Race Weekend Central

Hertz Team JOTA Wins 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

Hertz Team JOTA’s Callum Ilott was the recipient of good luck when they had already made a pit stop prior to a red flag Saturday (May 11). That meant that Ilott took the lead when the leaders had to make stops as soon as the green came back out. He was able to hold on from there to win the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Saturday with teammate Will Stevens. It is the first Hypercar win for a privateer operation.

“It’s very special,” Stevens said after the race. “We got a little bit lucky with the red flag, obviously, but you create your own luck in this game. Callum [Ilott] did a fantastic job at the end [in] keeping the gap. Couldn’t be happier.”

Ilott and Stevens’ margin of victory was 12.363 seconds over Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor. Ferrari AF Corse’s Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen were more than a minute back in third, then teammates James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Proton Competition’s Neel Jani and Julian Andlauer were fifth.

The moment of the race that changed everything occurred early in the fifth hour. At the time, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Earl Bamber was battling Proton Competition’s Jani for third position when they ran up on the battle for third in LMGT3 between Team WRT’s Sean Galael and D’Station Racing’s Erwan Bastard.

Jani had just passed Bastard, but got held up a little in the Eau Rouge-Radillion complex. That gave Bamber a huge run coming up the hill that put him right on Jani’s rear wing. He attempted to make a move for the spot on the Kemmel Straight, but clipped Galael.

The contact spun Bamber hard into the wall and into the air, although he did not roll over. Galael clipped the grass and spun into the wall on the opposite side of the track.

Both drivers were sent to the on-site infield care center for a checkup and were declared ok. The guardrails and catchfencing were damaged in the crash, resulting in a long red flag.

At the time, it seemed like the race was not going to resume after the crash. Had that happened, half-points would have been awarded because the red flag flew before the 75% mark of the race. With 11 minutes remaining on the clock, the WEC announced that the race would run to the full six-hour distance and that the time under the red flag effectively wouldn’t count.

That meant that the clock was reset to an hour and 47 minutes remaining. It then ran down for three minutes and stopped until the repairs were complete.

After Fuoco was disqualified from qualifying Friday for being underweight, Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Frederic Makowiecki started from the overall pole and lead. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Lynn started alongside in the Cadillac, but it did not take long for the Porsches and Ferraris to show dominance.

20 minutes into the race, the Ferraris and Porsches held the top-six spots with Lynn and the two Alpines trailing. While the factory Porsches had a lot of speed, the customer Porsche 963 from Proton Competition with Andlauer driving ended up in the lead.

The day was ultimately a double DNF for Team WRT as their other BMW M4 GT3, the No. 46 driven at the time by Ahmad Al Harthy, was a victim of an earlier crash. BMW M Team WRT’s Rene Rast ran in the back of Hertz Team JOTA’s Phil Hanson on the run towards the Bruxelles hairpin and spun Hanson into Al Harthy. The BMW hit the barriers and bent it, resulting in a 42-minute safety car period.

The Porsche attack was cut down by one when Matt Campbell lost control exiting Blanchimont and slid into the wall. Campbell was ok, but a full course yellow came out to retrieve Campbell’s car.

The Bamber-Galael crash took the No. 51 Ferrari from being in position to win the race to being forced to pit under the safety car for emergency service due to low fuel. Once the stops were made, Ilott ended up in the overall lead over Estre. Everyone else was a minimum of 75 seconds back. Despite everyone having to pit at least once from this point, the results ultimately held up with Ilott driving to victory.

In LMGT3, Iron Dames’ Sarah Bovy started from pole in her Lamborghini. The pink Huracan had been the class of LMGT3 for the entire weekend and Bovy showed it early, pulling out to a 10-second lead in the early laps.

The red flag threw the race upside-down in class. Iron Lynx had the dominant car, but had already stopped prior to the red flag. That nearly cost them the race.

What really cost them the race was their actual final stop with 50 minutes remaining. The crew had significant trouble getting the right rear wheel to stay on, costing them significant time. Later on, Michelle Gatting was hit by Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi, resulting in a five-second time penalty for Kobayashi.

As a result, the race ultimately came down to a duel between United Autosports’ Gregoire Saucy and Iron Lynx’s Franck Perera. Perera was able to run down Saucy and passed him for the lead at La Source with 20 minutes to go.

However, fuel came into play here as well. Perez was forced to pit for a splash of fuel with a lap to go. That put the Manthey EMA Porsche with Richard Lietz into the lead. He was able to hold on to take the class victory along with teammates Morris Schuring and Yasser Shahin.

Manthey EMA’s margin of victory was 1.298 seconds over the Manthey PureRxcing No. 92 of Klaus Bachler, Alex Malykhin and Joel Sturm. That team even starting the race was an accomplishment after Malykhin crashed hard at Radillion in Hyperpole qualifying Friday.

Perera, Matteo Cressoni and Claudio Schiavoni had to settle for third after their splash of fuel. Bovy, Gatting and Rahel Frey were fourth, while Saucy, James Cottingham and Nicolas Costa were fifth in their McLaren.

FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Unofficial Results

Next up for WEC teams is the big one, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. First up is the Le Mans Test Day on June 9, mandatory for all participants unless they have a direct racing conflict. The race itself will be June 15-16 and will air live, flag-to-flag on both Motor Trend and the B/R Sports Add-on on Max.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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