It didn’t take long for the Belgian squad and the talented driver trio to rise to the challenge claiming their first FIA WEC podium in round three of the championship in Monza, proving what they are capable of in only one month before the biggest race on the calendar.
With only limited testing opportunities, Team WRT started on the backfoot against more experienced teams with several years of experience at Le Mans. Fortunately, thanks to one of his most loyal partners, AVL Racing, Ferdinand was able to prepare for the race in the Graz -based company’s state-of-the-art simulator.
The weekend started well, the preparation throughout the practice sessions went very smoothly, finishing every practice session within the top 10 and went on to qualify eleventh for the race.
Frijns took the start and made a clean getaway, carving his way up to P7 before passing the baton to Milesi. The young Frenchman did a solid job, carrying on with the charge.
Ferdinand started his first stint in the fifth hour, completing his first ever race lap at Le Mans in the dark. The Austrian was thriving under the special conditions and put on an impeccable display, worthy of any Le Mans expert. It didn’t take long for the 24-year-old to find himself in the battle for the LMP2 lead, which he executed in a perfect manner, overtaking the sister car with 15 hours on the clock.
Thanks to the perfect combination of the drivers’ faultless performance and the team’s wisely planned strategy, they managed to keep the lead for the remainder of the race, with a twist in the final hour.
Robin was the one to bring the car home. He was controlling the race, leading a Team WRT 1-2 until disaster hit, and a failed air jack seemed to destroy the chance of winning. The 31 car was losing time at each remaining pit stop, dropping them behind the sister car with the finish line in sight of an epic 24-hour battle. On the last lap of the race, the sister car came to rest with 8km to go, the tide turned back in favour of the 31 car and took back the lead.
Ferdinand becomes the first Austrian to claim LMP2 victory in Le Mans, and only the sixth ever in the 89-year history of the legendary race to carry the red-white-red flag to the top of the podium, joining the likes of Jochen Rindt, Richard Lietz, Helmut Marko, Walter Lechner Jr. and Alexander Wurz.
“Ferdinand Habsburg – Le Mans winner, it’s a dream to be able to say that and I can’t thank everyone enough. Firstly, Vincent Vosse and his team is one of the best in the business, and today they performed at a superb level. My teammates, Robin and Charles both did a phenomenal job and I can’t thank them enough. AVL, I owe so much for all the laps on their simulator, it really helped to prepare me for this race.
I can’t be thankful enough for my manager Jamie Campbell-Walter who’s been there for me throughout the entire journey and to the entire Bullet Sports Management team for having my back through thick and thin.
Last but not least, big thanks to all my family and friends for the support.”
Thanks to this historic win, Ferdinand and the 31 crew move up to second place in the World Championship only one point off the leading JOTA car with only two more rounds to go.
Ferdinand Habsburg returned to the FIA WEC podium for the first time this year at the 6 Hours of Fuji.