Vandoorne's car finished Spa race with four gears

The SMP Racing LMP1 car driven by Stoffel Vandoorne finished Saturday's Spa FIA World Endurance Championship race with only four gears.

Vandoorne's car finished Spa race with four gears

A gearbox problem meant that Vitaly Petrov and then Mikhail Aleshin, who shared the #11 BR Engineering BR1 with WEC newcomer Vandoorne, were unable to engage fifth or sixth gears in the closing stints of a race affected by rain and snow.

"We only had four gears for maybe the last two hours," said former IndyCar driver Aleshin, who brought the car to the finish. "Luckily the track was wet, because it would have been a much more difficult job if it had been dry."

The transmission issue meant that that Petrov was powerless to prevent Thomas Laurent in the #3 Rebellion R-13 from passing him for second at the restart after the penultimate safety car. 

But finishing third still meant that Vandoorne was able to stand on the podium in front of his home fans for the first time since the 2015 GP2 feature race at Spa.

"We had a great race today," said the ex-McLaren Formula 1 driver. "I was in the car for a very long time, two hours and 45 minutes. I've never done that in my life, driving that long!

"The start was good, everything we did on the track was very good, we were fast when we had to be. In the rain, we could make a difference. The team management was quite good. It was a very, very difficult race for everyone with the safety cars, the full-course yellows.

"It was nice to do the start. I think I’ve more or less experienced everything this weekend now. It was good to get that experience [ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours].

"We had a good start of the race, had some nice fights out there. We managed to put ourselves in a really good position and gap some of the people behind us. It was good."

P1 Podium, #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov, Stoffel Vandoorne

P1 Podium, #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov, Stoffel Vandoorne

Photo by: JEP / LAT Images

Gaetan Jego, technical director of the SMP squad, suggested that the best of the BR1s would probably have been second but for the gearbox problem - but conceded that it had been a tight battle with the #3 Rebellion of Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Nathanael Berthon. 

"We made different choices on tyres, so it was very up and down between the two cars," he explained. "It is difficult to say who was quicker over the whole race."

The second of SMP's BR1s finished a delayed fourth in the hands of Sergey Sirotkin, Egor Orudzhev and Stephane Sarrazin after losing its right front wheel early in the third hour.

That incident happened 16 laps after its previous change of tyres and Jego stated in the wake of the race that it was still investigating the problem.

shares
comments
Alonso "extremely happy" with Spa WEC points swing

Previous article

Alonso "extremely happy" with Spa WEC points swing

Next article

Lotterer laments "terrible" race for #1 Rebellion crew

Lotterer laments "terrible" race for #1 Rebellion crew
Load comments

About this article

Series WEC
Event Spa-Francorchamps (2019)
Drivers Stoffel Vandoorne
Teams SMP Racing
Author Gary Watkins
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy Prime

How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy

Ferrari's planned return to the top category at the Le Mans 24 Hours has further heightened anticipation for the 2023 race. Few concrete details are currently known, but already it has a high-profile superstar angling for involvement, which would make a refreshing change

WEC
Mar 5, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger Prime

The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger

Toyota's new GR010 contender for the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar era has little in common with the LMP1 TS050 that preceded it. But within the confines of the scaled back new rules, its latest challenger will be no less formidable a prospect

WEC
Jan 22, 2021
The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC Prime

The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC

The system of success handicaps devised by the FIA World Endurance Championship to level the LMP1 playing field in the category's swansong season ended up having a counterproductive effect, as COVID cancellations also played in the champions' favour.

WEC
Dec 5, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020
The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season Prime

The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season

It may have been missed amid the clamour over Lewis Hamilton's seventh F1 title, but Britain had another world champion crowned last weekend. Mike Conway's WEC crown raises an old conundrum - does title glory make up for the pain of Le Mans defeat?

WEC
Nov 19, 2020