Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe

How abruptly slowing down helped WRT to WEC Imola victory

The WRT BMW team has explained how abruptly slowing Darren Leung's pace towards the end of his double stint helped to secure LMGT3 victory in Imola's World Endurance Championship round.

Podium: #31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Reigning British GT champion Leung won on just his second WEC start alongside Augusto Farfus and Sean Gelael, leading home a 1-2 finish for the crack Belgian squad in Sunday's six-hour race. 
Crucial in setting up the run to victory was the timing of Leung's second pitstop, the Briton completing his minimum drive time of 1hr45m mere seconds before hitting the pitlane to hand over to Gelael. 
The pole-sitting #92 Manthey-run PureRxcing Porsche started by Alex Malykhin had come in on the same tour, but with just under a minute of his drive time remaining and so had to return to the wheel later on, while several other cars were unable to extend their energy allocation and thus kept their bronzes in for a third stint that offset them from the eventual winner.
Speaking to Autosport, WRT’s GT programme manager Kurt Mollekens revealed that Leung was told to slow down to ensure he would be able to pit after 1hr45m had elapsed, but that "we weren’t pegging him back enough". 
"So we went ‘okay Darren, we need to lose six seconds on this lap’ – it was five, but we gave it a bit of margin," said Mollekens.
"He ended up being five seconds, so that was perfect."
The two-time Spa 24 Hours winner said initial projections were that teams would be eight laps short of being able to complete the bronze time within two stints, but "we started fuel-saving like hell" following an early safety car and two full course yellows within the first hour that opened up its strategy options.
#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

"From that moment we knew that if we hit these fuel-saving marks, we could just do it on two stints," Mollekens said. 
Asked about the scenario by Autosport, Leung said the credit belonged to WRT. 
"I can’t really repeat much of the discussion from my side with how we managed that," he replied. 
"But look, WRT is one of the most accomplished and well-respected teams on the grid. 
"My job is to drive around in circles, it’s their job to work it out. They told me what to do, I did it."

Farfus hails 'calm' WRT approach to slicks

WRT was only established in the lead after electing to stick with slick tyres during a mid-race shower, a call which proved to be the correct one that Mollekens believes ultimately secured the victory.
The winning BMW and its sister car that MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi shared with Maxime Martin and Ahmad Al Harthy were among the few cars not to switch to the wets, with the United Autosports McLaren that finished sixth adopting a similar approach. 
Farfus praised WRT for staying "calm" in the changeable conditions, with the track far wetter in certain parts than others.
#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

"We had this on-off rain, the rain was coming in different parts of the circuit so it was pretty much a guessing game on how could you push, how slippery was the surface," said Farfus, who passed Martin for the win before the Belgian had to serve a penalty for an earlier FCY infringement by Rossi.
"The team was very calm throughout the whole race, so it was a constant chat ‘shall we go to the wets’."
He later added: "They were monitoring the cars on wets and the problem is sector three was extremely wet, sector one was half-dry, then sector two was really dry. 
"When I saw the rain coming, they asked me ‘now it’s a lot’ and we could maybe win the race or we could lose the race. 
"We stayed calm and I think we didn’t panic also in the radio, and this is what made the difference."

Watch: BrrrakeF1 - How IMSA use Advanced Data to Enforce the Rules

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article How rain and strategy spelled disaster for Ferrari in WEC Imola 6 Hours
Next article Alpine confident for 'good news' in Habsburg injury recovery

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe