WRT transformed car after "shocking" pace in Bahrain practice

The WRT drivers have hailed the team’s impressive turnaround in performance following their victory in the first Bahrain FIA World Endurance Championship race, having had "shocking" pace in practice.

The Belgian squad endured a difficult start to the penultimate round of the 2021 season as it finished a distant sixth among the 11 LMP2 entrants in opening practice on Thursday, more than a second off the pace of the chart-setting #38 JOTA crew.

Improvements were hard to come by on Friday and Milesi could only set the seventh-quickest time in the #31 Oreca, as the #28 JOTA machine took over from the sister car as the new benchmark in LMP2.

However, WRT’s fortunes were transformed during the race, with Habsburg moving up to fourth in the first stint before Frijns took advantage of a full-course yellow period to grab the lead - a position Milesi held on to in the final stint.

This was WRT’s second victory in the WEC after Frijns narrowly held off Tom Blomqvist’s JOTA car in the final moments of the Le Mans 24 Hours, albeit only after the second WRT entry driven by Yifei Ye crawled to a halt with mechanical issues on the final lap.

Speaking after the race, Frijns credited the team for the progress it made over the course of the weekend to turn the #31 Oreca into a winning car.

“FP1 was shocking really, we had a feeling we were off the pace,” said the Dutchman. “The JOTA looked very strong and [our] car balance was not as it is supposed to be.

“We worked hard and during the sessions step-by-step the car was improving. In the race the car felt really good and it was a joy to drive today.”

Habsburg added: “It was a mega race for us. I just had a great time and we improved so much through the practice sessions that we didn’t even expect the pace we had today.

“We had to start further back in seventh. I had the start for the first time this year and I didn’t know what to expect.

“I was able to overtake car by car and bring us up into the top three and just enjoy it so much and hand it over to these guys who finished the job perfectly. It looked like they also had fun there. And it was awesome to relieve the fun feeling we had at Le Mans.”

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, Charles Milesi

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, Charles Milesi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The Bahrain result has handed the WRT trio a small but significant five-point lead over the #28 JOTA Oreca of Blomqvist, Sean Gelael and Stoffel Vandoorne, with the other #38 JOTA car of Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez and United Autosports’ Phil Hanson also in contention for the title.

But with 38 points on offer in the season-concluding Bahrain 8 Hours this week, Milesi says the team must ‘not stress’ itself as it chases the LMP2 title in its maiden season of prototype competition.

“Next week everything will be possible, only five points in front of the #28 car,” he said. “Eight hour race next week, there's quite a lot of points to deliver.

“But I think we need to not stress ourselves. If we did the same job as the last two races, it will work out for us. But if we get a consistent job [done], I think it will be okay for next week.”

The WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain will be streamed live on Motorsport.tvClick here for more information

shares
comments

Related video

Yifei Ye secures Porsche Asia contract ahead of potential LMDh seat
Previous article

Yifei Ye secures Porsche Asia contract ahead of potential LMDh seat

Next article

Bahrain win "important step" in #7 Toyota crew's WEC title bid

Bahrain win "important step" in #7 Toyota crew's WEC title bid
Load comments
The unanswered questions that define WEC 2021's controversial ending Prime

The unanswered questions that define WEC 2021's controversial ending

OPINION: The deeply unsatisfying ending to a brilliant World Endurance Championship GTE Pro battle in Bahrain had Ferrari provisionally heading back from the desert as the victor. But Porsche plans to appeal the outcome, which rests on a number of confusing elements that have yet to be satisfactorily explained.

WEC
Nov 9, 2021
How the WEC's heavyweight duel reached its controversial flashpoint Prime

How the WEC's heavyweight duel reached its controversial flashpoint

The Ferrari versus Porsche fight for the FIA World Endurance Championship's GTE Pro title had been a finely-poised affair, right up until Alessandro Pier Guidi's punt on Michael Christensen in the closing stages of the Bahrain 8 Hours handed Ferrari a provisional title, pending Porsche's appeal. Here's how the controversy played out.

WEC
Nov 8, 2021
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Prime

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Prime

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021