Our resident motorsport correspondent, Nick van der Meulen, had a busy Sunday. In between watching F1 (read his report here) and the 2022 6 Hours of Monza, he also took the time to have a quick braai. You know what they say: you can take the boy out of South Africa…
The World Endurance Championship paddock returned to Monza for the 2022 6 Hours of Monza. This was the second time this event was hosted at this venue.
Last year there was a press conference involving the unveiling of the new Peugeot Hypercar. At the 2022 6 Hours of Monza the machine make its debut, with mixed results. The Peugeot team entered two machines (#93 and #94) for the Monza event. Unfortunately, #93 had a torrid weekend, with electrical gremlins ruining its runs in free practice and qualifying. Mikkel Jensen struggled with the machine in the opening phases of the race. He eventually ground to a halt on the back straight within the first 20 minutes of the endurance race.
They were forced to start from 16th position following their qualifying woes and Jensen quickly carved his way into sixth position before his woes began. The #94 lasted a few hours longer, before a similar fate befell the sister car. They managed to get going again, taking the chequered flag and gaining valuable experience with their new machine.
The Hypercar class saw Romain Dumas (#908, Glickenhaus) take a second consecutive pole position. The team ran in blue livery instead of its more traditional red. Dumas ran strongly in the lead for his first stint, the team leading for the first half of the race. Just past half distance, #908 had to serve a drive-through penalty for a yellow flag infringement. A fairytale victory for Glickenhaus was not to be, sadly. The outfit retired from the race altogether soon afterwards after the turbocharger of the machine failed.
The #36 Alpine battled fiercely for the lead against the two Toyotas (#8 and #7, last year’s winner). The three leaders were nose to tail with 90 minutes remaining. Ryo Hirakawa (Toyota #8) and Matthieu Vaxiviere (Alpine #36) were virtually trading paint for position while scything through slower traffic, while Toyota was hoping to switch Hirakawa and Kamui Kobayashi (#7) for the lead.
Drama struck with an hour and 13 minutes remaining. Kobayashi and Vaxiviere tangled on the main straight. The Japanese driver gently tagged by the Frenchman on the right rear, instantly delaminating the Toyota’s rear tyre. This resulted in a full course yellow. The Alpine driver managed to blast away at the restart. Despite Hirakawa’s best intentions, staved him off to take a fine victory. The Alpine trio Lapierre/Negrao/Vaxivierre, increased their world championship lead over the Toyotas, as a result.
The LMP2 class saw the United Autosport #22 wrest the lead from the #9 Prema Orlen machine on the opening lap. The JOTA #28 (featuring Jonathan Aberdein, ZA) and Vector Sports #10 (featuring Nico Müller, CH) vied for the minor positions in the opening two hours. The United Autosport #22 was unfortunate to retire from the lead with throttle issues, while WRT #41 took the lead that it would dispute with JOTA #28.
In the race’s closing stages, however, #28, with Aberdein behind the wheel, clashed with GTEPro Porsche #92 at the exit of Lesmo. It resulted in the LMP2 racer being eliminated from the race with 40 minutes remaining. Its sister car, JOTA #38, finished a fine second ahead of Vector Sports #10 (the team’s maiden podium finish).
The GTEPro class, as ever, was hotly contested. The AF Corse Ferraris (#51 and 52), the Corvette Racing #64 and two works Porsches (#91 and 92) were in the hunt. Eventually, the #52 AF Corse Ferrari snatched the lead from the #64 Corvette. Meanwhile the #51 Ferrari scrapped for third place in class with Porsche #92. The #92 Porsche, with Kevin Estre behind the wheel, repeatedly bumped Ferrari #51, before pushing him off the circuit at the Roggia chicane, resulting in a drive-through penalty.
The stewards also decreed he was responsible for the contact with JOTA #28 in the LMP2 class. It is clear that the penalty was soft, as the Porsche was just 13 seconds behind its Ferrari rival minutes later. There was further drama when the leading Ferrari pitted for a late “splash-and-dash”, handing victory to Corvette Racing #64. The two Ferraris finished second (52) and third (51), respectively.
The #21 AF Corse Ferrari (Christoph Ulrich, CH) ran in the top four of GTAm class, before touching a LMP2 machine. That caused it to spin off at the exit of the second Lesmo and brought out a full course yellow just before the 2-hour mark. Race leaders, Aston Martin #33 (Hendrique Chaves) triggered the first safety car of the race following a spectacular accident at the exit of Roggia chicane.
The machine hit the outside kerb, flipped over and slid down the road on its roof at the halfway mark of the event. This allowed the #77 Dempsey Porsche to take class victory ahead of the Iron Dames Ferrari #85. The all-ladies team made history by having a lady (Sarah Bovy) take pole position of a class in world endurance racing.
The penultimate round of the 2022 WEC, the 6 Hours of Fuji, will take place in Japan on 11 September.