It was fair to say that Andreas Wirth came out of the European Le Mans Series opener at Silverstone on a high.
A podium on debut. Driving around front tyre issues to remain on the lead lap.
Watching Stefano Colletti and Julian Leal dice their way through the field.
The SMP Racing team were pumped.
He even said as such.
But as we all know in racing, there are peaks and there are troughs.
Come practice at Round 2 of the ELMS at Imola, the peak became a trough. It was all going well until Colletti hit one of Imola’s walls hard. The damage to the BR01 chassis was big, if repairable.
Listen to Andreas Wirth after Imola. Exclusive RacerViews interview
“We had a good car and it everything went well. We could do very consistent times, it was good.”
“In second practice we went through our routine and it was very good. Unfortunately at the end my teammate lost the car on a fast turn and he had a hard crash into the tyre wall.”
“It meant for out guys there was a lot of work to do before qualifying. It was just 2 and a half hours away. Amazingly they could get the car on track for qualifying which I never thought they could do.”
“Stefano could go out and drive. He told us on the radio that there was something wrong on the car. We found out later there was something that was still damaged on the car that you couldn’t see.”
“On one hand it wasn’t good as we qualified P12 but on the other hand it was very good as if we didn’t get the car on track for qualifying, we would have found these issues during the race. That would have been a big mess.”
The end result of the SMP team’s effort was 12th on the grid and as Andreas said, they were able to find the car’s faults and fix them before things got too dramatic.
After all, qualifying is of minor importance when compared to the race.
Andreas would be taking the second stint. Having survived the carnage of the opening laps at Silverstone, he would be tasked with consolidating the race, the early progress Leal makes, readying a lead lap car for Colletti to take to the flag.
And Leal made good progress, gradually moving up from their 12th starting slot to hand over the car to Andreas.
“Julian did the start and brought the car in P5. He did a great job in the beginning.”
“I have learnt a lot…I get more comfortable with the traffic and the endurance racing. You have to anticipate that the other guys may not have seen you and you have to look after the car.
“I am feeling very comfortable with the car. It is very fun and I learn more every time I am in the car.”
“I enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to the next round.”
Andreas’ stint was a smooth one. Doing exactly what he should be doing.
He kept it off the grass and the Imola armco, which is much closer to the narrow confines of the track than many other venues.
“It is really tough at Imola as the track is not really wide. The GT cars are much slower than the LMP2 in the corners but are quite fast on the straight aways.”
“It is very tough to go by them without taking a lot of risk.”
“There was a lot of traffic – there were 42 cars out there during the race, I think it was definitely a good job from all of us to get to P4.”
But if the SMP luck was down at this race, it would show again. Wirth brought the car in, after consolidating their position in the race.
He swapped over to Colletti, a few different tactical plays would put them in contention for a podium.
They thought third was definitely on the cards. Second was even a possibility.
But the heavens thought differently. So did race control.
With these things, there are winners and there are losers.
And the SMP Racing team were the latter.
“It was a little bit unfortunate when I handed the car to Stefano. We just did the driver change and five minutes later the full course yellow came out.”
“Some other guys had not done their driver changes yet and they could do the pitstop during the full course yellow, meaning we lost spots to them.”
“It that hadn’t been the case I think we could have been, easily P2 or P3.”
“But we can be happy with P4 considering the car after the practice and it is important points.
But fourth ultimately is not a bad result. If you can have the things go wrong in one weekend that this team experienced and still come out fourth, your Championship challenge is on the right track.
And the next race could be something exciting.
Andreas heads to Paris for Le Mans rookie duties.
Currently he is slated as a reserve for the Courage squad.
Us like many in the Wirth camp hope it comes to something more.
Time will tell. And if there is something to tell you, we’ll be there to bring you the news.
By Sam Tickell, May 2016
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