Podium and good points, but some regrets for Team WRT at Monza

The third position conquered at the 6 Hours of Monza by Rui Andrade, Louis Delétraz and Robert Kubica after having taken pole position allows the trio of car #41 to extend their lead in the LMP2 standings of the FIA WEC, but Team WRT hoped to be better rewarded for the competitiveness shown throughout the weekend in Italy. Both cars had strong pace during the race, but the safety car and full course yellow periods this time played against them. Despite that, they came back to fight for the podium in the final stages, but unfortunately for its trio of drivers, car #31 was deprived of victory in the last laps, stopped by an engine problem when they were leading.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse focused on the positive side after the race: “It’s always frustrating to lose one of your cars in the last half-hour when it is leading the race, but there is nothing you can do against it, it’s racing. The first pit stop, when everybody stopped during the safety car, was difficult to manage and we lost some time there, but that’s racing too. The positive is that we have been competitive, have done good work, and taken very good points with car #41.”

The Oreca 07 Gibson cars of the Belgian squad proved competitive from the start, with #41 topping the rankings in the first two free practice sessions, and #31 second and third respectively. In qualifying, Robert Kubica (#41) managed a perfect lap and took pole position, with Ferdinand Habsburg (#31) qualifing sixth after the car encountered a minor technical issue.

The temperature was way over 30 degrees celsius on Sunday noon and the start saw one of the Ferrari Hypercars spinning at the first chicane, provoking confusion in the group. In the initial phases, Sean Gelael, who took the start in car #31, was fourth right ahead of Rui Andrade in #41. Like everybody else, they both pitted to refuel when the first safety car period took place place on lap 14, but lost precious time, because of traffic in the pit lane, and rejoined at the back of the LMP2 field.

Ferdinand Habsburg and Robert Kubica took the wheel at the following pit stop, stabilising in fifth and eighth position respectively, with the Pole doing a quadruple stint. Robin Frijns took the wheel of car #31 shortly after the two-hour mark, climbing up to fourth, but both cars found themselves stuck in traffic despite their good pace and posting the best lap times in the category. At the mid-race mark, the safety car was deployed again, right after Kubica had refueled. Frijns was luckier and following the round of pit stops, he ran second, only five seconds from the top, with Kubica in fifth and soon after in third, before passing the wheel to Louis Delétraz. At that moment, the two cars were second and fourth.

With one and a half hours to go, another safety car period helped car #31 take the lead, while car #41 was forced, by regulation, to do an extra  ‘splash and dash’ under yellow, losing time. In the final stint, Robin Frijns seemed to have secured victory but 30 minutes from the end, the car suffered engine failure. Delétraz, on the contrary, conquered the final third spot with a brilliant move on the penultimate lap.

Louis Delétraz: “In terms of luck, today’s was probably the worst race in my career… We had three safety cars against us, the last races have been decided by safety cars and luck, I think the rules should be reviewed because this is not good for competition and the sport. We lost a lot in the first pit stop, but we fought hard to come back and I am sorry for our sister car which had this engine issue. In my case, I had a long fight with Jarvis, and in the last lap, I went and I passed him.”
Robert Kubica: “Mixed feelings after this race. Pace-wise, I think it was one of the strongest weekends, if not the strongest, but we missed a bit of luck and execution in the most important moment. It put us in a catching mode, which is not easy at Monza, it was very difficult to overtake and recover but we got unlucky with the safety cars. We keep the lead in the championship, but as a team, I think we missed a big opportunity with both cars. Now we have a long break, I know the team is not stopping but I hope the guys will have the time to rest and recharge their batteries after such a demanding period.”
Rui Andrade: “Obviously, we expected more from this race coming from pole position. The start didn’t help, with a number of cars actually jumping it, then there was a difficult pit stops and all the safety cars against us. A lot of bad luck… We managed to come back, we never gave up, that’s why I like this team so much. Looking at the positive, we take our fourth podium in a row and extend our lead in the championship. Now we have to focus on the title battle.”