Friday 4 May 2018

FIA WEC: Toyota on pole in Spa, big crash for Fittipaldi on the Raidillon

Free Practice 3

It was under a cloudless sky and with perfect conditions the cars of the FIA WEC lined up at pit exit this morning for the third and final free practice session. It would be wrong to read too much into FP times, but Neel Jani in Rebellion #1 immediately shot to the top of the timing screen with his first flying lap of 1:57.617 then improved to 1:57.120 which remained the fastest time of the 60 minute session.

In GTE Pro, Blomqvist clearly missed the memo and put the BMW #82 to the top of class times 10 minutes into the session with a lap of 2:14.225. At 11:18am Sarrazin put the SMP Racing BR #17 3rd fastest overall with a time of 1:58.398. Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado in the Dragonspeed Oreca #31 topped the LMP2 times early on with a lap of 2:02.281.

Euen Alers-Hankey was the early leader of GTE Am times in the TF Sport Aston Martin with his lap of 2:15.778, but it was not long before Campbell in the #77 Proton Porsche snatched the quickest Am honours with 2:15.410.

At the half hour point, Rebellion had the top two times overall, thanks to a lap of 1:58.124 in the #3 car (2nd fastest). Bruno Senna had a minor oops in the #1 Rebellion with a harmless spin-and-continue around 11:36am. With 20 minutes remaining, Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota finally displaced the #3 Rebellion from 2nd fastest with a time of 1:15.939.

At the chequered flag of FP3:

In LMP1: it was the #1 Rebellion with the quickest time followed by the #7 Toyota Hybrid and the #3 Rebellion .
In LMP2: quickest was #31 DragonSpeed Oreca, 2nd #26 G-Drive Oreca and 3rd #38 DC Racing Oreca.
In GTE Pro: 1st #67 Ford GT, 2nd #82 BMW M8, 3rd #66 Ford GT
In GTE Am: 1st #77 Proton Porsche, 2nd #88 Proton Porsche, 3rd #90  TF Sport Aston Martin. 
FP3 results

GTE Qualifying

Andy Priaulx set an early time of 2:12.936 in the #67 Ford GT then Pla set a time of 2:12.420 the #66 Ford. In GTE Am it was Cairoli in Porsche #88 first to the top of the class times with a lap of 2:14.766 but Wainwright displaced him in the #86 with a time of 2:15.332. We then had a bewildering number of lap time deletions due to track limits abuse. Cars #86 #90 #91 #54 #98 (and possibly others) had laps deleted for track limit violations.

While we were trying to make sense of the situation the chequered flag came out. In GTE Pro the #67 Ford GT was fastest from #66 Ford with #91 Porsche in 3rd.  In GTE Am it was #77 Porsche fastest from #98 Aston Martin with #56 Porsche in 3rd. Update: The #86 lap times of Wainwright were deleted as a result of pit lane speeding.

LMP Qualifying

The LMP qualifying session was interrupted by two red flags. With only one flying lap time set (1:56.756 for Thomas Laurent in the Rebellion #3) the first red flag came out to retrieve the #17 SMP Racing BR (Sarrazin) stranded on the circuit with a hydraulic/electronic problem. After the restart Conway set a time of 1:54.679 in Toyota #7 just before Fittipaldi in Dragonspeed #10 speared into the tyres on the outside of the exit of Eau Rouge, bringing out a second red flag. DuringThe injured Fittipaldi was immediately treated and taken to the hospital by helicopter and barriers needed to be repaired before the session went on with 16 minutes on the clock.

At the restart it was a battle between the two Toyotas but ultimately it was an average time of 1:54.583 for Toyota #7 by Conway and Kobayashi that denied pole position to the #8 Toyota. Third on the grid will be the #1 Rebellion Racing R13 of Jani, Lotterer and Senna.

Update - 20:23 Friday 4th May - Toyota #7 penalised for technicality.

The pole position for Toyota #7 was denied after stewards determined that Toyota Gazoo Racing had made an incorrect declaration of the fuel flow meter. The offence under Art 6.1.4 of sporting regulations has brought Toyota a cancellation of lap times for the car, and it will start from the pit lane exit. The official stewards notice states: "Will start the race from the Pit lane and shall not join the race until the last car in the field has covered his first lap, and following Race Director instruction". This of course promotes the #8 car to pole position and Rebellion #1 to the front row of the grid. 

In LMP2 it was the 2:02.405 2 lap average by Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thirlet in #36 Signatech Alpine that claimed the class pole from #26 G-Drive Oreca and #38 JCDC Racing Oreca.  After the chequered flag there appeared to be an undignified minor contact between Gonzalez in #31 Dragonspeed and Ricci in #50 Ligier at final turn before pit entry, no damage evident.

The FIA distributed an official bulletin about the accident of Pietro Fittipaldi, about an hour after the qualifying sessions:

At 15:52 today, Friday 4 March 2018, the No 10 Dragonspeed BR Engineering BR1 left the track at high speed at Raidillon, Circuit de Spa Francorchamps. The incident occurred during the LMP qualifying session for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. 

The car was being driven by Pietro Fittipaldi of Brazil. 

The driver, who was conscious at all times, was attended immediately by the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps Medical services and FIA Medical degelate Jacques Tropenat, extracted from the car and taken by helicopter to the Centre Hospitalier de la Citadelle de Liège with suspected fractures to both legs.  He is accompagnied by the Dragonspeed Team Manager and his condition is not life-threathening.

As soon as more information is available it will be communicated. 

Whether the team will be able to repair the car in time and race tomorrow is also unclear at the moment.

Text: Dave Davies/Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures: JellyBaby.Media