24h Le Mans
FIA WEC – Reactions and Highlights from the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
The Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps kicked off the FIA WEC 2021 season on Saturday. Read on for reactions from the winning drivers and watch the highlights of a race won by the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Toyota Gazoo Racing made a successful start to its maiden Hypercar campaign with victory at the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps for the #8 GR010 Hybrid. Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley came out on top after a fascinating battle with the #36 Alpine A480-Gibson of Alpine Elf Matmut to offer the Japanese manufacturer a fifth consecutive win in Belgium. However, it was not a totally smooth ride as Buemi pointed out: “For us, it’s not easy to do a double stint here in Spa, with the tyres, and we knew we had to do it twice. I had to take it quite easy at the beginning of the race, but I got by Mike (Conway, in the #7 car). We then had similar pace but at our first pit stop, we had an issue with the refuelling. It’s our mistake as a team. Basically, we ended up having a kind of penalty, and when I stopped for the second time, we stayed like 30 seconds more. It was a silly mistake and, hopefully, we’ll not do that again. We then had another penalty for an unsafe release. So not a perfect race for the team as a whole today, but I’m very happy we ended up winning. Otherwise, we didn’t make any mistakes. We stayed focused. My teammates did a great job and, in the end, we win.”
In LMP2, the #22 Oreca 07-Gibson clinched a second consecutive FIA WEC win at Spa-Francorchamps for United Autosports with Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Fabio Scherer holding off the two JOTA cars. “It was a dream week,” said Albuquerque. “We were #1 since Monday (at the Prologue) and it’s quite incredible the pace we were having here. We can only achieve that when everyone is working in combination with everyone, as a group. We made no mistakes. We were just focused on what we needed to do. Fabio, as a rookie, did a faultless job. We are starting to learn more about the car because it’s very different from the past.”
Porsche dominated the LMGTE Pro class from free practice through to the race itself. Kevin Estre staged an impressive show at the wheel of the #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19, with a sequence of three fast laps to open up a sizeable gap over his rivals. “I had a good start," acknowledged the Frenchman. "It was close with the Ferrari at the start but I could maintain the position. I had a bit of a fight with the LMP2 backmarkers. It was tough because we have different top speeds and different braking points. We had a great car so I could be very consistent. I built up a gap due to pace, but also maybe traffic management with the LMP2s. On the second stint, we had a small issue on the rear tyre so we had to come in early and lost a little bit of time. After that, it was quite stressful.”
The LMGTE Am win by AF Corse’s #83 Ferrari F488 GTE Evo thrust Alessio Rovera into the spotlight. The 25-year-old Italian shared the wheel with the winners of the 2020 FIA Endurance Trophy for GTE Am Drivers, François Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen, but it was he who put in the fastest lap in the class and grabbed the lead after 1 hour 20 minutes. The Ferrari controlled the race from that point and won by 44 seconds from the #33 Aston Martin Vantage AMR of TF Sport. “The team managed the race in a perfect way, still I kept my fingers crossed until the very last corner!” Rovera admitted. “We knew we could count on a reliable car and a potentially high rhythm. Our pace has been good since the official testing days. We were able to put everything all together even in the most difficult situations. I could not even dream of a FIA WEC début better than this. Now we are leading our category in the standings, this means that from the next race everything will be even more complicated. We have to keep the tension at the highest levels as we did here in Spa, where I really enjoyed getting back behind the wheel of such a competitive Ferrari.”
Watch brief highlights of the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps below: