Sep 19, 2021-ORLEN Team WRT made it: in its home track at Spa-Francorchamps, with still one round to go, the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles of the 2021 European Le Mans Series were conquered, after Louis Delétraz, Robert Kubica and Yifei Ye clinched a superb race win, the third of the season so far.
For the three drivers there could not be a better way to recover after the misfortune lived in the last lap of the Le Mans 24 Hours, while the Belgian squad nets another stunning (and double) achievement in its first full campaign in LMP racing.
At the end of another very emotional day, Team Principal Vincent Vosse commented: “It’s fantastic! To win the two titles in our first campaign and to do it here at Spa, in our home race, is just a wonderful feeling. It wasn’t an easy race, because of the slow puncture and having had to pit one lap earlier… that put us in a touchy situation with regard to fuel, but even having to adopt a slower pace, we could keep the advantage. It’s great also for Robert, Louis and Ye after the immense disappointment of Le Mans. I want to thank and congratulate them, as well as the entire team and all of our sponsors and partners, for their fantastic job. In this happy moment for us, here at ‘her’ track, I also think fondly of Nathalie Maillet, whom I miss greatly…”
The Spa 4 Hours weekend started positively since free practice, where the Oreca 07 Gibson of the Baudour-based team proved fast and competitive, taking P2 in the first session and P4 in the second. In qualifying, it was third-fastest, securing a spot in second row.
On a beautiful late summer Sunday, with 37 cars on the starting grid, lap 1 drama was expected, but it actually broke out few meters after the start, at the braking for the La Source corner, when some of the front-running cars got in contact and spun. Robert Kubica, who was at the wheel, got out unscathed and in P2, while some of the closest rivals of #41 saw their race compromised, or even over, in the incident. The Pole took the lead after a first very quick pit stop (only refuelling) timed following a second safety-car period, and defended it fiercely from the attacks of Patrick Pilet.
Yifei Ye took the wheel in lap 38, building a good gap, which proved useful as a punctured rear right tyre brought him earlier to the pits in lap 55. The Chinese though re-seized the lead while Louis Delétraz, who took the wheel in lap 77, could control the situation, although the Swiss did not have much breathing space in terms of gap. A final Full Course Yellow period seven minutes from the end was very much welcomed to avoid a possible last “splash-and-dash”. The 99-lap long race went in the net and the 100-point mark hit in both championships standings sanctioned mathematical certainty of the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, respectively the 44th and 45th titles in WRT history.
Louis Delétraz: “I am very happy to be champions here at Spa, it’s amazing. Today, it wasn’t an easy race, we had some unplanned pit stops, but at the end we won by a small margin, securing the titles. It’s an ideal weekend after what happened in Le Mans, it’s a great result for the entire team, which has done a tremendous job to put this programme together and it’s a honour for me to be part of it.”
Robert Kubica: “We are very happy, we couldn’t expect a better weekend on our home track! After Le Mans, it was nice to be back racing and put everything behind. We did a good race, took no risks and our main competitor struggled. We take the championship before it ends, I really want to thank the entire team, my teammates and everybody who made that possible.”
Yifei Ye: “I am extremely happy to win the home race of the team and secure the championships one round before the end. It was very difficult after Le Mans, but we were able to put this behind us and take out the positive, which was the excellent pace we had. We came to Spa with a championship mindset, some events at the start played in our favour, but after, the puncture and having to pit earlier put us in the obligation to save fuel. Still, we did the best we could under the circumstances and it worked well.”
European Le Mans Series – Round 5
Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium – 17-19 September 2021
1. Delétraz-Kubica-Ye (Oreca 07 Gibson) 99 laps
2. Gommendy-Binder-Rojas (Oreca 07 Gibson) + 5s318
3. Stevens-Canal-Allen (Oreca 07 Gibson) +19s544
4. Coigny-Lapierre-Milesi (Oreca 07 Gibson) +23s198
5. Van Uitert-Jamin-Maldonado (Oreca 07 Gibson) +26s236