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Analysis

How Glickenhaus implosion helped Alpine to Monza WEC glory

Peugeot stole the headlines ahead of its FIA World Endurance Championship bow at Monza with the futuristic 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar, but it was Glickenhaus that stole the show in Italy - at least, until an engine failure set up a Toyota versus Alpine showdown. The Signatech-run machine emerged victorious, after a clash, to extend its crew's championship lead.

Race winner #36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

Race winner #36 Alpine Elf Team Alpine A480 - Gibson of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere

JEP / Motorsport Images

Last weekend’s Monza 6 Hours was packed full of high drama. The fastest thing in the place went out with a smokey turbo failure and the two cars fighting for the lead as the final hour approached came together at high speed on the start/finish straight. The Signatech-run Alpine squad ultimately came out of that battle with Toyota to record a second victory of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship, a race that the Glickenhaus should by rights have won.

The Glickenhaus 007 LMH had a clear performance advantage over the rest of the Hypercar pack around the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, almost certainly enough for Romain Dumas, Pipo Derani and Olivier Pla to come back from a drive-through penalty to win. The engine failure that followed turned round four of the 2022 WEC into a Toyota versus Alpine battle on a day that the debuting Peugeot showed promise but ultimately wasn’t a contender.

The pair of Toyota GR010 Hybrids ran 1-2 as the five-hour mark approached, but the Alpine A480-Gibson with Matthieu Vaxiviere aboard was on a charge. The grandfathered LMP1 car co-driven by Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao was the slightly faster car on Sunday, though not necessarily the more raceable machine. The lighter but less powerful old-style prototype has never been a match for the Le Mans Hypercars on the straights and that meant overtaking was never going to easy.

Time after time Vaxiviere got a run on the Toyotas out of the Parabolica. He’d taken three or four goes to get past Ryo Hirakawa in the #8 Toyota for second, but once ahead closed down the one-second deficit to Kamui Kobayashi in #7 in the space of a lap.

Vaxiviere got more or less alongside past the pits before the Toyota nibbled back ahead. Approaching the braking area for the first chicane Kobayashi eased infinitesimally over on his rival. There was a left-front to right-rear contact, the nose of the Alpine shredding the affected tyre of the Toyota, which then went straight on when it reached the Rettifilo.

The slow lap back to the pits for Kobayashi, who shared #7 as usual with Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, lost it the better part of a lap. Then a 90s stop/go penalty for causing a collision dropped it fully two laps down at the chequered flag.

Hirakawa was just 0.5s behind Vaxiviere after the coming together, but the #8 Toyota co-driven by Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley didn’t have the pace to mount a challenge. The gap went out to as much as six seconds over the final hour before ending up at 2.8s.

The Japanese driver had fought a solid rearguard action in his efforts to keep Vaxiviere behind. The Frenchman had led Hirakawa into the penultimate round of stops at which they both took on fresh rubber. Kobayashi didn’t and leapfrogged into the lead, while the second Toyota got ahead of the Alpine through Curva Grande on their out-laps.

Hirakawa had repeatedly been able to repel Vaxiviere’s advances via the inside line through Parabolica. The Alpine driver then changed tactics: he opted to go for the outside line and it worked at the first attempt. Vaxiviere got enough of a run to maintain the lead into the first chicane and then set off after Kobayashi.

“Hirakawa understood what I was trying to do and started slowing me down in the last corner, so I decided to go for the outside,” said Vaxiviere, who reckoned there were three contacts with the #8 Toyota before the dramatic one with #7. “Maybe it went a bit too far at some points, but it was a good fight. We were doing the same lap times, but in a different way: they were faster on the straights and we were faster in the corners.”

Kobayashi described the contact as a “misunderstanding”. He correctly pointed out that he made no sudden movement and said that he had been holding his line on the run to Rettifilo to indicate that he wanted to move to the right.

It is a shame for them, because [Glickenhaus] really are putting so much effort in. They were really able to win this race

Pascal Vasselon, TGR-E technical director

The Alpine was faster than the Toyota last weekend, though only by a tenth or so. The Oreca design that started off as the Rebellion R-13 had received a Balance of Performance break for Monza in the form of an extra 11kW from the level at which it raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours last month. Significantly, the A480 could also match the Toyota on stint length, which meant there was no need for the extra stop or stops that have hurt its chances in the past.

Toyota was less keen than ever to discuss the BoP after the race at Monza. Pascal Vasselon, technical director at Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe, did express some satisfaction with second and third positions with what he described as a “slow car” in the face of opposition from two cars that had been given more power: the Glickenhaus was up 13kW or 17-18bhp. The TGR team, he insisted had done a perfect job with the tools available to it.

The #8 GR010 was hit with a brake-by-wire systems issue as early as the second hour. The team had to switch to hydraulic activation while Buemi pressed the buttons and twiddled the knobs as directed before service as usual was restored after a couple of laps. The Swiss lost 10 or so seconds as a result of the problem, but a safety car midway through hour three allowed #8 to get back on terms.

Vasselon believes a better result for Toyota was not possible

Vasselon believes a better result for Toyota was not possible

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“We managed the situation very well,” said Vasselon. “It is something we prepare for in testing, but doing it in the race is something different. We were happy that we did not lose much time.”

While Glickenhaus and the Alpine had gained under the BoP for Monza, Toyota was running to a new spec that took away some performance. New rules intended for 2023 when the two-wheel-drive LMDh hybrids arrive in the WEC will ban any kind of torque control in the front differential of four-wheel-drive LMHs.

It was agreed by Toyota and Peugeot some time early in the year that they would run with what is essentially an open diff from Monza to prepare for next year. With the change has come a loss of stability under braking, though it wasn’t something that Vasselon wanted to quantify in terms of lap time.

Vasselon sportingly offered commiserations to Glickenhaus for the failure that put it out of the race early in the fourth hour.

“It is a shame for them, because they really are putting so much effort in,” he said. “They were really able to win this race.”

Dumas had plonked the Glickenhaus on pole by a whopping 0.9s, something that Vasselon insisted came as no surprise. He said it corresponded to the half-second margin Pla had in qualifying at Spa in May “plus the BoP on top”.

Glickenhaus achieved something it had never achieved before since joining the WEC. It knitted together the kind of coherent race required of a winner, at least until the engine issue. The 007 was also consistent on its tyres across a double stint, which has not always been the case in the past.

“We did nothing wrong in any department: the mechanics were perfect at every pitstop and we made the right strategy calls,” said technical director Luca Ciancetti. “And we had good pace over a double stint: in Pipo’s second stint the #7 Toyota was on new tyres and we were on old tyres and we were not doing too badly.”

In its new blue livery, the Glickenhaus was the class of the field at Monza until its engine failure

In its new blue livery, the Glickenhaus was the class of the field at Monza until its engine failure

Photo by: Morgese / Gandolfi

Dumas had raced away into a clear lead from the start: he was more than seven seconds clear of Buemi in second after seven laps, while the lead stood at a shade over 50s after two and half hours. That was wiped out by the safety car that followed Henrique Chaves rolling the TF Sport Aston Martin at the second chicane. Derani had incurred a drive-through penalty for going over the 80km/h (50mph) FCY speed limit, which Pla took shortly after the race went green.

The Peugeot that finished, the #94 car shared by Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes and James Rossiter, did show flashes of speed in between some longish stops to rectify cooling issues caused by track debris: it was only seven or so tenths off the pace on the averages

Five laps after that, smoke started billowing from the right side exhaust. The Frenchman was 30s off the lead at the time, and Ciancetti reckoned the car had the pace to get back on terms with the leaders.

“We were thinking it was still possible to win,” he said. “By keeping running at the pace we had at the beginning, we would have been fighting for the win.”

Peugeot got one of its new 9X8s to the finish, albeit 25 laps off the lead, while the other went out early with what were described by technical director Olivier Jansonnie as “car system problems”. He wouldn’t elaborate, because the exact nature of the trouble wasn’t clear, though a turbo boosting issue was at least part of it.

The Peugeot that finished, the #94 car shared by Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes and James Rossiter, did show flashes of speed in between some longish stops to rectify cooling issues caused by track debris: it was only seven or so tenths off the pace on the averages.

“I think we showed so quite good lap times,” said Jansonnie, “so we are happy with that. It was a tough race for us. We came here to learn and I think we learnt a lot.” 

The new Peugeot had teething troubles on its debut, with the #94 9X8 of Duval, Menezes and Rossiter the only one to finish

The new Peugeot had teething troubles on its debut, with the #94 9X8 of Duval, Menezes and Rossiter the only one to finish

Photo by: Morgese / Gandolfi

WRT tops LMP2 despite drama

Ferdinand Habsburg, Norman Nato and Rui Andrade claimed LMP2 honours at Monza, and deservedly so. The Realteam by WRT trio were the quickest combination in class, but a couple of mid-race moments from lead driver Habsburg meant they made life difficult for themselves on the way to a 12s triumph over the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning JOTA entry shared by Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Roberto Gonzalez.

Habsburg was at the front of the pack when the race went green after the lone safety car, though crucially with three-stint old tyres on each corner of his Oreca 07-Gibson. He made one mistake at the Rettifilo, losing a couple of positions, and then had a massive moment coming out of the Ascari Chicane that dropped him all the way down to seventh in class.

“I hit the bump exiting Ascari; I was trying to be too aggressive to stay ahead of the cars on new tyres,” he explained. “It was a lesson learnt: you shouldn’t be defending like a maniac in that situation.”

The WRT car had the pace to come back to the front and Habsburg was shadowing class leader Stevens when they made their final stops. The Austrian needed less fuel and jumped the JOTA Oreca in the pits.

The mid-race safety car was key to getting the lead JOTA entry back into the game. The car had a lot of ground to make up thanks to starting right from the back after being penalised for an unsafe release in qualifying.

Vector Sport delivered on its potential with a first LMP2 podium in only its fourth start. The team finally had a trouble-free race with the car shared by Sebastien Bourdais, Nico Muller and Ryan Cullen.

Misfortune for others certainly aided their cause. The second-quickest car last weekend was the #22 United Autosports Oreca that Filipe Albuquerque had put on the class pole. A broken throttle sensor when Phil Hanson took over the car started by Will Owen resulted in a 14-minute stop for repairs that left them second to last in the 14-car class.

JOTA just might have won this race with its second Oreca, crewed by Jonathan Aberdein, Ed Jones and Oliver Rasmussen. Aberdein was running just ahead of Habsburg in the final hour when there was what can best be described as an unusual contact with Kevin Estre’s Porsche between the two Lesmo Curves. He was able to resume but brought the car home two laps in arrears.

The #41 Realteam by WRT ORECA shared by Habsburg, Nato and Andrade took LMP2 spoils, as Vector's Muller, Cullen and Bourdais scored a maiden podium in third

The #41 Realteam by WRT ORECA shared by Habsburg, Nato and Andrade took LMP2 spoils, as Vector's Muller, Cullen and Bourdais scored a maiden podium in third

Photo by: Morgese / Gandolfi

Prema, too, was a contender with Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Lorenzo Colombo. The safety car undid Deletraz’s good work triple stinting a set of Goodyears and then a clash for Kubica with Paul-Loup Chatin in the Richard Mille Oreca at the first chicane resulted in a drive-through that left the Le Mans runner-up sixth at the finish.

The other WRT entry of Robin Frijns, Rene Rast and Sean Gelael needed repairs for a water leak, while the second United shared by Alex Lynn, Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson was another car to come through from the back of the grid, though it only made it as high as fifth behind the Euro Interpol Oreca shared by Alex Brundle, Esteban Gutierrez and Jakub Smiechowski.

Frugal Tandy wins GTE Pro for Corvette

Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner looked slightly bemused as they celebrated a first WEC GTE Pro victory outside of the Le Mans 24 Hours for Corvette Racing. The solo C8.R had inherited the victory when the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo shared by Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco came in for a splash with two minutes left on the clock. Yet their bewilderment at the Italian marque’s need for a stop was matched by Ferrari’s surprise that its rival didn’t.

The final full-course yellow with an hour and four minutes to go turned this one into a fuel-mileage race. GTE Pro cars struggle to do much more than an hour on a tank of gas, especially on a quick track like Monza. Tandy, who was in the ‘Vette for the final two stints, had to go into fuel-save mode to make the finish, but he still reckoned the smart money was on the AF Corse Ferrari ahead of him.

We knew if we had to pit it would be game over for us, so I had to go super aggressive on fuel saving. We didn’t think the Ferraris would have to pit, so when we saw them go in, happy days!

Nick Tandy

“It turned into a fuel-mileage race with the safety car, because it wasn’t clear if everyone could go to the end on two stop,” explained Tandy. “The last FCY made it worse. We knew if we had to pit it would be game over for us, so I had to go super aggressive on fuel saving. We didn’t think the Ferraris would have to pit, so when we saw them go in, happy days!”

The splash for the highest-place Ferrari left it 19s down on the Corvette Racing entry at the chequered flag, while the sister car shared by Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado was third after also taking on fuel at the death. “Shocked” was the word an incredulous Calado used to describe Tandy’s ability to get to the end.

Calado and Pier Guidi should have won this race on a day that the Ferrari was the quicker car after a Balance of Performance break ahead of the race. There hadn’t been enough dry laps at Spa back in May for the auto BoP to kick in for Monza, but the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest made a so-called black ball change that gave the 488 an extra 12 to 14bhp according to Ferrari’s calculations.

A supreme fuel-saving stint from Tandy brought Corvette its first WEC win since Le Mans 2015

A supreme fuel-saving stint from Tandy brought Corvette its first WEC win since Le Mans 2015

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

They lost out courtesy of a penalty for a procedural error: teams are meant to hand over data collected on a USB stick to the organisers, but somehow this task was forgotten and the car received a five-second stop/go in the penultimate hour.

Pier Guidi had to fight back past Kevin Estre’s Porsche to take the final podium spot. It was a tetchy battle in which there were multiple contacts for which the Frenchman was handed a drive-through (a separate incident with the #28 JOTA Oreca LMP2 was also taken into account).

The Corvette definitely wouldn’t have beaten the quicker of the two Ferraris, but it might have bested Molina/Fuoco. Tandy was between the two 488s until the first full fuel stops, only for what was described as a “miscommunication” to cost him 15s and second position.

Porsche brought up the rear of the GTE Pro pack in fourth and fifth positions, Estre and Michael Christensen ahead of Gianmaria Bruni and Frederic Makowiecki, who came into the line-up after Richard Lietz tested positive for COVID. The 911 RSR wasn’t in the game last weekend and team principal Alex Stehlig wasn’t very happy about it.

“The tyres worked as they should and the drivers liked the balance, but we didn’t have the pace,” he said. “If you look at the BoP change and power that Ferrari have said that they have gained, that is exactly what we were missing.”

Porsche beats Ferrari in GTE Am

Harry Tincknell, Sebastian Priaulx and Christian Ried took their second GTE Am victory of the season, and Monza like Spa in May was another last-gasp affair for the Dempsey Proton trio. Tincknell took the lead in the final Full Course Yellow period just before the five-hour mark and pushed on aboard his Porsche 911 RSR to extend the lead in the knowledge that he would have to make a late splash.

The Briton had taken over at the front when the Iron Dames Ferrari 488 GTE Evo that led more laps than any other car in class stopped a lap later just as the caution was ending. That meant an advantage of a second or so for Rahel Frey turned into a deficit of 26s for Michelle Gatting.

Pitting after the FCY ended proved costly for the all-female Iron Dames Ferrari crew as Tincknell, Ried and Priaulx took their second win of the year

Pitting after the FCY ended proved costly for the all-female Iron Dames Ferrari crew as Tincknell, Ried and Priaulx took their second win of the year

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

Tincknell, who was initially instructed to save fuel, had more than enough in hand when he splashed at the end, though Gatting subsequently came in for what was a precautionary stop in the car that Sarah Bovy had put on the class pole.

The TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE that triggered the only safety car of the race might have been in the mix but for its dramatic exit from the race. Ben Keating led a chunk of the opening two hours before a 50s stop/go for speeding in the pitlane.

Henrique Chaves was on his first flying lap after taking the penalty when he lost the front brakes and went off at the second chicane, the car taking off as it went sideways across the plastic kerbs.

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Edition

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