WEC 6 hours of Spa

  • 2016 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

    Another great race at Spa...and, yet again, fantastic weather!

    Video Credits: FIA WEC

  • 6 Reasons for Loving Spa Francorchamps

    The 6 hours of Spa Francorchamps kicks off a new era for the FIA World Endurance Championship on May 5th as the premier series for long-distance sports car racing launches its unique ‘super-season’ – and you can be there to witness it with Speed Chills.

    As you may have seen, your favourite motor racing travel operator has some great offers for the race at Belgium’s majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit – and it got us thinking: what exactly is it about this place that makes it a mecca for motorheads?

    Having fun at Spa Francorchamps

    So here it is: our six-point guide to the jewel of European motor racing. If you haven’t been, it’s a must for any bucket list. And if you have, well, treat this as a reminder why a return is long overdue.

    1. Spectators’ paradise

    From Les Combes to Rivage, down to No Name and Pouhon, sweeping through the Les Fagnes esses to Stavelot and on to Blanchimont… there’s no finer strip of race track anywhere in the world. The elegant pines of the Ardennes forests make for a stunning setting as the circuit climbs through the epic Eau Rouge and Raidillon, then along the Kemmel straight before swooping and diving back through the valley over 4.3 magnificent miles. Our tip: take a decent pair of walking boots and stroll all the way up to the inside of Rivage. The views all the way back to the paddock are stunning, and there’s nowhere better to watch (and listen) to the world’s finest racing cars.

    2. The adorable Ardennes

    There’s something in the air around these parts – and we don’t just mean the odd drop of rain… Even away from the circuit, you can almost taste the motor racing history that has seeped into this ancient woodland over the past near-century. Francorchamps village, just a wander up the hill from La Source and the prime location for the Speed Chills guest houses, is quite charming – the perfect place to relax with a glass of something good after a day at the races. And a visit to the town of Spa itself, connected by superb Belgian country roads, is worth a visit too – especially if you’re looking for somewhere with a touch of class to eat. Fine restaurants are plentiful.

    Porsche 911 GTE-Pro at Spa Francorchamps

    3. frites and mayonnaise: magnifique!

    But in truth, who needs haute cuisine when you can indulge in the pride of Belgian fare. After a long hike around the circuit’s sweeps, the sustenance from a portion of local frites topped with a dollop of mayo will be the best thing you’ve ever tasted – and that’s a cast-iron promise. We know: you’re thinking ‘they’re only chips’. But think again. In these parts, they are a genuine delicacy that are an essential side order to a weekend feast of motor racing.

    4. Belgian beer (hic!)

    And what better way to wash them down than with a glug of the area’s famous local mineral water… Only joking! Belgium is quite correctly famous for its range of dark and blond beers. Our next vital tip: tuck the car up for the night and take a table at L’Acqua Rossa or Le Relais de Pommard in Francorchamps. The food is good; a quaffed beer or three even better.

    5. The awesome old circuit

    ‘If you love the new circuit, you should have seen the old one…’ It’s something of a cliché for old timers to rave about the ‘old’ Spa – but clichés usually only enter the lexicon because of a fundamental truth, and that’s certainly the case here. Brian Redman, veteran of fearsome Porsche 917s and Ford GT40s and one of the finest sports car races ever, admits he used to cry himself to sleep the night before a race, such was his white fear for the flat out 8.7-mile triangle. Where the modern track turns right at Les Combes, the original circuit ploughed straight on downhill to Burnenville, sweeping right and on to Masta before turning again at Stavelot for the tree-lined blast back to Blanchimont. A true road course, it’s all still there to experience – albeit at a somewhat more modest pace than Henri Pescarolo’s all-time lap record set in 1973 (in a Matra sports car, not a Formula 1) of 163mph… Do not even consider visiting Spa without a drive around the old track, ideally after digging out some old photos to understand just how crazy it used to be. You’ll be mesmerised.

    6. Be a part of history

    A trip this year to the 6 Hours will stand out in the memory for one more significant reason: the birth of the exciting ‘super-season’. In a bid to break with tradition and end a world championship season at Le Mans in June, WEC’s organisers have chosen a new format for their series. Starting at Spa, the championship will then head for the famous 24 Hours at Le Mans, before three more six-hour rounds at Silverstone, Fuji and Shanghai complete the schedule for 2018. But the season won’t stop with the calendar year. In March 2019 it continues with a new 1500-mile race at Sebring in Florida, before returning to Spa for another 6 Hours and finishing at Le Mans. So yes, two 6 hours of Spa Francorchamps and two Le Mans 24 Hours counting for one, single season. It will surely live up to its ‘super’ status.

    Oh, and if this isn’t all reason enough for a visit, there’s also the small matter of a certain Spaniard making his WEC debut at Spa this year. Some bloke from F1. Fernando Alonso, we believe he’s called. In a Toyota LMP1.

    Toyota LMP1 at Spa Francorchamps

    You won’t want to miss that, will you? Come on: what are you waiting for? More on the WEC 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps

    Damien Smith, former Editor of Motor Sport Magazine

  • Audi Win Dramatic Spa 6 Hours

    The #8 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval this evening won the 2016 FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, a race which will go into the history books as one of the most fraught and action packed contests in endurance racing history.

    FIA WEC Spa Francorchamp-0899 LORES

    In a race that always seemed to be throwing another spanner in the works, almost all of the top cars lead at some point. Initially Porsche had the upper hand before hybrid issues took their toll, before a surprisingly quick Toyota pair inherited - and then sacrificed - the top spots due to engine trouble.

    In the end it was the #8 which spent most time out of its garage, and therefore ended up somehow at the front of the race when the chequered flag flew. Second place was taken miraculously by the #2 Porsche which, after dropping to the back when its hybrid system stopped working altogether, stayed on track while all the others suffered.

    Rebellion racing were ecstatic to take the last step of the overall race podium with their #13 R-One, an unthinkable result for a privateer team in the current LMP1 formula. The sister Rebellion finished fourth ahead of the recovering #7 Audi and the #4 ByKolles CLM.

    The LMP2 field waited a long time to unleash their customary fierce battle, but when it came it was a classic thriller. The top four cars were battling right into the final minutes with the #36 Signatech Alpine taking the top spot from the #31 Extreme Speed Ligier with just 8 minutes to go.

    FIA WEC Spa Francorchamp--5 LORES

    Manor Racing took a hugely popular 3rd place when Roberto Merhi overtook RGR’s Filipe Albuquerque on the second to last lap of the race, a first podium in only their second endurance event.

    GTE Pro was a rather one sided event with the two AF Corse Ferrari streaking into the lead at the start and comfortably lapping a number of seconds per lap quicker than the rest of the field. However an easy 1-2 was scuppered with just a few laps to go as the #51 was forced to retire, driver James Calado pictured holding his head in his hands in despair.

    The #71 of Davide Rigon and Gimi Bruni took the class win, while second and third were taken by the #67 Ford and #97 Aston Martin. There were worried faces all round when the competitive #66 Ford had a huge accident at Eau Rouge, but pilot Stefan Mucke was cleared by the medical team with just ‘a fair amount of bruising’. The #95 Aston Martin was competitive at the start but ended up being rolled over into the tyre wall by an unfortunate clash with an LMP2 car.

    GTE Am was a slightly quieter affair, with multiple penalties of all kinds putting paid to a number of teams’ chances at a win. The final order was headed by the #98 Aston Martin which had been well driven by Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana, while the #83 AF Corse Ferrari and #50 Larbre Corvette rounded off the podium.

    Next up for the WEC is the big one - the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With five of six leading cars having experienced serious issues in the first four hours of this race there are big question marks for the great race - it’s anyone’s to play for.

    Stay tuned to Speed Chills on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest - and see you at Le Mans!

  • Porsche Dominate in Spa Quali

    Porsche continued their run of form this afternoon by locking out the front row for the FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps.

    FIA WEC Spa Francorchamps-0058 LORES

    The two 919 Hybrids took just two runs apiece to seal another great qualifying performance with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley steering the #1 to pole ahead of the sister car.

    Behind them it was all to play for with the Toyotas and Audis swapping quickest times throughout the session. It ended with a promising result for the Japanese marque with the #6 TS050 pipping the #8 R18 to third. The second Toyota took fifth ahead of the second Audi; the gap between the four of just 0.2s foretelling a good squabble in the race.

    The LMP2 fight was won by the #26 G-Drive Oreca with Rene Rast and Roman Rusinov setting an unbeatable average despite a late surge from Nico Lapierre in the #36 Alpine. Manor Racing took an impressive third and fifth on the class grid in only their second endurance race, split only by the guest entry of the second G-Drive in their venerable old Gibson chassis.

    AF Corse left it late but managed to edge the GTE qualifying session as the #71 of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon just pipped the #51 to class pole. A much improved showing from Aston Martin saw their #97 car take third but within striking distance of its two Italian competitors.

    The two Fords weren’t far behind taking fourth and fifth while the Pro field was rounded out by the second Aston and, in a somewhat distant seventh, the lone Porsche 911 of Dempsey-Proton Racing.

    Paul Dalla Lana put in an excellent performance to put his #95 Aston Martin on top in GTE Am. Second was taken by the #83 AF Corse and third by the #88 Porsche.

    The FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps kicks off at 1.30pm UK time tomorrow and is shaping up to be a bit of a show. Follow along with @SpeedChillsView on Twitter and join the conversation using #WEC6hSpa.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa FP3

    Kazuki Nakajima topped the final practice session with a time of 1:55.233 in a Toyota 1-2-3, the #8 car just edging the #7 by 0.005 seconds. Porsche took fourth and fifth with Andre Lotterer posting the best time in the #1 with a 1:56.404 early on in the session. In LMP2, Alex Lynn topped the times with a 2:01.708 in the #26 G-Drive Oreca 07. Notable incidents in the session included the #13 Rebellion losing a front left wheel and the #38 DR Racing Oreca hitting the #61 Clear Water Racing Ferrari. AF Corse took a 1-2 finish in GTE Pro, the #71 Ferrari of Pier Guidi setting the best time of 2:14.904; Sam Bird and Davide Rigon were just two tenths back with a time of 2:15.1. The #67 Ford took third whilst the #95 Aston Martin which had shown early promise in FP2 came home last. Matteo Carol topped the time sheets in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, setting the fourth quickest time overall across both GTE classes. The #98 Aston was second and the #61 Ferrari third.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa Qualifying

    Having topped the time sheets in all three Free Practice sessions, everyone’s money was on Toyota to take pole position at the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. But in a session that was interrupted by a red flag, it was the #1 Porsche 919 of Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy that took pole position with an average lap time of 1:54.097.

    This is Lotterer’s first pole position with the 919. “Neel did an amazing lap, for me it was smooth, conservative, I didn’t realise there was so much grip, it’s cool that my fastest lap was quicker than by best lap in F1 here,” Lotterer said. “I didn’t think we’d beat the Toyotas as they’ve looked strong all week. The first job is done, the next step is to win the race tomorrow.” Toyota took second, third and fourth on the grid with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway setting the best lap time of the three with a 1:54.693. It could be argued that Toyota could have made pole position if the session had not been red flagged. They also had laps removed for track limits. Brendon Hartley made an uncharacteristic error at the Bus Stop, locking the brakes and going straight off circuit on his flying lap. Hartley and Bernhard were unable to recover and could only manage a best average time of 1:55.440.

    G-Drive Racing took pole position in LMP2, their second of the season which saw championship new comer Alex Lynn post a time of 2:01.253. That time was quicker than the pole position time set by Allan McNish in the #2 Audi R18 in its first race at Spa. With Pierre Thiriet’s lap time taken into account, the pair averaged a time of 2:02.601. Matt Rao and Gustavo Menezes took second place in the #36 with a time of 2:02.624, just 5000ths of a second quicker than the sister #35 car. The #24 Manor and #13 Vaillante Rebellion rounded out the top five in a qualifying session where the top five were split by just a second, incredibly, the top four were just 0.031 seconds apart. The session was red flagged part way through with Vitaly Petrov crashing the #25 Manor at turn nine on his first hot lap. Petrov lost the rear of the car under braking and slammed in to the tyre wall side on, damaging the right side of the car.

    In GTE Pro, Davide Rigon and Sam Bird topped the time sheets with a 2:15.017 in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488, the pair were half a second quicker than the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK GT with Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla posting a 2:15.418. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell were just a tenth behind, qualifying the Silverstone winning #67 car in third. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Calado and Pier Guidi took fourth with the #91 Porsche rounding out the top five. Aston Martin will start on pole position in GTE Am, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy securing the 46th class pole for Aston Martin in the #98 Vantage. Lamy put in a late lap to post an average time of 2:18.659 and take pole position ahead of the #77 Porsche and #54 Ferrari. The top 3 in GTE Am were split by exactly a second.

  • WEC 6 Hours of Spa Race report

    Toyota #8 Take Second Victory in an action-packed race that saw over 61,000 spectators attend Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend for the second round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took a narrow victory ahead of the sister car, scoring the first Toyota one-two since 2014. Two full course yellows played with the luck of the race that gave Toyota #8 the win after what they admitted should have been victory for the #7 crew. LMP2 saw a tight battle throughout the race but it was pole-sitters #26 G-Drive Racing who converted the race victory that they failed to do in Silverstone.

    LM GTE Pro was tightly fought between Ferrari and Ford at the start of the race, but ultimately the 488 GTEs had the pace advantage this weekend. An inter-team battle stemmed between the #71 and #51 AF Corse crews for the majority of the race, ending with advantage going to Sam Bird and Davide Rigon. LM GTE Am was dominated for the duration of the race by the #98 Aston Martin Racing entrant. They had no competition as they drove to an easy victory, even after picking up a time penalty during their pit stop for an infringement on the grid.

    Off the start, Andre Lotterer was pressured to protect his pole position as two of the Toyotas ran side by side with him towards La Source. Locking up his breaks, Nicolas Lapierre shot the #9 Toyota straight off into the run off on the outside of the circuit and took the car out of the lead fight. Porsche #2 benefited the most out of the front-runners at the start as Brendon Hartley managed to get it up to second and start chasing down Toyota #8.

    There were two Full Course Yellows during the six-hour event that played with the fortunes of those up and down the grid. The first one came from the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche pulling up and stopping on the start finish race. The #86 had had a troubled race from the start, with consistent abuses to track limits the team picked up multiple time penalties in their pit stops for their offences. There seemed to be damage on the car already when it bumped the rear of on of the Fords coming through Bus Stop, from what is unknown, but there was some sort of debris on the kerb of the chicane that caused the #86 to spin. After looking like it would be good to get going again it shuddered to a halt next to the pit wall where it retired from the race. The #7 Toyota had just taken their scheduled pit stop when the Full Course Yellow came out, meaning that the other three LMP1 cars gained a time advantage on them when they took their stops under the Full Course Yellows. This unlucky fate also befell the #7 during the second Full Course Yellow. The cause of the second full caution was the #28 TDS Racing LMP2 car going straight on at Courbe Paul Frère and heavily into the tyre barrier. Luckily for the LMP2 team, the car was able to get back to the pits after it was pushed out of the tyre barrier and simply needed a front nose replacement to carry on. However, for Toyota #7, once again the Full Course Yellow came at the wrong point in their pit strategy and lost them time against their competitors.

    It was a close race to the line at the end in LMP1. Kamui Kobayashi was pushing hard in the #7 Toyota to close down a four second gap to the sister car that was leading ahead. All of the LMP1 cars had had to stop for a ‘splash and dash’ in the last fifteen minutes of the race so the victory fight was between Toyota. Kobayashi came so close, but traffic in the final lap saw the Japanese driver almost take himself out of the race. He finished second to the #7 by just under two seconds, when one point in the last couple of laps the gap had been seven tenths. Porsche #2 completed the podium twenty-six seconds down the road after a slow puncture had lost them time earlier on in the race. Hartley had a moment in the final stint where contact was made with the #36 Signatech Alpine LMP2 car that is being investigated after the race. The Kiwi driver was trying to overtake the traffic of the #36 and committed to a move on the inside of the corner. It appeared Hartley noticed he would not be able to make the move as the #36 was not going to leave him enough room, so he hit the brakes, locking them in the process. Unfortunately, the #2 Porsche clipped the back of the #36 Signatech Alpine and spun it around.

    It was a great race for the #4 ByKolles. Making it to the chequered flag and encountering no issues through the race, the team ran competitively above the LMP2 field, lapping about a second a lap quicker. They finished a strong sixth which was not expected after they qualified eleventh. Alex Lynn spent most of the race on board the race-winning #26 G-Drive Racing car. The car was competitively paced throughout the race, and although there were swaps of the lead throughout the race the team always looked to be the strongest on track. Lynn had a comfortable lead advantage at the end of the race that allowed him to know that he would not be under any threat for the lead. Second place was a closer battle as the chequered flag approached as the #31 Vaillante Rebellion and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars where split by a few seconds. But as hard as Ho-Pin Tung pushed he could not close the gap to knock the Rebellion out of second place. Sam Bird made the move that spurred the inter-team battle in AF Corse in the Pro class. Whilst the #51 was lining up to pass the struggling #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK for the lead just before the halfway mark, Bird used the tow from the sister car to follow it through when it made the pass on the Ford. Having extra momentum, Bird pulled the #71 Ferrari ahead of the #51. But a Toyota that had been passing through traffic did not leave enough room for Bird to comfortably pull ahead. A few corners of jostling between the two 488 GTE Ferraris saw Bird’s bold move come out victorious as he took the lead of the class. The battling between the two Ferrari continued until the end of the race but with fifteen minutes until chequered flag, Bird had built up a twenty second lead meaning that the #51 had no chance of stealing the win at the line. The #66 Ford finished off the podium in a class that finished two by two through manufacturers. Porsche left Aston Martin to take the last two places in the LM GTE Pro class.

    In a complete reverse fortune; Aston Martin Racing completely dominated the Am class, not once giving up the lead to another car. The team were handed a time penalty to take in their pit stop due to a broken rule during the start procedure. Even after they took this they were still competitively ahead of the rest of the field and cruised to an easy victory. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche also appeared to have a fairly straightforward race. After a little period of battling on track and recovering from time lost in pit stops Christian Reid and Matteo Carioli had an easy race to take second in Am. The #61 Clearwater Ferrari made it three different manufacturers on the Am grid again by securing third. There was a brief fight between the two Ferrari-running teams for third until around the halfway mark of the race but after this the final order seemed to establish itself. The day was warm and sunny at the start of the race, but the potential rain that was predicted did not fall as heavily as it needed to to make a strong impact on the race. The #8 crew had ‘”mixed feelings” about their victory, saying that all the luck had come to them today and that the #7 had had the quicker pace all weekend. This was a sentiment that the Porsche #2 crew echoed; suggesting that the podium all believed it should have been Conway and Kobayashi on the top step. Had there have been a couple of laps more, they very well could have been.