WEC turning points: WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps 2016
Signatech-Alpine snatch first win at WEC 6H Spa
The WEC 6 Hours of Spa produced a race of attrition in LMP1, but it was in LMP2 where the real drama could be found, as Signatech Alpine kicked its FIA World Endurance Championship campaign into gear.
It had been a quiet start to the season for the Signatech Alpine team at Silverstone. On its first outing with the Alpine A460 the team was affected more than most by the weather-disturbed practice sessions, as all three drivers struggled with massive tyre degradation during a double stint. Despite this, Nicolas Lapierre was in contention for a podium until a puncture in the final hour dropped him to fourth.
Nonetheless, Alpine could take encouragement from the error-free performances of series newcomers Stéphane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes who showed they could adapt quickly to the rigours of LMP2 despite the limited track time. With a race weekend under their belts, the trio expected to come back stronger at Spa, which is precisely what they did.
After the race-leading G-Drive ORECA was ruled out of contention by hitting a GTE car, Menezes inherited the position and remained there until he handed over to Lapierre. However, matters were made more complicated by a late race Safety Car that eradicated his advantage and required the Frenchman to push hard at the restart to establish a gap.
Lapierre made a final splash-and-dash with around 10 minutes to go and came out in second place behind Pipo Derani’s ESM Ligier, but didn’t give up hope. When the Brazilian was held up in traffic at Fagnes, Lapierre spotted his opportunity and swept around the outside to take the team’s second ever victory in the WEC and the first of the 2016 season.
Behind them, Roberto Merhi gave Manor its first podium after a last-lap move on the RGR Sport Ligier, which had won at Silverstone. As a result, RGR and Signatech would head to Le Mans level on points, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long…