Racing Engineering


Rain shortens the Spa Francorchamps Four Hours on a disappointing day for Racing Engineering.
The start of the Spa Francorchamps Four Hour race was bought forward to 10:45 as the weather forecast for later in the day was predicting very heavy rain which, on a circuit like Spa, was potentially dangerous so a sensible decision to hold the race earlier in the day was taken. At the new start time is was raining, although not too hard, and the opening laps were held behind a Safety Car to allow the drivers to experience the track and hopefully the forty cars would help move some of the standing water. As soon as the cars got underway, on lap five, it was clear that the track was still very wet and on parts of the track the tyres were throwing up huge plumes of spray especially on the back of the track along the Kemmel Straight and Les Combes through to Blanchimont.

Norman Nato was driving the first stint in the Racing Engineering car that had qualified sixth in yesterday’s dry conditions and, as the race started after fifteen minutes behind the Safety Car, he gained a place as one of the cars ahead pitted to lie fifth. The first racing lap saw the cars lapping some thirty seconds slower than in the dry and the Racing Engineering car was still in fifth, two seconds behind the United Autosports car and one second ahead of the Dragonspeed Oreca. On lap seven Norman had caught the United car but the driver slid wide blocking Norman and he lost a place to the Dragonspeed car dropping to sixth. The Spanish car now began to struggle in the very difficult conditions and Norman lost three more places to finish lap nine in ninth. A Safety Car period began as the cars started lap ten and Racing Engineering took advantage to take a pitstop and change their Dunlop wets for a new set and Norman returned to the track in thirteenth position. Racing resumed on lap fifteen with forty-eight minutes of the race completed and Norman immediately gained a place to twelfth.
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As the race reached the one hour mark with nineteen laps completed, and the rain now falling a little harder, Norman was still in twelfth, 1.2 seconds behind the Panis Barthez Competition Ligier and he moved up to eleventh when a car ahead pitted on lap twenty and more stops the following lap promoted Norman to third but the early pitstop by the Racing Engineering team meant they were now on a different strategy to most of the other LMP2 cars. At twenty-five laps, with the visibility deteriorating, Norman was just over six seconds behind the leader and he was closing on the second placed Panis Barthez Competition Ligier with the gap down to just over one second. On lap twenty-nine Norman pitted and the car was refuelled, and Olivier Pla took over in the cockpit resuming the race in thirteenth. The conditions were now getting worse and the lap times were now ten seconds a lap slower than at the start, Olivier was now lying eleventh as the pit stops were completed and he was soon tenth as the G-Drive Racing car ahead of him received a two-minute penalty. The French driver was now chasing the AVF by Adrián Vallés car which was five seconds ahead and he was soon ahead when his rival pitted as the Safety Car was deployed again and, as more cars pitted, he moved up to seventh.

Visibility was falling further and on lap forty-one with two hours and seven minutes of the race completed the red flag was shown and all the cars returned to the pits. After a fifteen-minute delay it was announced that as the conditions would not be improving the race was over meaning there would only be half points awarded.

This was not the result that Racing Engineering were hoping for at the start of the weekend and any hopes of closing the gap significantly on the G-Drive Team and drivers was ruined by the weather. There will now be a five week break before the final race of the season at Portimão in Portugal.
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Team Comments:

Thomas Couyotopoulo - Chief Operating Officer: "We knew before today’s race that we would encounter extreme weather conditions, but that’s part of the sport. The drivers and the team avoided mistakes on track and with the strategy, but the red flag putting the race to an end didn’t favour us. There were some cars ahead of us still to pit for fuel during the following laps, but the race finished a bit too early for us. All the cars classified ahead of us use Michelin tyres, which seem to work quite well in these conditions. Nevertheless, we have points to improve and will work hard for the last race of the season as a seventh position is not good enough."

Norman Nato: “A difficult race in tricky conditions. We don’t know exactly what happened and need to look at it in detail. We clearly had no pace and we are normally really competitive in the wet so we will try to understand what happened to avoid this problem next time.”

Olivier Pla: “This race was like playing in the lottery and today we lost. Pitting under safety car at the beginning of the race was a good thing to do, but it put us on a different strategy compared to some cars finishing ahead of us and the end of the race came a little bit too early for us. We needed a few more laps and the result would have been completely different. That’s why I call it a lottery, sometimes racing is like this.”
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