The weekend started well for the #31 Team WRT squad of Habsburg, Robin Frijns, and Charles Milesi. The trio set a strong pace in all three practice sessions leading up to Saturday’s Qualifying, where Charles took the reins of the Oreca 07 and stormed into LMP2 pole position and 6th overall.
In only their third race in the pinnacle of endurance racing, Team WRT secured the highest position on the LMP2 grid. Robin took the start and unfortunately got blocked by a hypercar ahead at turn one. This opened the door for the #22 United Autosport Oreca to take the lead with Robin finding himself behind their main championship rivals.
Frijns had great pace throughout his first two stints, but the Dutchman couldn’t make a move on the car ahead and entered the pits in P2 to hand the #31 WRT Oreca over to Ferdinand with 4h 40 minutes on the clock. The Austrian put his foot down immediately and went on a superb charge against WEC and ELMS champion Filipe Albuquerque, and re-took the lead on lap 46.
Unfortunately, a poorly-timed safety car period right in the middle of his first pit stop threw the #31 Team WRT Oreca back to fifth place, nullifying the advantage they gained thus far. Unhindered by the setback, Ferdinand began to carve his way back up the pack, and following a stellar move on the Inter Europol car, he handed the car over to Milesi in P3.
The young Frenchman picked up where Ferdinand left off and continued the charge all the way to P2 before Frijns took over for the final stint. Even though the Dutchman was matching the pace of the United car, closing the gap right until the checkered flag, the win was out of reach and the #31 WRT crew came home in second place in LMP2 (P5 overall), claiming Team WRT’s first-ever podium finish in FIA WEC.
“I feel like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders, “ – Habsburg said. “We’ve finally earned our first podium, however, there is also a bit of disappointment, as we had the pace to win, and due to a technicality, we lost the chance. It’s always annoying, but we will learn from it, and we will not let it happen again. The good thing is that we are well prepared for Le Mans.”
As Ferdinand bids farewell to Monza after the Italian double-header, his focus switches to the next challenge ahead: the crown jewel on the endurance racing calendar: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The fourth round of the FIA WEC will start with the official test day on August 15, followed by a busy race weekend (August 18-22).