant effort by Alpine, ultimately, Toyota recorded its third hypercar victory in a row with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez taking the win in the #7 GR010 – Hybrid.
Despite having run the Prologue at Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale di Monza previously the WEC had not, until today, raced at the fabled track. The circuit’s narrow but fast passages suiting the WEC’s style of racing perfectly. With it’s high average speeds and long straits Monza is perfect to prepare for Le Mans and we saw the WEC’s biggest grid to date with entries such as Risi Competizione using it as a testbed for August’s Blue Ribbon race.
It was not a walk in the (Royal) park though, the winners of the race also had to struggle with a number of problems. While the #7 and #8 Toyotas started the race from positions one and two, a split became apparent in the course of the race with the #7 able to extend its lead and, despite some surprise maneuvers by Glickenhaus and Alpine, held the lead until the end.
Luck was most certainly not with the sister car though and the race for the #8 looked completely different having to visit the pits for repairs several times. Whenever the technicians repaired one issue and sent the car back out, a new problem became apparent shortly afterwards. In the end, the trio of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley were able to finish their race, but some fair way down the field.
Reliability issues also plagued Glickenhaus Racing. The #709 007 LMH, which hit the WEC grid for the first time in Monza, had an almost flawless race and was able to duel with both the Toyota #7 and the #36 Alpine A480. The second car however, (#708) was the subject of technical problems and ultimately retired early.
The top three stood as: Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, the Alpine Elf Matmut A480 #36 in second place and the Glickenhaus Racing’s #709 rounded out the podium places for the first time.
In GTE, AF Corse was under particularly high pressure to perform with Monza being their, and Ferrari’s, local race. For the first time in the history of the WEC, the Italians were given a home race and for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, fans were allowed to return to the track.
It was all the more bitter then for the Italians when France’s Kevin Estre and Switzerland’s Neel Jani, in a German Porsche served them up defeat in Monza. The race started with the Porsche #92 on pole, the #51 Ferrari second the Porsche #91 third on the grid with fourth spot occupied by second of the AF Corse Ferraris, #52 and if you’s slept through the race one may have thought that nothing has changed because after 6 hours the result looked exactly the same.
However, there were countless attacks, changes of position and strategic maneuvers throughout the course of the race; each of the four vehicles held the lead a some point and everything was open until Porsche asserted its reliability and tactics to take the first LMGTE-Pro victory in Italy.
Anglo-American United Autosports USA returned to their winning ways on Italian soil with the #22 Oreca 07 in the hands of Phil Hanson, Fabio Scherer and Filipe Albuquerque, taking the lead after just one hour and defending it almost continuously to the finish line.
Behind the dominant #22 it was a different picture as several incidents along with the extremely high race pace in Monza made the battle for the podium particularly exciting. Perhaps understandably, hardly any other class had as much airtime in Monza as the LMP2 category.
In the end Team WRT made it to second place with their #41 Oreca ahead of Racing Team Nederland in the #29; the Dutch having had to field Frenchman Paul Loup Chatin as a last-minute driver change as Guido had tested positive for Covid and having changed positions particularly often in the race only just made it to the last podium place.
It didn’t end with third place for the #29 trio though as they also scooped the honours for fastest car in the newly introduced Pro / Am sub-rating. Positions two and three in the Pro / Am classification went to Dragonspeed USA (#21) and Realteam Racing (#70).
AF Corse redeemed themselves in the LMGTE-Am class with the #83 of François Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and local-boy Alessio Rovera taking the victory in front of a home crowd.
Ben Keating started on pole in the #33 TF Sport-Aston Martin Vantage AMR and for a long time everything looked like a podium or victory was on for the team, but the contact with a GTE-Pro-Porsche and the subsequent tyre blowout caused irreparable damage to the car.
Into the void stepped the AF Corse Ferrari with the #83 to take the lead which it alternated with the #777 D’Station Aston Martin Vantage AMR and the #56 Project 1-Porsche 911 RSR.
Whilst victory ultimately went to the #83, possibly the highlight of the GTA AM race was the neck and neck race between the two Aston Martins, Paul Dalla Lana’s #98 and the DStation #777 fighting every inch for second place on the podium. In the end, the spoils went to the more experienced crew of the #98 with D’Station Racing picking up a very well earned and hard-fought final podium spot.