MEDIABALAP.com – “Start your engines !’’ The typical announcement that precedes every race in the US will serve this year to launch the FIA World Endurance Championship, as the 2022 season kicks off at the iconic Sebring International Raceway. Team WRT will defend its LMP2 double title (Teams and Drivers) conquered last year, in its maiden season in the series, and has doubled its full-season entry up to two cars.
Sebring may be a relatively small and remote town in Central Florida, but is one of the cradles of American racing and one of the world’s temples of endurance racing. Today’s 6.019-km track is a modern, fast and technical circuit which still retains much of the magic and of the atmosphere of the former military airfield turned into a race track in the early 50s.
The FIA WEC will race on Friday, on a 1000-mile format, and certainly offer a fantastic show given the quality and the numbers of the grid for this season.
Team WRT fields two Oreca 07 Gibson, with #31 entrusted to Robin Frijns-Sean Gelael-René Rast, and #41, in the colours of REALTEAM by WRT, in the hands of Rui Andrade-Ferdinand Habsburg-Norman Nato.
Both cars did extremely well during the two days of test earlier this week, which served as the Official Prologue to the season. Car #41 set the quickest time overall of all sessions while car #31 was second fastest. An encouraging debut for the team, which will be racing at Sebring for the first time, although it will have to be confirmed from Wednesday when the official free practice will start.
The 1000 miles race will start at noon local time (19:00 in Central Europe) on Friday and will have a maximum duration of 8 hours.
Ahead of the exciting season about to commence, Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse comments: “We are delighted to start our second FIA WEC season and to do it in a track such as Sebring, which enshrines so much history. It will be the first time we race here, as in 2020 we attended the tests prior to the 12 Hours, but the race itself had to be canceled because of the outbreak of the pandemic. We are very happy with how the Prologue went earlier this week, the feedback has been extremely positive. It means we have prepared well and that the work that the entire team is doing is being effective. This boosts our determination to confirm this trend in qualifying and in the race. This year, we are entering two cars and have again very strong driver line-ups, as we fight to defend our titles, in an environment which is even more competitive. As always at Team WRT, we like challenges, we like to progress and improve every year and we are fully committed to our objectives, which are amongst others to be on the Hypercar grid in the future!”
DRIVER QUOTES FOLLOWING THE PROLOGUE
Robin Frijns: “It feels good to be back in LMP2. The last time I jumped in the car, it was in Bahrein, so it’s been a while. Obviously, we have a bit of a different air pack compared to last year: we have less downforce, a bit less horsepower. It’s my first time here, in Sebring, I’ve much enjoyed the track, it’s quite bumpy. Everything seems to be going pretty well. Now it’s hard to say where we are, but I think that for sure we can battle for the podium positions, if not for the wins, so as long as we are out of trouble, we should be up there.”
Sean Gelael: “I’m happy and satisfied with the two days of testing. It was the first time I met the team properly so it was good to get to know everyone and to get a good chemistry going on with Robin and René, engineers and everyone involved, which is important. Hopefully, we will keep improving for the race.”
René Rast: “I enjoyed my first time with Team WRT in WEC and I think we made good progress, without encountering big issues so far. I’m happy with the performance of the team and the car. These days were about to learn the car and the setups and so we achieve that.”
Rui Andrade: “We had very productive two days of testing: no mistakes, the car ran faultlessly over both days. A lot of work has been done, a lot of setups, race runs… Obviously, it was my first week with the Team WRT, I’m still adapting to different driving styles and a different way of working, but it’s very positive. The team is mega professional and overall I’m very happy with everything, just looking forward to the race weekend.”
Ferdinand Habsburg: “We had a super-clean start to the season with the Prologue here in Sebring. All of us got to know each other a little bit with new teammates and we also have some new faces in the team. It seems like we are quick enough to be at the front and we were the quickest in LMP2 on Day 1 in the morning session and on Day 2 we set the quickest time overall. Also on the long-run pace, we seemed to be top in Top-5, so that’s what we are looking forward to. We never know what is going on until Qualifying and the Race, but it’s very nice to be back with my WRT racing family for the third year. And I’m very much looking forward to the next six races in the FIA WEC.”
Norman Nato: “First of all, it’s a good feeling to be driving again, because I didn’t drive any LMP2 since Bahrain. Also, it’s my first time in Sebring, which is very cool. I drove for WRT in GT two years ago, but it’s my first time with the team in LMP2, and it’s great to be back with this team. They have been very successful last year, so we have to push a lot to keep this level because the grid is very strong. It was two positive days and it was very important to adapt to the car and also communicate with the engineers and my teammates. We are ready for the race week.”
FIA World Endurance Championship – Round 1
Sebring 1000 Miles – Sebring, Florida (US), 16-18 March 2022
Timetable (local time; CET: + 5 hrs)
Wednesday 16 March 2022
11:05-12:05 Free Practice 1
16:35-17:35 Free Practice 2
Thursday 17 March 2022
12:05-13:05 Free Practice 3
19:20-19:30 Qualifying (LMP2 & Hypercar)
Friday 18 March 2022
12:00-20:00 Race (1000 Miles or 8 hours max.)
Team WRT entry (Oreca 07 Gibson)
#31 Robin Frijns (NL) – Sean Gelael (ID) – René Rast (DE)
REALTIME by WRT entry (Oreca 07 Gibson)
#41 Rui Andrade (AN) – Ferdinand Habsburg (AT) – Norman Nato (FR)