Team WRT took a fantastic FIA WEC LMP2 win, in front of its home crowd, in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Rui Andrade, Louis Delétraz and Robert Kubica in car #41 took the lead at the very end of a thrilling race, while Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns and Ferdinand Habsburg, also in contention for the win in car #31, crossed the finish line as sixth, after being unlucky with the safety-car.
The win comes at the perfect time, ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in mid-June. Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse was happy after a stressful day: “We did it, but it was really a difficult race to understand and to manage. We had to cope with a lot of strategy changes. Eventually, we were at the right place at the right moment. It looked as car #31 could win, then it was either of them, and finally it was #41, but we proved competitive with both. Rui, Louis and Robert are happy, and I am happy for them, the other team is a little bit disappointed, but this is just normal. The good thing is that we won and are second in the championship, eight points behind the leaders, as we go to Le Mans.”
It was a good start to the weekend for the Belgian squad, with a lot of work done in free practice sessions, where car #31 topped the rankings in both the second and third sessions, with Robin Frijns and Ferdinand Habsburg, on a dry and wet track, respectively.
Qualifying was successful on both sides of the garage, despite the slight disappointment of narrowly missing out on pole position. Louis Deletraz was second-fastest in car #41, securing a spot in the front row, with car #31 in second row, as Robin Frijns qualified fourth.
On the day race, a typical Belgian drizzle welcomed the participants, most of which donned slick tyres on the grid. Still, it was a relatively quiet start, with Sean Gelael in car #31 and Rui Andrade in car #41 keeping their positions, respectively second and fourth. Both Team WRT cars were on slick tyres in the first two stints, which ended with Andrade in third and Gelael in fourth.
Robin Frijns (#31) and Louis Delétraz (#41) were fourth and fifth when, in lap 41, the safety car had to intervene after a big accident at the Raidillon. The middle third of the race saw a perfect performance by the two cars and faultless pit stops and strategy, as the two cars ran close to each other and climbed positions, with Frijns eventually taking the LMP2 lead. At the mid-race mark the two cars of the Belgian squad were sitting in first and second positions, fighting hard with cars from both JOTA and United Autosports. Fate then brought bad luck to car #41 as it hit misfortune with one of the safety-car periods when Robert Kubica took the wheel, dropping him to seventh, more than one minute from the lead.
The final two hours saw both cars fighting hard, and for car #41 climbing positions, although being on different strategies. Eventually, a new safety car intervention completely changed the shape of the race as Louis Delétraz in car #41 found himself in a better position, charged hard to take second place and then reduced the gap significantly to car #23 of United Autosports of Tom Blomqvist. Both had to stop for a last splash and dash 12 minutes from the finish. The Team WRT crew was faster in the pits and that meant victory, while Robin Frijns concluded sixth, only 27 seconds behind.
Louis Delétraz: “The win is just fantastic. Two hours from the end, when we were second from the bottom, it was hard to believe that we could win. The team did a great strategic job and we got a little bit of luck. We climbed back and Robert gave me the car in fourth or fifth at the end and the car had a very strong pace. Honestly, I’m very happy and very proud of everybody, and it’s a very good thing ahead of Le Mans.”
Rui Andrade: “I am extremely happy with the win. I don’t think anyone in the team thought we were fighting for the win until the last hour of the race, which shows the kind of crazy race that was. With the changing weather conditions, the safety cars, and the incidents, but the team did a perfect job concerning the strategy, and Louis and Robert did a great job too. I think my race was good, recovered from ninth to third. The car was strong today, we never gave up, especially after the first safety car, when we were one minute and a half off. It’s good for the championship and good for going into Le Mans.”
Robert Kubica: “It’s always nice to win, and it’s great for the whole group, Rui, Louis, our engineers and our mechanics. Only Spa can offer such variable conditions, many things happened. We also had an unlucky moment, but we recovered and we had a bit of luck back. Overall it was a strong race from the three of us, we never gave up, we pushed and we recovered but also managed a little bit of fuel consumption which gave us an advantage at the end of the race. We’ll celebrate the win but we need to stay focused for Le Mans, which is the biggest race.”