As the end of the 2018/2019 Super Season is approaching, the WEC competitors gathered at the Belgium Spa-Francorchamps race track for the one before the last race of the season. Racing in Belgium was this week-end a matter of weather conditions, with bright sunshine, rain, hail- and snowstorms… For the first time in WEC, drivers had to deal with snow on the track… Matthieu Vaxivière and François Perrodo were joined by Frenchman Norman Nato, as Loïc Duval was on duty for the launch of the DTM Championship in Hockenheim, just across the Eiffel Massif.
Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
All along the race weekend, competitors had to deal with exceptionally changing weather conditions. The drivers of #28 TDS Racing Oreca07 started with a 35 lap FP1 on a dry track, followed by 22 laps in the rain for FP2. On Friday morning, the 24 laps of FP3 took place on a dry track, while qualifying was completed on both dry and wet…
And this was just a glimpse of what they were going to experience during the race… adding hail and snow coming up just a few laps after race start. Naturally, these extreme weather conditions involved a lot of off-tracks, spins, Full Course Yellows and Safety Cars. In the end, track direction interrupted the race six times (SC and FCY), for a total of 110 minutes, and stopping the race 11 minutes before the planned race end.
Matthieu Vaxivière started the race from LMP2 P7 position and managed to gain 4 places to be P3 as the Safety Car came out after 10 laps. 25 minutes later, after a strong hail and snow storm, the race was re-launched on a totally WET track. Victim of a slow puncture, Matthieu was forced to come in and lost five places on the LMP2 classification. Coming back on track 25th in the general classification (8th LMP2), he tried to make up for the loss, but a second 22 minutes Safety Car period (ByKolles LMP1) hindered him to better his position until the race started again on a drying track. After two FCY (#88 in the gravel bed and SMP Racing tire loss) and a 2h50 stint, Matthieu passed on the wheel to François. François was the luckiest of the three drivers regarding weather condition, as he had a full 35-lap race stint, without snow and only a short rain period. Norman Nato took over after 98 laps, he could not complete his stint as race direction decided to red flag the race 11 minutes before the programmed end.
FP1 DRY – 35 Laps – P7 – 2’04”909
FP2 WET – 22 Laps – P2 – 2’29”295
FP3 DRY – 24 Laps – P5 – 2’03”073
Qualification WET – P7 – 2’04”967 (Matthieu & François)
Race – P5
François Perrodo FRA (Bronze Driver): “Actually, I am quite happy, as even if the weather conditions were awful, we come out of a terrible series. After two DNF in Shanghai and Fuji, it’s really good to see the chequered flag. We were doing fine in the free practice sessions, but I am disappointed with my qualifying lap, I was 3 seconds slower than what I managed to do in FP3… Nevertheless, we made it to the end of the race without any mistake. My first stint was completed on a dry track before I did my second one under a big rain storm… but I managed to bring the car back, even if it was complicated to get the tires to the right temperature. At the end, I had to fight with GTs, it was not easy. I wish I had Safety Car or FCY, but it was not the case, it’s a pity, sometimes it helps… We finish 5th and take the points of 4th as G-Drive does not score in WEC, so in the end I am happy with our result today.”
Matthieu Vaxivière FRA (Gold Driver): “Globally speaking the week-end was a little complicated. During the free practice, we had a hard time getting our tires to the right temperature. But under the rain, we had the perfect set-up. I did a 2:50 hours stint with a lot of rain, the hail, the snow and Safety Cars, so concentration was important, but in the end, it was ok. We had prepared the car for rain set-up, so at the start it was not the best, but after all it did help. The very strange thing is to be able to get the second overall best LMP2 lap time at the very end of my stint… This will give us something to work on to prepare Le Mans. I had a slow puncture, so we lost some time, but finally we end up 5th, and I rather finish 5th here in Spa than in one month time in La Mans…”
Norman Nato FRA (Gold Driver): “We had to work in really difficult conditions this weekend with the never-ending changing weather. But everyone did the job, we did not make any mistake and that’s the most important. I am happy to have helped the team get some additional championship points.”
Source Mapidu Media/Photo. Clément Marin