Ferrari returned to winning ways in the GTE-Pro class after the disappointment at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Thanks to the 488 GTE No.51 of AF Corse the Prancing Horse notched up its 19th class victory in the WEC, the 24th if we include the five in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. The win, which puts James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi right back in the title fight and gives Ferrari first place among the Constructors, was the result of a perfect pit strategy and equally impeccable driving.
Davide Rigon and Toni Vilander were unlucky, finishing eighth after losing four laps due to gearbox problems. The No.54 Spirit of Race 488 GTE crewed by Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Miguel Molina took second place in the GTE-Am and a first WEC podium.
It was an uphill start in the LMGTE-Pro class for the 488 GTE No.71 of AF Corse. Half an hour into the race, Davide Rigon had just overtaken the Ford No.67 when the gearbox seized up. Returning to the pits, the car was fixed and the Italian set off again two laps down.
James Calado in car No.51, jumped from seventh to fifth and joined up with the group of two Porsches, the Aston Martin No.95 and Ford No.66, but was unable to attempt an attack due to a lack of top speed.
Car No.51′s race was thus all based on strategy, thanks to the extraordinary ability of Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi to save tires and fuel. The Ferrari was always the last to stop and gained time in the second part of the stints when tires started to struggle.
The crew gained seconds until the halfway mark, so the drivers just had to manage their lead in the second half of the race. Pier Guidi put in a fantastic double stint, which Calado replicated over the following 90 minutes. The Porsches, on the other hand, seemed to found the going tougher, and so the 488 GTE No.51 was firmly in command with 80 minutes to go.
The twin car, just as it was mounting a strong recovery with great times from Rigon and his occasional companion Toni Vilander, was again pulled up short by the gearbox whose repair cost another two laps. The car finished eighth and last in its class.
In the GTE-Am class, the two Ferraris struggled with the pace but were very competitive with worn tires in the closing stages. The 488 GTE of Spirit of Race driven by Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Miguel Molina, an official Prancing Horse driver, finished second, while Clearwater Racing’s No.61 driven by Griffin-Mok-Sawa came fourth.
The class victory went to the Porsche of Dienst-Ried-Cairoli, while the Porsche of Bernhard-Bamber-Hartley was the overall winner.
The next round is in Mexico at the start of September.
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