With the racing season finally arriving a few weeks ago and the Silverstone opener reaching it’s conclusion, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team travels to Spa, Belgium, next week for the second round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship, leading both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championships following a season-opening victory for the #67 Ford GT and fourth-place finish for the #66 Ford GT at Silverstone, UK.
The Ford team, have shared with MotorMartin that they are aiming to maintain their momentum as all of the teams start to turn their attention to the Le Mans 24 Hours race just over a month after Spa, and the Belgian round is seen as the final rehearsal for the biggest race of the season.
Fast-flowing Spa is the perfect place to prepare for Le Mans as it features daunting corners such as the Eau Rouge and Raidillon combination that fires the cars up a steep hill, and the white-knuckle Blanchimont – a long left-hander taken at high speed.
“We had a very good start to our championship campaign at Silverstone, which was the result of a lot of hard work from all of the team,” explained George Howard-Chappell, WEC Team Principal to MotorMartin recently. “Spa provides its own unique challenges but we were strong there last year and it is a good circuit for the Ford GT. We need to keep our focus as we get closer to Le Mans and make sure everything in the team and with the cars is working perfectly.”
Fresh from their win at Silverstone, Harry Tincknell (GB), Andy Priaulx (GB) and Pipo Derani (BRA) are hoping that the #67 Ford GT will again be the first GTE car to pass the chequered flag.
“We’re on a high after winning the opening race of the season,” said Tincknell. “Spa was the scene of our first WEC podium last year and I am confident that if everything goes to plan we have a good chance of winning. We showed really good pace at Silverstone and Spa is another track with lots of medium and high speed corners with big braking zones that suit the Ford GT. The track is also as close as you can get to Le Mans and we know the GT is strong around there.”
In the #66 Ford GT, Stefan Mücke (GER), Olivier Pla (FRA) and Billy Johnson (USA) are keen to take their first win, and are hoping their result at Spa will be very different to last season’s Belgian race.
“We have the car and the team to win at Spa,” commented Pla to MotorMartin. “Our car is at its best at circuits with fast corners where you can really keep the speed up, so Spa will suit us. Last year’s race ended badly for us as a puncture caused Stefan (Mücke) to crash at Eau Rouge. We just need to have a clean race. At Silverstone we were fast and we had the lead but the Safety Car turned around our fortunes. What we need is a smooth weekend with no dramas.”
Harry Tincknell is also hoping that fate will be on his side at Spa. The British driver has competed in three previous WEC races at the circuit, finishing second, first, then second last year. Tincknell hopes the trend will continue and deliver a first-place finish this time.
“I think we’re going to win this championship with consistency, so we need to score good points again at Spa,” said Tincknell.
“The podium is the minimum target but I think in this championship and with Balance of Performance (performance restrictions designed to deliver close racing) that some races will suit you and some won’t. This is definitely a Ford circuit and therefore we really need to maximise points here. My target is the win like at Silverstone.”
The WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps is on Saturday, May 6 at 14:30 CET and will be quite some race if the first round is anything to go by. MotorMartin can’t wait.
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