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JOTA Victorious in Spa!

Updated: May 14

Text & Images: Rick Kiewiet

Not Ferrari, who looked to be in the front seat for victory prior to the intermission, but British JOTA won in Spa, taking full advantage of having just made a pitstop before the red flag. Callum Ilott and Will Stevens take home the the first victory for a privateer in the Hypercar Era, and also the first victory for a duo instead of a trio. The #6 Penske Porsche of Estre, Vanthoor and Lotterer finished 2nd, the #51 Ferrari of Fuoco, Nielsen and Molina completed the podium. Manthey scored a 1-2 finish in LMGT3 with the #91 finishing ahead of the #92.

In the first part of the race, a battle emerged between the Penske Porsches, the #99 Proton Porsche and the #2 Cadillac. The #99 with Andlauer behind the wheel was in great shape and managed to take the lead from the #5 Penske (Makowiecki) just before the end of the first hour. The challenge for the lead diluted somewhat over the second and third hour, and ended with the retirement of the #5 after issues with the hybrid systems.

Both Ferrari's also quickly made their way up through the field. At the halfway point the #51 and the #50 were 2nd and 3rd, just behind the #99 Proton, not long after they were in the lead. Just over 4 hours, the race was red flagged after a very heavy crash at Kemmel Strait where Bamber in the #2 Cadillac tipped the back of the #99 Proton Porsche and took out himself and Sean Galeal (#31 WRT BMW) in the process. At that moment, both Ferrari's ran at the front, the #51 some 25 seconds ahead of the #50, while the #12 JOTA just made his stop and was in p10.

The race was interrupted for almost two hours to repair 30 meters of guardrails, after which the WEC organization decided to extend the race time with the red flag time. There hence was a 1 hour and 44 minutes sprint to the finish left, in which the JOTA Porsche profited of his own stop just before the red flag, and the Ferrari's having to make an emergency pitstop under safety car right after the race was restarted.

After both Ferrari's made their stops (the #51 made an emergency stop during safety car while the #50 managed to wait just after the restart), the fight for the lead was between the #12 and #6 Porsches, the Ferrari's and the #7 Toyota.

Ilott was clearly in the fastest of the two Porsches, managed to pull a gap towards Estre, after which the JOTA-crew also performed a faster final pitstop than the Penske-crew, resulting in an almost 13 second gap at the finish.

Behind the Porsches, Fuoco finished third to score only Ferrari's first podium finish this year. He got past Kobayashi in the #7 after briefly losing the position during the final pitstops. Pier Guidi even had dropped behind both Toyota's, but also managed to retake those positions lost to claim 4th, just ahead of Jani and Andlauer in the #99 Porsche. Kobayashi was 6th on track, but dealt a 5 second penalty for contact with the #85 Iron Dames Lamboghini, dropping him to 7th and promoting the #8 Toyota to 6th. The #83 Ferrari, #35 Alpine and #93 Peugeot completed the top-10.


In LMGT3, the #85 Iron Dames Lamborghini was at the front for most of the race. Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey seemed the prime contender for victory for most part. But an hour before the finish, disaster struck during the final stop, where the right rear wheel didn't cooperate and much time was lost.

Iron Lynx' second iron in the fire, the #60 of Schiavoni, Cressoni and Perera, then seemed primed for victory, until they had to come in for a splash and dash two laps before the finish. This handed p1 and p2 to the Manthey Porsches. Eventually the #92 led the #91, but in the last lap Richard Lietz overtook Klaus Bachler to take the win; the #92 running on fumes as well. A great result for the #92 still, knowing that it was a completely new car after its crash in Raidillon on Friday in qualifying. The #60 Iron Lynx still completed the podium.

For WRT it was a home race to quickly forget. The hypercars were well off the pace, its fastest lap well over 1.5s too slow, while both M4 GT3s were taken out in crashes. First the #46 of Rossi, Martin and Al Harthy (by the #38 JOTA), then the #31 in the horrific crash with the Cadillac.

Next up is the 24 hours of Le Mans. The WECs blue ribband event is held on the 15th and 16th of June.


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