It seems that in some races everything that can go wrong will go wrong, which is a thought that must have gone through the minds of the crew and drivers of BMW M Team WRT during the 6 Hour of Spa-Franchorchamps, which was the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. It was nothing short of a disastrous race for all four BMWs that the team had entered in the race.
BMW M Team WRT was surely looking forward to the six-hour race at the Spa-Franchorchamps circuit in Belgium, which is the home track for the team and one of the most renowned road course circuits in the entire world. The team was hoping to build off some momentum they had after the previous round at Imola, where their BMW entries proved to be fast and competitive, especially the LMGT3 M4 GT3 entries.

Qualifying went fairly well at Spa, with the #20 M Hybrid V8 of René Rast, Sheldon van der Linde and Robin Frijns making it into the Hyperpole round of qualifying for the ten fastest cars, where Rast qualified ninth with a 2:04.062. The pole went to the #5 Porsche 963 with a 2:03.107. The #15 M Hybrid V8 of Dries Vanthoor, Rafaelle Marciello and Marco Wittmann qualified twelfth and didn’t make it into Hyperpole. In LMTGT3, the #46 M4 GT3 entry of Ahmad Al Harthy, Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin made it into the Hyperpole round, where Al Harthy put the car into second behind the #85 Lamborghini. The #31 M4 GT3 of Darren Leung, Shawn Gelael and Augusto Farfus qualified twelfth.

Hopes for a competitive finish were dashed once the race progressed, with the pair of M Hybrid V8 cars not able to make up positions in the race. They were also hit with various penalties and technical infractions that dropped the #15 car to eleventh by the end, followed by the #20 car in thirteenth. “We got a lot of penalties and have always been kind of at the wrong end of everything,” said Rast. “A technical issue, penalties, so overall no points today. We need to learn from that. I think that pace wise, we were in the mix. That is one positive at least but we just need to perform better and make less mistake and hopefully in the next race we will be better.” The #12 Porsche 963 took the win in Hypercar, followed by the #6 Porsche and the #50 Ferrari.

The pair of M4 GT3s entered by WRT were each having a competitive race until both were taken out at different times by accidents through no fault of their own. The #46 was running fourth in class when it was caught up in a collision that involved other cars, which led to a DNF. With less than two hours left in the race, the #31 M4 GT3 was taken out by a collision triggered by Earl Bamber in a Cadillac Hypercar. Bamber made a move to get around another car as he went alongside Sean Gelael in the BMW but didn’t have enough clearance and took both cars out along with himself, which led to a long red flag stoppage of the race to clean up. The drivers were all OK and Bamber was penalized for causing the collision.

The DNFs for both M4 GT3 entries were especially frustrating since the drivers of the #31 car were leading the LMGT3 championship points coming into the race and looked to be on their way to a strong finish. All you can really do in racing is move on and prepare for the next race, which on the FIA WEC calendar is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in on June 15th-16th. “I think that we have got some good information to take with us but one of those bits of information is that you cannot make a good result without having a clean race, and unfortunately we did not have a clean race,” said WRT Team Principal Vincent Vosse. “We have to analyze why and make it better. In LMGT3, it was a real shame to see how much work we have put together with the #31 and #46 cars and that was gone and not through the fault of our drivers. It is tough to swallow. Now let’s see what we can do at Le Mans to recover all of those points we have lost here.”

—David Haueter

[Photos courtesy BMW]



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