2016 FIA WEC: Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps preview
Porsche’s 24 Hours of Le Mans defence will ramp up this weekend at the second round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, held at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes region.
The traditional warm-up event ahead of the French endurance classic, the Six Hours of Spa will see Porsche debut some elements of its low downforce Le Mans aero kit after a successful test with the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car in Aragon last week.
Thanks to its high speed nature, including the long run along the Kemmel Straight, the 4.35-mile track provides all the FIA WEC teams with one last competitive outing before the Le Mans festivities kick off next month.
Last time out at Silverstone, the two Porsche 919 Hybrids were both in contention for victory (despite not locking out the front row for the first time since 2014) however, an accident while lapping the Gulf Racing 911 RSR put the no. 1 car out on the spot after dominating up until the halfway point.
The no. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas was left to fight the no. 7 Audi R18 alone in the latter stages only for a puncture to ruin its chances of victory after the last round of pitstops.
Porsche was eventually handed victory though when the race-winning Audi was found to have worn through its underside skidplate too much, giving Jani, Lieb and Dumas the championship lead as the FIA WEC circus heads to Belgium.
Despite this, Porsche will want to prove its capabilities ahead of Le Mans by taking victory on the track. Last year, Audi triumphed at Spa with the factory Porsche going winless at the Belgian venue since Derek Bell and Stefan Bellof’s win in a Rothmans 956 in 1984.
In the GT class, Porsche’s race at Silverstone was even more tumultuous. The sole GTE-Pro entry – the no. 77 Proton-Dempsey 911 RSR of Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen – was waylaid by mechanical maladies, eventually finishing sixth.
As mentioned above, the Gulf Racing entry of Michael Wainwright, Adam Carroll and Total 911’s Ben Barker was taken out of a promising position at Silverstone. The squad has done an amazing job to repair the heavy damage in time for Spa and will be looking to secure a solid result ahead of its first Le Mans next month.
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