On May 4, the seventh round of the World Endurance Championship took place at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The SMP Racing crew of Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and Stoffel Vandoorne finished on the podium with third place at Spa.
The competition was under difficult weather conditions: it was raining and snowing on the track with the sun in between that made the track dry out quite fast. The SMP Racing crews No. 17 (Egor Orudzhev, Sergey Sirotkin, Stephane Sarrazin) and No. 11 (Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin, Stoffel Vandoorne) started the race from third and fifth positions, respectively. The drivers managed to keep these positions, but a few minutes later it started to rain and the cars pitted for wet tires.
At the 25th minute of the race, the race organizers made a decision to have a safety car on the track as it began to snow. In the next five hours, the safety car appeared on the track several more times. SMP Racing car No. 11 managed to move up to second position, and the car No. 17 drove to the pit boxes for unplanned repairs because of a broken wheel.
After the next restart, about an hour and a half before the end of the race, SMP Racing cars had third and fourth positions, which they kept until the finish line. The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was stopped by the red flag 7 minutes before scheduled finished time - the organizers made this decision due to difficult weather conditions. SMP Racing crews No. 11 No. 17, driving the Russian BR1, finished in third and in fourth place respectively.
“Our car No. 17 had technical issues during the race: for some unknown reason, a wheel fell off on the track,” Egor Orudzhev said. “Then at the pit stop the car did not immediately start, and we had to restart the system and we lost about 30 seconds. We will take these situations into account in order to prevent such situations in the future. In general, with all technical difficulties we had, I think the result is quite good. We had good speed and high pace and were able to overtake one of the Rebellion cars. I was lucky to drive my whole stint along the dry track, while Sergey and Stephane successfully managed to race in such difficult weather conditions.”
“Everything is important in endurance racing - both the start and all the segments, because you make a mistake and lose the podium, but, fortunately, we did well today,” Vitaly Petrov (car No. 11) added. “Our new teammate Stoffel Vandoorne did an excellent job, immediately adapted to the car, although this is his first race in the FIA WEC. He showed a great result, coped with such difficult weather conditions. Our crew was ready to race in the rain and snow - we had effective second practice session and set up the car correctly to fight for a win. Unfortunately, at the beginning of my segment I lost the fifth gear and the rest of the race we had to go on only four gears being not able to accelerate to maximum speed. We could have finished in second place if this situation didn’t happen. I’m sure the weather would not prevent us from it as we showed the same time, maybe even better, as our Rebellion rivals. However, we are quite pleased with the third place and now look forward to the race at Le Mans."
"This was my first race for SMP Racing and it happened to be under such difficult weather conditions, even in the snow, and I am very happy to finish on the podium," Stoffel Vandoorne (crew No. 11) said. "It was a very great start from me in SMP Racing team, and I was pleased that I could do my best and achieve good results. We did an excellent job, especially considering how difficult the weather conditions were for everyone. The start of the race was good, and Vitaly and Mikhail managed to drive the car to the finish line, even though we lost fifth gear. Thank you all for your support and help, it's nice to finish on the podium."
“I want to congratulate the entire SMP Racing team on one more great finish,” Mikhail Aleshin (car No. 11) commented. “Unfortunately, we could not keep second position, although we had a potential for it. Objectively, we can compete for the second place, as can be seen from today's race. It was important for us to continue our successful participation in the championship and that’s what we’ve done today. We have the race in Le Mans ahead and we need to be ready."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the final round of the FIA WEC 2018-2019 Super Season will take place in France on June 15-16.
Images and press release from SMP Racing