The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team battled through the extremes of weather at Spa-Francorchamps, finally taking the checkered flag after six hours of hard racing in fifth and tenth.
The grid formed up under sunny skies, and with the No. 67 Ford GT lining up on pole position, it looked set to be a good run for the team. Unfortunately after just two laps of racing the skies went dark and heavy sleet began to fall.
Over the next six hours the conditions swayed between wintry weather and bright sunshine, making it a strategic battleground for the team engineers who had to switch around their plans time and time again.
“It was a case of what might have been today,” WEC Team Principal George Howard-Chappell said. “One of the negatives of having a car that is easy on its tires is that you then struggle to turn the wets on when it rains. The guys on the No. 67 did an excellent job, getting the car up to second place at one point, but with the way the race chopped and changed with the weather it wasn’t to be. If it had been a dry race we could have been on the podium for sure and maybe challenged for the win. In the rain we’re not quite able to compete so we did the best we could and took a few chances to try to make the race go our way.”
After starting from pole position, Harry Tincknell was stopped from making a getaway when the first snow shower hit Spa.
“What a mad race,” Tincknell said. “Nine pit stops, slick tires, intermediate tires, wet tires – if we’d had snow chains that would have helped. The first three laps were great. I knew I just had to make it up to Les Combes in the lead, which I did and started to pull away but then the sleet came down super hard and turned the circuit into an ice rink. We had a tricky first pit stop which put us back to fourth but I was challenging for third when the first safety car came out and at that point our wet performance seemed OK.
“After that we just didn’t have the pace in the wet,” Tincknell continued. “When it dried out we put slicks on and started making our way back up the field but then it snowed again so we dived in for wets and called it perfectly, jumping all the way up to second place. Ultimately though we just did not have the pace on the wet tire so we need to go away and look at that. Andy did a great job in the difficult conditions at the end and fifth place is a good result considering our pace in the wet. The important thing is that we have the No. 67 Ford GT back in one piece, which is more than we could say this time last year!”
The drivers of the No. 66 Ford GT also had a tough afternoon at Spa, as explained by Stefan Mücke.
“The conditions at Spa today were probably the most difficult conditions I have ever experienced in a race car,” he said. “We started in dry conditions but very soon after the start it snowed and out came the first safety car. We knew that these cold, wet conditions would not be good for us. Our advantage is that in dry weather our car is very gentle on its tires so in the wet that turns into a disadvantage as you can’t get the heat into the tires. We chased the tire temperature for the whole race, trying lots of different strategies to try to improve our position but the end result is not good. Our wet pace is a few seconds away from where it should be so with snow on the track it just wasn’t our day.”