Prema ORLEN Team claims P4 in maiden WEC outing at Sebring
Prema ORLEN Team completed its first foray in the FIA World Endurance Championship today with a positive fourth place at Sebring International Raceway, navigating an eventful race that came to an unpredictable conclusion.
The 8-hour run began with Robert Kubica delivering a spectacular start aboard the #9 Oreca 07 LMP2 as he gained positions straight away to enter podium contention. The Pole then handed the car over to young gun Lorenzo Colombo, who put up an extremely positive performance at his maiden prototype racing experience.
At that point, Swissman Louis Delétraz produced an outstanding run as well, making an offset tyre strategy work before the half point and climbing up to the lead. Unfortunately, a red flag came out in the worst possible moment, neutralizing the previous advantage as the pack recompacted at the end of the fourth hour.
Delétraz found himself fighting on older tyres. While he did a masterful job to maximize the pace, the team dropped back, with traffic also playing a role on the tight, rough, and twisty American circuit.
The final stages became even more eventful. Right after Kubica got back in the car for a fast-paced run to the flag, a massive thunderstorm approached the area. With severe weather alerts coming, race control had no choice other than red-flagging the event according to laws and regulations. A further resumption attempt was aborted when heavy rain and lightning made a safe operation impossible for competitors and workers.
A late strategy call saw Prema ORLEN Team move up to P3, but red flag rules meant that the team was classified P4. Despite missing out on the podium, the team celebrated an exciting and positive endurance racing debut, which showed promise and laid great foundations for the rest of the year.
"It was a pretty long race compared to what I have been used to! Overall it was a very good first weekend with a lot of learning and improvement for the whole team. It went well also on my side as we had no contacts or major issues, but we always have to think about what we could have done better. I need to get a little more used to traffic as I made a little mistake in my second stint. As a team we need to keep going like we did this weekend, working smartly and listening to each other to keep moving forward."
"It was an eventful race for sure and we had a lot against us. It was going well and we were leading during my stint with a bit of margin to P3 and P4, but the red flag came really at the wrong moment and it cost us a lot from the strategy point of view. However, we executed well as a team. We can be happy with P4 in our debut. It was a really promising start and we learned a lot. I'm really looking forward to the next rounds."
"I think we can summarise the race in two halves. I started the race, gave the car to Lorenzo in P3 and we were quite competitive, we could have fought for the podium or even the win. Lorenzo did a very good job and we were offsetting the tyre strategy. Then, the red flag came out with four hours to go and Louis in P1, but it didn't help because it compacted the pack. In the second half of the race, we still did okay. The crew worked really well in the pit lane but we lost a bit of time in some crucial moments. I jumped in the car to drive in the last one hour and 40 minutes. The plan was to go to the end but the weather started to change. We tried to regain ground and get back into the fight but the race was eventually stopped. However, we should be really happy as a team as we executed really well in the pits, and we look forward to the next WEC round at Spa-Francorchamps."