After what looked like a dominant win in GTE Pro, at the 6 Hours of Spa, Kevin Estre revealed inside stories showing that a late pitstop was considered by the Porsche GT Team and would probably have deprived them of the win.
On Friday, Estre left no place for debate, claiming the pole position in the GTE Pro class after an almost perfect lap, putting his Porsche number 92 more than 1 second ahead of all the other GT competitors.
The Frenchman then managed to create a gap of more than 15 seconds to his opponents, in just an hour of racing. His teammate, Neel Jani, later took over the responsibility of the car and kept improving the gap to both the AF Corse cars.
Estre revealed being totally pleased with the setup of his 911 RSR, as he went as far as to say that he would not change a single thing to the setup if he had to do the race again.
“If we did the race again tomorrow, I wouldn’t change a thing on the car, and there aren’t many times you say that. (…) The car was fantastic all week; the team prepared very well through the Prologue and it paid off,” Estre revealed to Motorsport.com.
However, even if Jani and Estre proved to be extremely fast and confident with their car, the Frenchman revealed that the race actually became extremely stressful, when a puncture forced them to pit earlier than scheduled.
This might sound insignificant but in endurance racing, where strategies and fuel management are key factors, pitting early might result in an additional pitstop, later in the race, in case the team encountered a puncture or ran out of fuel.
Even if the Franco-Swiss duo dug a comfortable gap of 34 seconds ahead of AF Corse’s Ferrari number 51, the gap probably would not have been consequent enough to cover an additional pitstop.
The stress load of the crew was even bigger considering that they had to pit early due to a puncture, meaning that not being careful enough in a long stint might cause them to destroy their rubber once more, forcing a pitstop.
“It might have looked from the outside that we always had it under control, but it was actually extremely stressful,” Estre admitted.
“We were really on the edge of having to make a splash [additional pitstop] at the end of the race, which meant we had to do a lot of fuel-saving because otherwise, we weren’t going to win the race.”
“We were also worried about the right rear, so we had to be a little bit safer out on track.”
“You can’t avoid using the curbs at Spa, so it was more about staying off them when the pressures were low at the restarts and we also ran the pressures a little higher after the problem.”
However, the ‘luck of champions’ allowed them to ensure the win, when a full course yellow procedure was deployed, after 4 hours of racing. This full course yellow made all the teams pit, putting everyone on a mirrored strategy and, therefore, saving Estre’s race, as he was now on a similar strategy as his AF Corse opponent.