A radio miscommunication “transformed” Glickenhaus Racing’s competitive run at the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa “into a nightmare” according to the American constructor’s team principal.
With approximately one and a half hours to go, Pipo Derani brought the second-placed No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo into the pits where crew members replaced its wet weather Michelin tires with a set of slicks.
However, the drying track conditions were not yet suitable for slicks. The incorrect tire choice was made because Derani heard his engineer give the option of wets or slicks over the in-car radio, when in reality he had been asked if the car needed wets or ‘cut’ slicks.
“The radio was so bad,” the Brazilian said during the race. “I think he was asking me cut slicks and wets. I only heard slicks. This miscommunication because of the radio… I couldn’t understand cut slicks but I think he understood slicks.”
Derani’s co-driver Romain Dumas left the pits on fully slick rubber and duly struggled for grip because a proper dry line had yet to emerge, while the leading No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid and the Alpine A480 Gibson both took the intermediate cut slicks option.
Glickenhaus principal Luca Ciancetti said that the tire selection mishap was critical in preventing his team from challenging for a first FIA World Endurance Championship win.
“I think up to more than half of the race, we did very well,” he told Sportscar365.
“And then we started with a couple of mistakes that transformed a very good race into a nightmare.
“We had some communication issues about the tire available for the driver.
“So the call for the driver went in the wrong direction because he didn’t have clearly in his mind which choices we had.
“It’s preparation and communication that are things to improve.”
Ciancetti explained that Glickenhaus considered postponing a switch to cut slicks, to see if the track would dry quickly enough to bring Dumas’ slick set into an optimal window.
But believing that the time loss would be greater if it kept the Frenchman out on track, Glickenhaus quickly returned its LMH car to the pits for a set of cut tires just before a Full Course Yellow period near the top of the final hour.
It then needed to swap back to slicks again when a dry line fully emerged.
Derani, Dumas and pole-sitter Olivier Pla took the checkered flag in ninth overall, one lap behind the winning No. 7 Toyota that it was only six seconds behind before the drama.
“Looking at the race after, probably by keeping the slicks on during the Full Course Yellow, we would have [done] better than we actually did,” Ciancetti proposed.
“But in that moment, the wrong choice was doing something different with respect to our competitors who were within five seconds of us.
“We had to do the same as our competitors and keep the race in the same conditions.
“Then maybe, if you want to make a different call later in the race, you can. But not at that point.”
Derani appeared to agree that Glickenhaus might have been able to challenge for the win if it had decided to keep Dumas on the slicks that he was erroneously given.
He also said that the Glickenhaus team, which consists of engineering support from Podium Advanced Technologies and operational support Joest Racing, can take several positives from its Spa performance despite missing out on the overall podium.
“Maybe he should have kept slicks,” Derani reflected.
“It was unfortunate for the team that we ended up being caught on the wrong strategy, because I feel we could have fought for the win if we had stayed out on slicks or made the right call at the right time.
“But we take the positives. We had a fantastic race: very strong in the wet and dry. We can only take those positives to do Le Mans do a better job there.
“I think we have to be proud with the job we did.
“It was very unfortunate how things happened: the track evolved, and we were on the opposite strategy to what was actually needed at the time.
“A little bit because of the radio, a little bit because of our mistakes. But we move on.”