Round 3 of the World Endurance Championship was one of the most action-packed races in recent years – here are Last Lap’s top five moments.
For the first time in WEC history, they would be racing at the historic ‘Temple of Speed’ that is the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
The six-hour race covered all the basis to make it one of the most memorable in recent years, from various dramas, wheel-to-wheel battles, nose-to-tail fights, and even a fight to the finish.
The entire race weekend delivered well for the fans, but we pick out five of our most favourable moments from the 6 Hours of Monza.
1) Keating’s high speed tyre explosion
Ben Keating not only manages 20 Texas car dealerships, but he is considered to be one of the most talented and credible ‘amateur-licensed’ drivers in GTE-Am.
He turned around what was a challenging start back at the Prologue, but redeemed his crash with a stunning first WEC GTE-Am pole position. However, contact with the DragonSpeed and the G-Drive Racing LMP2s in the opening round diminished his potential.
We are under safety car after the @OfficialTFSport #33 has experienced a high speed puncture. Marshals are now clearing the track from carbon debris left by the Vantage AMR.#WEC #6HMonza pic.twitter.com/PaXMWLVPFp
— WEC (@FIAWEC) July 18, 2021
Two rounds later, he took pole once again to make it two in the FIA WEC; his margin of almost three-tenths on the reigning champion Francois Perrodo.
Unfortunately, his race was short-lived at the halfway point when the front-left tyre exploded in dramatic fashion at high speed along the Curva del Serraglio.
A 20-minute safety car period was deployed to clear the rubber (tyre) and carbon fibre debris, but the consequence was yet again a tough pill to swallow for TF Sport. They were the last classified GTE-Am.
2) Glickenhaus’ chase on the Alpine in Hypercars
The Le Mans Hypercar of the WEC’s latest top-tier debutant had untapped more potential and more pace from the #709 which debuted at Portimao.
Besides the rapid pace it started to put on during the latter stage of the race, it was approaching the fourth hour when Franck Mailleux was chasing down Portimao pole-sitter Matthieu Vaxiviere in the Alpine ahead.
Maillieux had not raced in a WEC round since Le Mans in 2014 in an open-top LMP2, but has more sportscar experience from the prior years.
He had built an affiliation with Glickenhaus by participating in their Nurburgring 24 Hours efforts every year since 2016.
Nevertheless, the ex-Rebellion Racing LMP1 in front was a developed and established endurance machine running at low fuel at that point. So to see a relatively new LMH chase them and pressure it was a thrilling sight.
This fight for P2 may have lasted only around eight minutes when the #36 pitted, but it is a sign of a spectacle to come at Le Mans next month after finishing P4 overall.
3) D’station Racing and Aston Martin Racing duel to the line
In GTE-Pro, both of the sole works GT teams were battling it out.
Meanwhile, in the class below, drivers were upping the aggression and determination as demonstrated in the extensive duel between the #777 and the #98.
It’s one of the unique characteristics of GTE-Am, that drivers seem to give it more for the pure sake of their race.
Tomonobu Fujii made a strong start back in Portimao, getting himself from towards the back of the grid, to fighting at the front in a matter of minutes.
However, he did himself few favours with his regular lockups, and seeing that there were high track temperatures at the ‘roller-coaster’ circuit, he pitted early because of his ruined tyres.
Needless to say Monza was a chance again to fight, with him judging the braking points intelligently against the other Aston Martin of Augusto Farfus.
They were both going to finish on the podium if they did not fight, but either were keen to take P2. Farfus asserted potent pace to catch up and fight with Fujii, bettering the race lap-times of his GTE-Pro drivers in the class above.
Side-by-side to the end, it was the #98 that made it stick. Even after six hours, it went to the line as close as it could have ever been after jostling relentlessly.
4) Toyota’s woes with the #8 GR010 Hybrid
So far this season, any ‘troubles’ were on the #7 Toyota GAZOO Racing with it being the newer Hypercar compared to its sibling.
It was looking positive into qualifying after the #8 in the hands of Brendon Hartley was just 0.62s off Lopez for pole. The momentum was strong; that was until one and a half hours into the race when the #8 was running slowly, enabling the #36 and #709 to speed past.
Hartley was pushed into the garage for nearly five minutes after the team performed a power cycle and a few setting changes. Coming back out in 21st overall demonstrated how tight the margin for error can be in terms of costly positions, but worse was to come.
A few laps after it went back out the car was going slow again, only after what looked to be braking issues when it narrowly missed the #98 Aston Martin Racing into Turn 1.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) July 18, 2021
They changed the front left corner of the car with issues being deeper than an electrical glitch.
Around 40-minutes later, the #8 is seen going slow again and enters the garage to deal with a fuel pressure issue. A further 1-hour and 20 minutes passed until the #8 was back out but was more than out of the game to maintain their championship lead and two-win streak.
It finished 43 laps behind its race-winning sibling but covered the mileage to be classified at the end. A bitter-sweet ending for Toyota.
5) AF Corse’s last-to-first charge to a home victory
It was not to be in GTE-Pro when the works AF Corse Ferrari had to make a splash-and-dash pitstop on the penultimate lap.
But the reigning GTE-Am champion #83 Ferrari would give the Tifosi a home victory to celebrate.
There were qualifying woes when a ride height infringement disqualified their P2 spot in the category.
To put it simply but brilliantly, the Ferrari was charging to the lead battle of GTE-Am after just 30 minutes. From the halfway point, it was clear the #83 crew had asserted the necessary pace to label the weekend a redemption from their struggles at Portimao.
Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen, and Alesso Rovera were rewarded with cheers on their trip to the top podium’s top step; a feel-good ending to take a home victory on home turf.
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