The 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps – Round 2 of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) – heralded a superb win for Gulf-lubricated cars in both the GTE Pro and GTE Am categories.
The weather, which often can be a deciding factor in the race, remained dry throughout qualifying and race days and, starting from Pole Position in GTE Am, the WEC-leading #98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, made it three race wins in a row. Though the category battle was very tough throughout and they found it hard to pull out a significant advantage, they were rarely headed.
After the race Pedro Lamy commented on how hard victory had been, “At the beginning of the race, after qualifying, I actually thought we had a faster car than anyone else, but it wasn’t like that – I could only pull out two seconds and I was driving at my maximum.”
Paul Dalla Lanna voiced his opinion on what was behind the win. “There’s been so much hard work. Everybody’s really been pushing for a result – and we’re starting to get them, so I’m really feeling good.”
Commenting on his team’s performance in the #98, Mathias Lauda, explained, “We did a perfect job, our pit stops were really good and we made no mistakes at all, so it all worked out really well.”
The #96 Vantage GTE of Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellacci, started from eighth in class, having been penalised in qualifying for exceeding the limits of the track and they suffered a penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag, as well as a high-speed off-track excursion, en route to finishing sixth in the category.
In GTE Pro, the victory was even harder fought for the #99 car of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell and Richie Stanaway, as they claimed the crew’s maiden WEC win. The class lead see-sawed between Aston Martin and Ferrari, with Porsche never far away – and it might have been a Ferrari win, had not the AF Corse team committed a tyre changing infringement at their final pitstop, which incurred a one minute stop-go penalty with ten minutes of the race remaining. Both MacDowell and Rees had been under huge pressure from the #51 Ferrari, but Rees was able to relax a little in the final few laps, knowing that his opposition would have to pit, to serve the penalty.
“We knew from yesterday that Ferrari would be very, very fast – even though we had got the Pole Position,” Fernando Rees explained, “Bruni (the #51 Ferrari driver) was catching me by at least half a second a lap and we were having a big fight. I was making it difficult for him to overtake me, but when I heard that they had got the penalty I just let them go by, to avoid any risk.”
Alex MacDowell was quick to praise his team mates “Credit to Fernando – he drove one of his best races – and Richie was pretty hot as well, so it’s looking positive for Le Mans.”
“It’s a great feeling to have our first win in the Pro class,” enthused Richie Stanaway, “I’m very proud of my team mates and everyone at AMR.”
The #97 car of Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Rob Bell suffered an early puncture which, with racing in the category often won and lost on the smallest of margins, was enough to put them out of contention for a class win, and they finished fifth in category, a mere 20 seconds ahead of the #95 “Young Driver” car.
The cars now return to the UK as preparation starts in earnest for Le Mans, with the official Test day on May 31st and the race itself on the 13-14th of June.