Saturday 4 May 2019

FIA WEC: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Qualifying report

A dry session with some sunshine turned to rain by the time the Le Mans Prototypes drew close to the end of their session.  As has become the norm it was Toyota leading the way in the top category the #7 of Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, the former setting a 1:53.812 which Conway proceeded to beat with a Spa WEC qualifying record of 1:53.683. The #8 Toyota almost half a second adrift on a combined average (1:54.243) secured the front row.   

“Nice lap, Kamui was quick in FP3 and again in Qualifying so the pressure was on, it was all looking good and the car was pretty hooked up so I was happy to cross the line a little bit quicker.” Conway said. “A good gap to the sister car. All credit to the guys on car#7 all weekend. Tomorrow is going to with conditions so its good to start in the right position. “

Toyota confirmed to SCG that the two cars/6 drivers are free to race each other as long as there is no contact with each other. Given the changeable conditions forecast for tomorrow we could well see some drama.

Third on the grid goes to the #17 SMP Racing BR / AER, boosted by its turbos and without restriction they were closer to Toyota pace but still half a second down (1:54.711) on the second place car.  Fourth is the normally aspirated Gibson Tech powered Rebellion #3 a further nine-tenths behind the SMP #17.  So despite the numbers in LMP1 there is still the prospect  of some good inter-team battles going on. 

#4 ByKolles effectively brought an early end to the session with a roll to a stop on pit straight, with the session Red Flagged with 5mins remaining.  The session did re-start, but as track conditions had deteriorated only the #50 Larbre Competition Ligier of Nick Boulle ventured out to no effect.


The non-championship entry of G-Drive Racing #26 took the category pole with the Aurus 01 version of the Oreca 07. Jean-Eric Vergne clocked a lap within 3-thousands of a sec of breaking the 2-minute  barrier and Job Van Uitert (2:01.346) combined to set the average, a 2:00.674, breaking the previous LMP2 lap record.

“The car was absolutely amazing out there today. I felt that it was one of the best laps I ever drove in my life,” claimed Vergne. “Breaking the 2-minute barrier would have been nice, but it was more the gap we pulled on the other guys thanks to the lap that Job, all in all a very good qualifying.”

Without the non-championship interloper, we would have had a  Jackie Chan DC Racing category front row, with the might of #38 conquering its sister car the Fortune Cat #37. They were respectively six and nine-tenths behind the average of #26.  Speaking with Sam Hignett (Team Principal at JCDC Racing) he was content that they as championship would still get the pole point and suggested that the wet FP2 had indicated good pace for teams like them running the Dunlop wet weather tyres (#26, 28, 37 & 38). We ran it past our colleagues @theBPillar, and nothing indicative on pure pace, but perhaps we are looking at wear and sustainability over an extended wet duration.. Time (and race conditions) will likely tell us more.. 

Lets just hope they don’t need snow chains! 

A brief note of commendation to the squad in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07.  Following the loss of sponsorship for their Malaysian predecessors, David Heinemeier-Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens have shown themselves to be a strong and competitive trio from the get-go. Lets hope they stay out of trouble and achieve further success this weekend.

GTE-Pro – Priaulx and Tincknell Fly!

The #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK team took pole in GTE Pro as Andy Priaulx and Harry Ticknell set a combined time of 2:12.885 record GTE-PRO pace once more, but it was Andy Priaulx who demonstrated that hooking up a lap was very much a trick for the old dog and not just the young pups like ‘H’!  The #97 Aston Martin Racing AMR crew of Maxime Martin and Alexander Lynn looked to be on for pole but were beaten out by a mere 0.067sec around the 7-kilometre Spa countryside.

Talking about his lap of 2:12.797 Andy Priaulx said “When you get to my age you can’t remember what happened yesterday! It was a nice special experience, Harry nailed a fantastic 12.9, I got back in the car, I knew I had to be on my A game to try and better that, it just came together really well… Those moments when you find that sweet spot in your driving and you give everything and it works, I’m just enjoying every moment, I look in the mirror and ask myself when am I going to stop racing and moments like that, I just want to carry on. Its still in me and I’m really enjoying it.”  

The BoP calculator is clearly at the top of its game around Spa as it is the #82 Team BMW MTEK BMW M8 GTE of da Costa/Farfus in third just 0.092 from pole themselves. As mentioned in our GTE Free Practice Report, it is good to see the men from Munich getting some pace under their belt, and it will hopefully bode well for a fascinating and variety packed race on Saturday.

Porsche and Ferrari seem to have gone off the boil, though wet weather conditions could certainly make the RSRs a strong proposition on raceday. Of course the cynic in the paddock may see this as gamesmanship a month prior to the double-points season finale, but we could never suggest that was a motivation to hold back flat out pace at this time, oh no never…  Both were some 1.2 seconds off the pole time, enough said. Lets see what the race brings.


The sole casualty of the session was a lurid spin at Raidillon for the #70 MR Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. Ishikawa-san was exceptionally lucky to not do considerably more damage than he did, all of which is understood to be repairable. Indeed he recovered the car under its own power to the pit garage where we suspect a man with a coal shovel and bucket was required to empty the cockpit! The car took no further part in the session.

Pole for the very first time went to TF Sport #90 Aston Martin Vantage with a last lap effort from Salih Yoluc pipping the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Yoluc and team-mate Charlie Eastwood set an average time 2:16.061 just 0.110 ahead of Cairoli/Roda in the RSR. 

“It was really amazing, its the first time I have been able to do a qualifying in WEC, so to go out and get pole was great,” said Eastwood. “In terms of the lap again it was one of the best I have done in the GTE car… We have been very close to it a lot of times this year, and Salih at the end to go quickest -AM driver to give us pole overall.” 

Third in category was #56 Project 1 Porsche RSR with a time of 2:16.390. The remainder were all in the 2:17 with the exclusion of the #86 Gulf Racing RSR (2:19.225) and the aforementioned #70 MR Racing Ferrari which failed to set a time.