Plenty of contacts in 8-hour race

It was a hot eight hours for the drivers, when the second round of FIA World Endurance Championship 2021 was run at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimao in Portugal. And as it turned out, the heat affected some of the drivers’ decisions in the race.

Alpine Elf Matmut #36 with Matthieu Vaxiviere, Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao had taken Pole Position in the Hypercar category, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, while Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez would start from P3. Glickenhaus Racing #709 with Richard Westbrook, Romain Dumas and Ryan Briscoe was fourth-fastest in Hypercar, but at the moment they qualified in the middle of the LMP2 field since one of Westbrook’s fast laptimes was deleted due to track limits.

JOTA #28 with Tom Blomqvist, Sean Gelael and Stoffel Vandoorne had taken Pole Position in LMP2, in front of their teammates in #38 with local hero Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson, while Racing Team Nederland #29 was the fastest LMP2 Pro/Am car, as well as being third in LMP2, with Job van Uitert, Frits van Eerd and Giedo van der Garde.

Championship leader United Autosports USA #22 with Paul Di Resta, Wayne Boyd and Phil Hanson had to be content with P4.

In the GTE Pro category, Porsche #92 with Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Neel Jani was on Pole Position, followed by James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in AF Corse Ferrari #51, while Porsche #91 with Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki qualified in P3. AF Corse Ferrari #52 with Daniel Serra and Miguel Molina were allowed to keep their time from qualifying anyway, and would start behind their GTE Pro competitors – as well as the polesitter in GTE Am.

8 Hours of Portimao 2021 start
Photo: JJ Media

The start went well until Turn 3, where JOTA #28 got turned around by their teammates in #38.

Racing Team Nederland #29 and Giedo van der Garde had, as usual, a fantastic start in LMP2, and overtook the lead in the class.

Inter Europol Competition #34 and High Class Racing #20 had a close battle for the fifth position in LMP2, down the start-finish straight, where they came very close to hitting each other but luckily didn’t.

D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 had a really good start and managed to take the lead in the GTE Am category, after about half an hour.

AF Corse Ferrari #52 & Realteam Racing #70
Photo: JJ Media

AF Corse Ferrari #54 also did very well and was up to second place after the AMR car in GTE Am. On the other hand, things went south for Team Project 1 Porsche #56, who fell back from first to fifth place in the class.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 had to pit due to electrical problems, which the team tried to solve with a new battery.

Realteam Racing #70 had a spin in Turn 3, in the middle of GT traffic. Luckily, Norman Nato didn’t get hit and could restart the car right away.

AF Corse Ferrari #54 took the lead in GTE Am.

JOTA #28
Photo: JJ Media

There was more good news for the Ferrari fans when AF Corse #52 came up to third in GTE Pro, after light contact with Porsche #91, who closed an open door a bit too late.

Alpine Elf Matmut #36 was the first Hypercar to pit, just like at Spa Francorchamps, since they can’t get a bigger fuel tank in the car. Their first stint was seven laps shorter than Toyota, which was quite a lot for an 8-hour race.

JOTA #28 chose to change Tom Blomqvist out with Sean Gelael at the first pitstop, while they were changing the two left tires. #38 used the same strategy, taking Antonio Felix da Costa out of the car and putting Roberto Gonzalez in.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 got hit in Turn 5 by TF Sport Aston Martin #33, when Ben Keating in #33 outbraked himself. The stewards gave them a ten-second pitstop penalty, which must be served during their upcoming pitstop.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33, Car Guy Ferrari #57 etc
Photo: JJ Media

There was a big drama for AF Corse Ferrari #83 when Perrodo had to hump back to the pits with a puncture on his right front tire, which had ripped the entire corner of the car. It meant the car had to be pushed into the garage after refuelling.

A contact happened between DragonSpeed USA #21 and JOTA #38, when Ben Hanley in #21 nudged Roberto Gonzalez in #38 and spun him around. But both cars could continue.

AF Corse Ferrari #51 took the lead in GTE Pro as James Calado drove past Neel Jani in Porsche #92.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33 got into more problems when they got a Drive-through penalty for track limits.

DragonSpeed USA #21 also got a drive-through for the contact with JOTA #38 earlier in the race.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8
Photo: JJ Media

Both Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 and AF Corse Ferrari #83 were back on the track. #77 only needed about one and a half minutes extra in the pits, for the damage caused by the contact with #33. #83 wasn’t so lucky. It took almost fifteen minutes before the front corner was repaired. It also meant that their lead gap in the championship in GTE Am would be smaller.

Glickenhaus Racing #709 had some problems under braking, where Ryan Briscoe hit D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777, and Dempsey-Proton Racing #77. It took a few seconds before #709 could be restarted, and after that Briscoe reported about the clutch problems. Poor Christian Ried in #77 had to pit with a damaged car for the second time in just under two hours. United Autosports USA #22 was, on the other hand, extremely lucky not to get involved in the incident.

DragonSpeed USA #21 got a Drive-through penalty for not respecting the blue flag.

Photo: JJ Media

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 had a solo spin in Turn 3, but it wasn’t so bad and Marco Seefried could continue almost right away.

D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 also had to visit the garage after getting hit by Glickenhaus Racing #709.

#709 was back in the pits after only one lap on the track. Unfortunately, it would be a long stop for them since there were problems with the clutch, which was just slipping when Briscoe gave full throttle.

Inter Europol Competition #34 & Aston Martin Racing #98
Photo: JJ Media

After two hours, Alpine Elf Matmut #36 was leading Hypercar, Team WRT #31 in LMP2, Racing Team Nederland #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, and Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 in GTE Am.

With six hours left of the race, many things could still happen.

The two Toyota Gazoo Racing cars swapped positions on the track after a strategic call from the radio, so that #7 came ahead of #8, since #7 was faster at that point.

Glickenhaus Racing #709 got a 10-second Stop & Go penalty for being responsible for the contact in Turn 5, with the two competitors.

There was drama for the leading Team WRT #31 when they got a Drive-through for speeding in the pitlane.

After almost twenty minutes of repair, D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 came back to the track, but it only took half a lap before Satoshi Hoshino had to stop the car and park in the run-off area in Turn 9. The team had no choice but to say that was it for today. Luckily, the car could be pushed behind the Armco without needing either Full Course Yellow or Safety Car.

D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777
Photo: JJ Media

Team WRT #31 got yet another Drive-through penalty for not respecting the blue flag. Thus the earlier leader in the LMP2 category fell back a few positions, with almost one minute in the pits after the two penalties got combined. Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 had to, unfortunately, be pushed back into the garage, since the car was too damaged after all the contact in the race. TF Sport Aston Martin #33 got another Drive-through, also for not respecting the blue flag.

Inter Europol Competition #34 had a nice first half of the race, where they were all the way up to the second place, before Team WRT #31 overtook them again after they did their penalty.

Tatiana Calderon in Richard Mille Racing Team #1 went off the track in Turn 8 as she came a bit too fast into the corner. She would hand over the car shortly afterwards to Sophia Flörsch, but she lost about fifteen seconds due to the little incident.

There was a bit of contact between Racing Team Nederland #29 and Porsche #92 in Turn 3, but it wasn’t something serious.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33 hit one of the sausage curbs that bordered the track, which sent Felipe a bit out from the ideal line. Luckily, there was enough asphalt in the run-off area, so he didn’t end up on the gravel.

Richard Mille Racing Team #1 & United Autosports #22
Photo: JJ Media

Aston Martin Racing #98 had fought hard to stay in front in GTE Am, but they already had their pro driver in the car, while Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 on the second place still hadn’t put their fastest driver in the car.

United Autosports USA #22 had taken the lead in the LMP2 category, but Team WRT #31 slowly but slowly caught up with them, after their penalty earlier.

High Class Racing #20 got a Drive-through penalty when Dennis Andersen hadn’t respected the blue flag. But it was Jan Magnussen who had to serve the penalty, since he got into the car when the penalty was given.

Some of the teams struggled with the tires when the asphalt temperature was up to fifty degrees, and especially the long, last corner almost peeled the rubber off the tires.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77, ARC Bratislava #44, Team WRT #31
Photo: JJ Media

Halfway into the race, Alpine Elf Matmut #36 was the leader in Hypercar, JOTA #28 in LMP2, Racing Team Nederland #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, and AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, while Aston Martin Racing #98 was the best GTE Am car.

AF Corse Ferrari #54 took an alternative line in Turn 1, so GR Racing Porsche #86 had to drive wide to avoid contact.

Glickenhaus Racing #709
Photo: JJ Media

Both Porsche GTE Pro cars had big problems with the tires, and they drove significantly slower than both AF Corse Ferrari – in fact, so much slower, that they were a whole lap behind the leading #51, while the two Porsches were within sixteen seconds of each other.

There was drama when Racing Team Nederland #29 pitted with a broken rear suspension after Job van Uitert had a collision with AF Corse Ferrari #51 under an overtake. It pushed High Class Racing #20 up as the new leader in the LMP2 Pro/Am category.

United Autosports USA #22 was back in front in LMP2, which changed back and forth depending on the pitstops between them and JOTA. Paul Di Resta could, however, keep the distance from Team WRT #31, which wasn’t as fast anymore, even though Ferdinand Habsburg was still in the car.

There was a little close call between GR Racing Porsche #86 and Team WRT #31 in Turn 3, where the latter had to drive over the grass to avoid hitting the Porsche.

Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 & AF Corse Ferrari #54
Photo: JJ Media

After under five hours, Alpine Elf Matmut #36 was one pitstop behind Toyota Gazoo Racing, a bit over one minute after the leading Toyota Gazoo Racing #7. The lap times on the two cars were very similar, but the difference was in the fuel that Alpine Matmut Elf #36 couldn’t physically carry in their fuel tank.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, however, with Kamui Kobayashi made a mistake on the way to the pits, storming with locked wheels in the pit entry and hitting one of the banners, and continuing with locked wheels after the pit-in line. It looked like something that should be investigated by the stewards, but no message came.

High Class Racing #20 lost over a minute in their seventh pitstop, which cost them the lead in LMP2 Pro/Am.

Stoffel Vandoorne in JOTA #28 came out of the pits in front of Team WRT #31, but he had to give away the position to Charles Milesi a few corners later. Shortly afterwards, Vandoorne was millimetres away from hitting Iron Lynx Ferrari #85, but luckily nothing happened.

The positions swapped again when #31 was caught in traffic and #28 drove past it.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7
Photo: JJ Media

Aston Martin Racing #98 had a spin in Turn 8, when Paul Dalla Lana got the left tire out over the gravel, and spun over the grass. He could drive away from there with only a few seconds lost, and still could keep the lead in the GTE Am.

But ARC Bratislava #44 with Miroslav Konopka couldn’t, when he outbraked himself in Turn 8 and ended up in the gravel. He had to get a bit help to get back to the asphalt, and it triggered the first Safety Car of the day. The whole field got closer again, opening up chances for battles.

The race got restarted with two hours and thirty-two minutes left on the clock.

Alpine Elf Matmut #36 was the seventh car in the row, but three corners later, Nicolas Lapierre was only 3,3 seconds away from the two leading Toyota Gazoo Racing cars, without any cars in between them and the Japanese competitors.

Lapierre got a good speed down the start-finish straight, but he came on the outside of Kazuki Nakajima and couldn’t finish the overtake.

ARC Bratislava #44 had a run-off again in Turn 3, but this time Konopka could come back to the track by himself.

On the next lap, Alpine Elf Matmut #36 drove past Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, and could begin to set their eyes on the leading #7, who was three seconds further ahead.

Porsche #92
Photo: JJ Media

Alpine Elf Matmut #36 had closed up the distance to Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, just as the French car had to pit for fuel.

The battle for the lead in GTE Am was heating up between Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 and Team Project 1 Porsche #56. Both drivers got a warning for Track Limits.

With two hours left, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was in front in Hypercar category, JOTA #28 led LMP2, Realteam Racing #70 in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, and Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 in GTE Am.

Alpine Elf Matmut #36
Photo: JJ Media

The battle for third place in LMP2 got a bit physical between Team WRT #31 and JOTA #38, as Charles Milesi and Anthony Davidson navigated through slower traffic. When Davidson finally went past, the door was also closed tight in Turn 3, so that Milesi didn’t have a chance to come back.

Porsche #92 picked up speed after Kevin Estre was back behind the wheel. Estre overtook Daniel Serra in AF Corse Ferrari #52, and began his hunt on the leading James Calado in AF Corse Ferrari #51.

Rahel Frey in Iron Lynx Ferrari #85 and Mikkel Jensen in Car Guy Ferrari #57 fought hard for P6 in GTE Am, where the Swiss definitely wasn’t afraid to use her elbows on the Dane. In the end, Jensen drove past her.

Team Project 1 Porsche #56
Photo: JJ Media

Realteam Racing #70 lost the lead in LMP2 Pro/Am, when Esteban Garcia got hit hard by Riccardo Pera in Team Project 1 Porsche #56. It was close to involving Team WRT #31, who managed to get away at the very last second.

It also meant that High Class Racing #20 overtook the lead in LMP2 Pro/Am, just as Anders Fjordbach got in the car.

There was contact between Richard Westbrook in Glickenhaus Racing #709 and Realteam Racing #70, where Garcia in #70 got halfway turned around but managed to stop the car before it became a full spin.

Realteam Racing #70
Photo: JJ Media

The lead in GTE Am changed with 70 minutes left of the race, when Team Project 1 Porsche #56 squeezed past Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47. It didn’t happen without contact, where the two cars brushed each other a few times and it ended up with the rear bumper on #56 getting a bit loose when it finally made it past. At the same time, AF Corse Ferrari #54 stormed from behind and caught up with the two competitors.

DragonSpeed USA #21 had a spin when Juan Pablo Montoya tried to overtake Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 from the inside, but he was up over the curb and stopped, pointing over the wrong direction. In the attempt to come back to the track, he stopped in the middle, where High Class Racing #20 among others had to drive over the gravel to avoid him.

The drama in GTE Am wasn’t over when Team Project 1 Porsche #56 got a 10-second pitstop penalty, for the contact with Realteam Racing #70 earlier in the race.

GR Racing Porsche #86
Photo: JJ Media

The last hour of the race started with Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 in front of Hypercar, JOTA #28 in LMP2, High Class Racing #20 in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, and Team Project 1 Porsche #56 in GTE Am.

There was a light contact between Realteam Racing #70 and AF Corse Ferrari #54, which gave some small damages to the cars but nothing serious so far.

Montoya in DragonSpeed USA #21 wasn’t done driving close to GTE Am cars, as he almost hit Aston Martin Racing #98 in Turn 1, but luckily he braked in time before any contact.

High Class Racing #20
Photo: JJ Media

The last pitstop round of the day for High Class Racing #20 didn’t go so well when the mechanics had to find a reserve battery and put it in the car, before Anders Fjordback went back out. Luckily, he came out with a lead of over one minute to Realteam Racing #70, and a further half-minute to DragonSpeed USA #21, who were the competitors in LMP2 Pro/Am.

However, the drama continued for the Danish team when Fjordback went still in Turn 7, with no life in the car whatsoever. The Dane frantically tried to restart the car to a nought, and he lost both first and second places in LMP2 Pro/Am. The car needed to be removed from the track, which caused a Full Course Yellow.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 chose to pit, but they didn’t have enough gap to keep the lead, and fell back in P2 behind their teammates in #8. On the other hand, they were way ahead of Alpine Elf Matmut #36, who wouldn’t be able to catch up with the two Japanese cars, unless something wild happened in the last half hour of the race.

At the same time, AF Corse Ferrari #52 also dove to the pits, and managed to keep their second place in GTE Pro.

The FCY period only took four minutes before the race got restarted.

AF Corse Ferrari #51
Photo: JJ Media

The two Toyota Gazoo Racing cars were only 3,5 seconds from each other, where they were close enough to get into battle.

The same thing happened in LMP2, where the two JOTA cars were less than a second away from each other and fought for victory.

Jose Maria Lopez in Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 had caught up with Sebastien Buemi in #8, with 18 minutes left. Shortly afterwards, Lopez managed to out-accelerate Buemi up the hill after Turn 5, but then a message came from the team that they wanted #7 to be ahead of #8.

AF Corse Ferrari #54 got a Drive-through for not respecting the FCY procedure. But they had more than one minute lead to fourth place, so they could easily come out of the pits and keep their third position.

After some repair from Anders Fjordbach, he managed to drive the car back to the pits, where the problem could be solved, and he was back to the track after just twenty seconds.

The two Toyotas swapped positions again, exactly as the way they were before – after another message from the team.

JOTA #38 took the lead in LMP2, with six minutes left when #28 got caught behind Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 in Turn 4, and could outbrake their teammates in Turn 5.

JOTA #38
Photo: JJ Media

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley won the race, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, while Alpine Elf Matmut #36 with Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere finished third. Glickenhaus Racing #709 with Richard Westbrook, Romain Dumas and Ryan Briscoe crossed the line in fourth place amongst the Hypercars, despite their problems earlier in the race.

JOTA #38 with Roberto Gonzalez, Anthony Davidson, as well as local hero Antonio Felix da Costa won the LMP2 category, in front of JOTA #28 with Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist and Sean Gelael, while United Autosports USA #22 with Phil Hanson, Wayne Boyd and Paul Di Resta finished in P3.

Realteam Racing #70 with Mathias Beche, Esteban Garcia and Norman Nato won the LMP2 Pro/Am category, followed by DragonSpeed USA #21 with Juan Pablo Montoya, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, while High Class Racing #20 with Anders Fjordbach, Dennis Andersen and Jan Magnussen finished third, which as the same time was P9 in LMP2.

AF Corse Ferrari #51 with Alessandro Pier Guidi and birthday boy James Calado won the GTE Pro class, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #52 with Daniel Serra and Miguel Molina, while Porsche #92 with Neel Jani, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre finished in third place, and Porsche #91 with Frederic Makowiecki, Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz finished in P4.

Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 with Antonio Fuoco, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte won the GTE Am category, followed by Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Riccardo Pera, Egidio Perfetti and Matteo Cairoli, while AF Corse Ferrari #54 with Francesco Castellacci, Giancarlo Fisichella and Thomas Flohr finished third.

DragonSpeed USA #21
Photo: JJ Media

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 extends their championship lead in Hypercar, while their teammates in #7 go up to the second place, ahead of Alpine Elf Matmut #36, and with Glickenhaus Racing #709 in P4.

The LMP2 championship is now led by JOTA #38, in front of United Autosports USA #22, and JOTA #28 in P3.

Realteam Racing #70 has come up in front in LMP2 Pro/Am, ahead of DragonSpeed USA #21 and Racing Team Nederland #29, and with High Class Racing #20 in fourth place.

AF Corse Ferrari #51 is now leading the GTE Pro championship, ahead of Porsche #92 in second place, and AF Corse Ferrari #52 in third.

The happiest Italians in Portugal, however, were Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47, who not only won the race but also took the lead in GTE Am championship, followed by AF Corse Ferrari #54, and Team Project 1 Porsche #56 in P3.

The next round of FIA World Endurance Championship 2021 will be run on 18 July at Monza, in a six-hour race.

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