It’s an exciting season finale in the 2021 European Le Mans Series and there was no better way to sign off than at the 4hrs of Portimão with a final podium finish. Louis Delétraz and ORLEN Team WRT had already wrapped up the Championship in the previous round at Spa and finished the season strongly on podium.
The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve played host to the final round of the 2021 season, one of a driver’s favourite track due to the “rollercoaster” and sweeping corners, and a track that’s also familiar with the REMUS-supported driver, Louis Delétraz who has been impressive here earlier in the season racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The warm Portuguese sun beamed across the paddock, as the green light flashed, and the race week got underway with the usual 90-minute session to start Free Practice 1. The team, full of confidence were ready to finish the season on a high and it was a speedy start to the session with Louis Delétraz and the team, Champions elect finishing the session top of the timesheet with an impressive time of 1:32.305 to set the early benchmark for the rest of the grid.
The situation changed in the second Free Practice session. The ORLEN Team WRT focused on longer runs and tried some different options with the car set-up in order to prepare for qualification, but most importantly the 4h endurance race.
The Swiss driver, Louis Delétraz took to the track in the final Qualifying session of the season. It was an intense session, and up until the final seconds the chance for Pole Position exchanged a number of times before the flag waved to signal the end as Team WRT claimed a P5 start with their best time of 1:31.461.
The excitement was building up before the race start. As the teams prepared for the formation lap and rolling start, Robert Kubica was first to lead the #41 ORLEN Team WRT across the start line and raced down to turn 1, a tight right-hander. It was a clean first lap and Robert made his move to move up into P4 and then quickly into P3.
However, 30 minutes into the 4hrs of Portimão there was a big incident, resulting in the Safety Car being deployed and then shortly after the race was Red Flagged. Team WRT made their first stop, making a full service and a driver change to Yifei Yi. The race resumed, and the team had it all to do slipping down the order to P6. But after some good strategy calls, they were soon leading the race after stopping in the pits on Lap 58.
On Lap 87, the team made their third full-service pit-stop and Yifei handed the #41 to Louis Delétraz for the last stint of the race. With the race entering its last hour, ORLEN Team WRT was in the lead but the United #22 was virtually ahead. The only hope for victory was to try and change only the two left hand side tyres and not all four. As this could mean getting the track position and defending the lead. But unfortunately, Louis exited the pits a few seconds behind the United #22 and had to settle for 2nd Place. It wasn’t all smooth as the tyre degradation was very high.
The chequered flag waved down on the 2021 European Le Mans Series with Louis Delétraz and ORLEN Team WRT claiming a final podium of the season in P2, topping off a sensational winning and successful season!
Louis Delétraz: “The race was strong, and we are happy with another podium. Starting from P5 was not optimal but Robert did a great job and moved up a few positions. Then the race was Red Flagged and that opened different a strategy window. In general, our pace was not so strong, but we all executed our job well I would say. At the end the gamble was to change only two tyres and not four to gain time in the pits, and it was our only chance for the win and maybe it was too aggressive. But I’m happy we tried and gave it 100% for the victory. No regrets. This year has been amazing, I want to thank all of the Team WRT crew and also my two teammates. It was a pleasure to be proud of that success and share all those good moments with them.”