ONE-TWO IN BAHRAIN WRAPS-UP DOUBLE FIA WEC LMP2 TITLE FOR TEAM WRT

ONE-TWO IN BAHRAIN WRAPS-UP DOUBLE FIA WEC LMP2 TITLE FOR TEAM WRT

04/11/2023

The LMP2 chapter in Team WRT’s history came to an end today in the best possible way by conquering the class’s two FIA World Endurance Championship titles (Teams and Drivers) in Bahrain. The Belgian squad wrapped up the season in style, with a one-two, as new champions Rui Andrade, Louis Delétraz and Robert Kubica won the 8-hour final race ahead of teammates Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael and Ferdinand Habsburg, who led most of the race but were slowed at the final pit stop by a minor issue.

Today’s race win marked the end of the LMP2 era in the FIA WEC, and is the third of the season for Team WRT, who takes the double LMP2 crown for the second time after winning in 2021 and finishing as runner-up in 2022. In total, Team WRT has won 10 of the 19 FIA WEC races contested in those three seasons, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2021, a year in which it took also the ELMS crown.

Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse commented: “It’s the happiest end we could have to our three seasons in LMP2 racing. We are FIA WEC champions for the second time and here in Bahrain, it is our fourth win in four starts. There are worse ‘balance sheets’. I’m disappointed with what happened to car #31 today, but that is part of racing. The most important is the team’s result and the one-two. I am very happy for the entire team, which has proven to be really well-established, and I also want to thank Oreca for the great car it has provided us. A chapter is closing and now let’s focus on the new challenges ahead of us.”

The weekend started with good feedback from the three free practice sessions although the team focused on set-up work rather than seeking for lap times. In qualifying, car #31 was third-fastest while car #41 was tenth.

The start of the race was marked by two separate incidents involving several cars, at the very front and in the middle of the field, but Team WRT cars escaped unscathed, with Sean Gelael climbing to second in #31 and #41’s Rui Andrade running ninth. Not much happened in the first two hours, with both drivers performing a double stint, and both cars being in third and fifth position at the two-hour mark, with Ferdinand Habsburg and Robert Kubica at the wheel, respectively.

Soon after that, Habsburg took the lead and Kubica climbed to third, thanks to perfect strategy, with Gelael and Andrade taking back the wheel for the fourth hour and keeping the first and third position.

At the mid-race mark, #31’s Robin Frijns and Louis Delétraz in #41, got stuck into the action and the central part of the race confirmed the good form of the Team WRT cars, which ran first and second before Habsburg and Kubica took the helm from their teammates. For the last two hours, Frijns and Delétraz were on a double stint mission and heading to a one-two.

The only hiccup arose at the last pit stop, 40 minutes from the end, and hit the leading #31 car, as it took longer than expected to loosen the nut of the front left wheel. The issue changed the order of Team WRT’s one-two, with car #41 crossing the line ahead of car #31.

The FIA WEC season is now over, but teams will stay in Bahrain for the traditional WEC ‘Rookie Test’. For Team WRT, Valentino Rossi and Charles Weerts will be in action.

Sean Gelalel (#31): “It’s a great result for the team, another champion title, and it’s great to be part of it. I know that for our car things didn’t go as as planned, but we’ll keep fighting and focusing, and results will come. Keep faith, keep working hard and keep looking forward!”

Ferdinand Habsburg (#31): “It’s been four years with Team WRT. I have so many memories, I have goosebumps every time I think of them. It’s really special for me. One thing I would like for us to remember is that I never took anything for granted, I really appreciated everything the team did. They helped me grow and they made my biggest dreams come true. Thank you for everything. Hopefully, one day I will come back.”

Rui Andrade (#41): “The race was crazy and to be honest, I was not very keen to take the start, as turn 1 at Bahrain is so tight, I was sure something was going to happen. It did, but this time we were protected from above, and it was our direct competitors who got involved. From there we moved on and managed to make a good race. It could have been either way for the team’s one-two, it’s unfortunate for our sister car but these things happen. It’s been a magic season for us, six podiums in a row including three wins, it was a privilege working with the team, Louis and Robert, and what a nice way to say farewell.”

Louis Delétraz (#41): “We had a tough week and we didn’t really know what to expect from today’s race, so finishing on a win is quite awesome. We had a conservative strategy, trying to manage tyres, save fuel and make the right calls. In my stints, we tried to close the gap with our sister car and eventually we won, although I am sorry for them as they would have deserved to be here as much as us.”

Robert Kubica (#41): “We knew that Team WRT had always been good here, but certainly we had a smooth start of the weekend, we didn’t have massive pace. We made some changes after free practice 3, and it worked out, which also showed the quality of work of the team, not only on the track. We were good in the race, managed a one-two, and the fourth consecutive win in Bahrain. It proves how impressive Team WRT has been in LMP2.”

FIA World Endurance Championship – Round 7
8 Hours of Bahrain, 1-3 November 2023

Race Result (LMP2)

1. Andrade-Delétraz-Kubica (Oreca 07 Gibson) 238 laps
2. Frijns-Gelael-Habsburg (Oreca 07 Gibson) + 9s190
3. Heinemeir-Rasmussen-Fittipaldi (Oreca 07 Gibson) +41s235
4. Viscaal-Ugren-Correa (Oreca 07 Gibson) +1m16s526
5. Bortolotti-Pin-Kvyat (Oreca 07 Gibson) + 1 lap

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