WEC – Double Podium With Victory for Ferrari and Porsche at 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps


 

Spa, 1st May, 2021

The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps concluded with a second and a third place in the LMGTE Pro and a win and a third place in the LMGTE Am class for Ferrari. In the opening race of Season 9 of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the AF Corse 488 GTEs did brilliantly on the iconic Belgian track, with Pier Guidi-Calado and Serra-Molina mounting the podium and the trio of Perrodo-Nielsen-Rovera also on the podium, accompanied by the Cetilar Racing crew of Lacorte-Sernagiotto-Fuoco.


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Porsche has won the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Spa-Francorchamps. Works driver Kévin Estre from France and Neel Jani from Switzerland drove a commanding race in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR to claim victory in the hotly contested GTE-Pro class. For Estre, who had already dazzled at Friday’s qualifying with a record lap, this marks the second win in a row at the six-hour race in Belgium. Jani triumphed at his first outing with the Porsche GT Team. The sister car driven by their brand colleagues Richard Lietz (Austria) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) crossed the finish line in fifth place after a difficult race.

In sunny conditions and temperatures of around ten degrees Celsius, Estre left no doubt of his intention to secure another victory at Spa right from the start. The 2018 Le Mans class winner fended off his rivals’ attacks in the first lap and proceeded to pull clear at the lead. The Frenchman tapped the full potential of the Porsche 911 RSR and after two laps had opened up a gap of around 15 seconds. Not even an early pit stop due to a puncture could throw Estre off his game. Neel Jani, the 2016 overall winner of the Le Mans 24-hour race, followed up with a powerful performance at his first race in the GTE-Pro class and handed the car back to Estre still in first place. The Frenchman then brought home a secure victory with an advantage of about 35 seconds.

In the sister car of the winning team, Bruni and Lietz were plagued by bad luck. First, the No. 91 car got caught in heavy traffic on the 7.004-kilometre racetrack, then they were hampered by a puncture. A shunt from a Hypercar about halfway through the race resulted in the rear section of the car having to be replaced. Under these circumstances, only fifth place was possible.

LMGTE-Pro
The forecast of unsettled and cold weather was partially contradicted by the facts. The race was held in dry conditions with pale sunshine, making for less rigid temperatures than anticipated. In a race interrupted by three full-course yellows, which, however, didn’t change the positions in the standings, the two AF Corse 488 GTEs put in a convincing performance at a good pace, albeit not enough to challenge the victorious Porsche no. 92. The Maranello cars consistently occupied the podium positions, even moving into the lead at the three-hour mark, taking advantage of their rivals’ early stop. Second place for Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado and third place for Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra, despite two drive-throughs for speeding during the first and second FCYs for the pair in no. 52, represent an excellent start to the championship.

LMGTE-Am
AF Corse no. 83 488 GTE, crewed by reigning champions François Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen, joined this season by Alessio Rovera, put in an extraordinary performance to repeat last year’s triumph on the Belgian circuit. Having taken the lead during the stint of a superb Rovera, the Piacenza-based team managed and increased their margin over their pursuers until Nielsen crossed the finish line in first. The Cetilar Racing crew, making their class debut, took third place on the podium, benefiting from the 23-second penalty given to car no. 88 at the end of the race. This result rewards the strong performance of the trio that had seen Antonio Fuoco mount an excellent recovery in the final stints. The second AF Corse car crewed by Thomas Flohr, Giancarlo Fisichella and Francesco Castellacci finished fourth, eight seconds off the podium, with another spectacular performance by Fisichella who showed his superior class. The two Iron Lynx Ferraris, eighth and ninth respectively, with the all-female trio Frey-Legge-Gostner and Schiavoni-Cressoni-Piccini, got some crucial miles and experience under their belts for the rest of the season.

Drivers’ comments on the race
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92)
“This race wasn’t nearly as easy as it might have seemed from the outside. Both cars got punctures. The early wheel change meant we lost our pit stop rhythm, which may have resulted in an additional stop. So, it really hung by a thread. Everything worked out in the end and we crossed the finish line as the winners. Neel did a terrific job at his first stints in the Porsche 911 RSR in the WEC and maintained the lead. That was fantastic.”

Neel Jani (Porsche 911 RSR #92)
“Victory at my GT debut in the FIA WEC – that’s awesome. It couldn’t have gone better. When Kévin had to pit earlier than planned due to the puncture, we were a bit concerned at first because I had to save some fuel during my stints for tactical reasons. But a caution phase helped us at the right moment, so it was no longer an issue. It went well for me.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91)
“A lot of negative things happened today for us. We had several punctures, bad luck overtaking traffic and finally an accident that destroyed the rear of our car. It simply wasn’t our day. Obviously, our sister car’s win is great. I’m pleased for our colleagues. All in all, we scored a lot of points for Porsche – that’s great.”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91)
“Mediocre – that’s how I would describe today’s race. Our tyres were damaged, we were shunted and ultimately we ran out of fresh rubber. We really didn’t need anything more to happen. That says it all. First, we had no luck and then we were hit by bad luck.”

Programme
The FIA WEC will be back on track from 11 to 13 June for the 8 Hours of Portimao, held on the beautiful Portuguese track.

Result GTE-Pro class 1. Estre/Jani (F/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 153 laps 2. Pier Guidi/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 153 laps 3. Serra/Molina (BR/E), Ferrari 488 GTE #71, 153 laps 4. Garcia/Gavin (E/GB), Corvette C8.R #63, 152 laps 5. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 152 laps Result GTE-Am class 1. Perrodo/Nielsen/Rovera (F/DK/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #83, 152 laps 2. Keating/Pereira/Fraga (USA/L/BR), Aston Martin Vantage #33, 152 laps 3. Lacorte/Sernagiotto/Fuoco (I/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #47, 151 laps 5. Haryanto/Seefried/Picariello (RI/D/B), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 151 laps DNF. Ried/Evans/Campbell (D/NZ/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 138 laps DNS. Wainwright/Barker/Gamble (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 0 laps