Drivers from Porsche and Ferrari’s GTE-Pro squads say they are hoping to repeat last year’s entertaining fight for class honors at the 6 Hours of Monza, when the two manufacturers engaged in a lengthy and hard-fought battle.
The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19, then driven by Kevin Estre and Neel Jani, took victory over the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi after a strategy call from the AF Corse crew backfired and resulted in a late fuel stop, allowing Porsche to take the win.
Prior to that late stop, the two cars had often been inseparable as they fought out a gripping duel, with Calado notably taking the lead from Jani with a strong move into the Rettifilio chicane earlier in the race.
Now a year later, in the final season of GTE-Pro competition in the FIA World Endurance Championship, figures from both camps are hoping for a similar race.
“I hope we can repeat the race of last year, but with a different end maybe,” Pier Guidi told Sportscar365.
“I think we can fight this time. For sure, these temperatures don’t help us, we know that for us cooler temperatures are better than warmer ones, but let’s see.
“It’s the home race, so we’ll put all of our efforts into being in good shape and be able to fight with Porsche and Corvette.”
Pier Guidi’s sentiment was shared by Porsche driver Estre, who last year faced heavy pressure from the Italian prior to the No. 51 car’s late stop.
“I think it was a good race last year, very tough,” said Estre.
“Ferrari for sure had a shot towards the end. On pace they were better than us towards the end, but we had a better strategy than them, we messed up on strategy.
“That’s why we won with such a gap, otherwise the gap would have been very small or they would have passed us.
“So we’ll see, we’ll try to repeat that, try to get the best compromise between fast on the straights and fast in the corners, as it should be in Monza.”
Since last year, the GTE-Pro ranks have been boosted by the arrival of Corvette’s one-car C8.R effort.
While the American squad hasn’t contested a WEC race at the Italian venue previously, both drivers as well as Alex Stehlig, Porsche’s Director of Factory Motorsport for WEC, anticipate Corvette to be strong in the race.
“They will be strong,” Stehlig told Sportscar365. “They were strong all year. For me, this track suits Corvette because it is all about acceleration.
“They will be strong, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m not complaining.
“We are here to entertain the people. I think it will be a very tight fight between all of us.”
Stehlig ‘Did Not See’ BoP Change Coming
Stehlig also hinted that Porsche was surprised by Ferrari’s Balance of Performance gain as announced on Wednesday, when AF Corse’s factory cars received a power increase.
According to Stehlig, the German marque was surprised by the change, as it fell outside of the automated BoP process, labeling it a “black ball” change, similarly to what was made for last year’s penultimate round in Bahrain.
“We didn’t see it coming because according to the pure auto BoP process, which is established in the GTE category, there should not have been a change,” said Stehlig.
“Because in the auto BoP it’s like this: whenever you have a BoP change or a season starts, the BoP algorithm waits for two races and then reacts depending on the performance we have seen in these two races.
“And then a race needs to be eligible, so senseful to analyze. Sebring was for sure an eligible race, we had some rain but the percentage was [low]. I think we had an 80 percent or 90 percent dry race.
“Spa was completely different, there was rain and dry and damp, so it was non-eligible. So normally, the next auto BoP should have occurred for Fuji.
“What happened now is the so called “black ball” BoP change. So the ACO and FIA saw that they need to adjust the cars because there is too large a difference or some other reason.
“This possibility they did, it gave the Ferrari more boost and us more fuel volume.
“Therefore, the auto BoP process is reset, meaning the first auto BoP change would be in Bahrain.”
Antonello Coletta, director of Ferrari’s sports car racing activities, said the black ball change gives Ferrari “a chance to fight”.
Coletta indicated that the change to the two factory cars amounts to a power gain of 12 to 14 horsepower.
“The first, second and third races of 2022, I think were very complicated for us,” he said.
“We won Spa, but just because of the rain. In Le Mans, we were lucky to get second and third place, but our competitiveness was very poor.
“Today the BoP has changed and I hope we have the chance to fight with the other competitors.
“Because first of all, it is important to have a chance to fight. It’s good for the spectators and the fans.
“A race without one of the competitors like Sebring or Le Mans, I don’t think it’s an interesting race for the people.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report