Dramatic Second Place ELMS Debut for Andreas Wirth

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Silverstone – Northamptonshire, England – April 17, 2016

Making his debut this weekend in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) at the 4 Hours of Silverstone, Andreas Wirth was keen to make his first time a memorable one.

The typically unpredictable English weather played its part, providing the challenge not only of a cold, wet track, but a little snow was thrown in for good measure. While the snow had moved off by the time qualifying rolled around Saturday morning, the frigid temperatures made things a little more than miserable for the drivers who saw almost a full four seasons in Silverstone this weekend.

With the new ELMS qualifying format this year, there were only 10 short minutes on a very cold, wet track to set a fast time. Add to that the challenge of a red-flag, and most LMP2 competitors had just over 6 minutes to find themselves a good qualifying spot on the grid. Fortunately for Andreas and Julian Leal, their teammate Stefano Coletti placed their #32 BR01 Nissan-powered SMP Racing LMP2 entry safely on the front row in second place.

The team was especially grateful for a good starting place, as drama, contact, spins and damage mid-pack immediately ensued with the wave of the green flag. Wirth got off to a great start, taking an early lead in his first ELMS race while chaos unfolded in his mirrors. Unfortunately the lead was short lived, and Wirth had to fight hard to hold onto second place during the early stages of the race, until he suddenly experienced unexpected loss of front-end grip. This, coupled with the cold and slightly damp track saw Wirth drop back as far as seventh place, prompting the team to change their strategy in favor of new tyres over the planned double stint for Wirth.
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“My stint was everything but easy,” said Wirth after climbing out of the car. “I’m definitely glad for a good qualifying spot and happy how things went, but the G-Drive (Racing Gibson) is just so fast today, we couldn’t keep that pace. I fought hard and did the best I could out there, but we lost a lot of front grip suddenly and they were just picking me off one by one – there was nothing I could do about it. I was looking forward to my double stint, but I definitely agree with the team’s call to change our strategy, we needed to get some new Dunlop’s on so we can try to make some spots back.”

As can be expected in endurance racing, the balance of the 4 Hours at Silverstone saw a few full-course cautions, spins and mishaps, but the #32 BR01 made it through unscathed, making a stronger showing as the track dried and the sun made its appearance.

With an hour to go, excitement mounted – the #32 SMP Racing LMP2 was running in fourth place and rain was threatening. 10 minutes later the rookie squad was in third place. With just over half an hour to go, light showers mixed things up for one final full-course caution which saw the #32 advance to second place, due once again to the misfortunate of their competitors. With a comfortable lead, Coletti drove safely home to a P2 finish in their maiden ELMS race.

After the podium celebrations Wirth was all smiles, “We’re happy! That was P2 … now P1 is coming at Imola! We very much look forward to that next challenge. I’m very happy for the team – for sure we had a bit of luck, but that’s endurance racing – it’s all about finishing races. We were solid out there – solid – and we brought it home.  I’m happy to be with SMP Racing this year … everything is really coming together for us and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this year. I thank all of our guys and everyone on the team as well – it’s been a lot of work and for sure a learning curve with us new guys, but we’re going to do our best to keep bringing in the good results.”

The ELMS moves next to Italy for the 4 Hours of Imola on May 13-15.
2016 Schedule
March 23
April 16
May 15
June 18-19
July 17
August 28
September 25
October 23
Testing - Le Castellet - France
Silverstone - England
Imola - Italy
24 Hours of Le Mans - France
Red Bull Ring - Austria
Le Castellet - France
Spa-Francorchamps - Belgium
Estoril - Portugal
More Information
Andreas Wirth
SMP Racing
Copyright © 2016 Andreas Wirth Racing, All rights reserved.

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