Ferdinand Habsburg reckoned that WRT would have won the LMP2 race at Monza “by a lap” had it not missed its pass-around during the only safety car period of the race.
Habsburg, Robin Frijns and Charles Milesi finished second in Sunday’s six-hour contest to post their best LMP2 result of the FIA World Endurance Championship season so far, while United Autosports took the class win and an overall podium in the process.
Milesi put the No. 31 WRT Oreca on pole, while United’s Phil Hanson overtook Frijns on the opening lap to establish a United advantage that would last until the second round of pit stops when a slow service for the leading Oreca put WRT back in front.
Habsburg led from Filipe Albuquerque through to the safety car at the start of the third hour, which was caused by puncture debris from Ben Keating’s GTE-Am Aston Martin.
WRT pitted just before the safety car occurred, while the majority of the LMP2 pack did not come in before the pits closed. Many of them, including United, opted for an emergency splash of fuel before pitting properly as the green flag waved for the restart.
This would have given WRT a substantial advantage heading into the second half of the race but, as Habsburg explained, any potential gains were erased when the Belgian squad missed its opportunity to pass around the safety car.
A car can pass around the safety car and rejoin the back of the train when it is positioned behind the safety car but in front of its class leader.
The WEC sporting regulations state that it is the “competitor’s responsibility” to determine if its car is eligible for a pass-around.
“In the end, we had a screw-up in the safety car where we missed our wave-by,” Habsburg told Sportscar365.
“We missed out on an opportunity to win and it had nothing to do with pace or any errors.
“It was just a missed opportunity. We learned from it and we will have a procedure in place to not have that happen again.”
WRT dropped several positions once the safety car procedure shook out, but recovered over the second half of the race to finish second as United’s Albuquerque, Hanson and Fabio Scherer went on to take victory by almost a minute.
When asked what would have been the outcome of the safety car for WRT had it not missed its available pass-around, Habsburg said: “We would have won by a lap because we pitted at the perfect time, just before [the safety car].
“I filled the tank and everybody else had to fuel and dash, so we basically had a lap lead at that point, and then we lost out, which is unfortunate. But these kinds of things happen.
“We just need to be more on the ball, because the pace is there. We don’t want to be missing these kinds of wins anymore.
“It’s best that it happens now than at Le Mans. We were rapid.
“I think Robin lost a bit of confidence at the end because we were 40 seconds away from the win and were just nowhere, so he brought it home and took it easy. But when we were pushing, we were there.”
Albuquerque, Hanson and Scherer returned to the LMP2 points lead with their second win of the season, while WRT’s crew sits fifth in the standings heading to Le Mans.
“The car was just amazing and these boys did an amazing job: Phil going to P1 at the start and just holding there on strategy and hitting the fuel targets,” said Albuquerque.
“Fabio had amazing pace as well. At one point we were a little unlucky with the safety car, and then the opportunity of not being caught but the other team made our life better.
“But I think we had a bit more pace overall.”