Spa analysis: slip-ups and teething problems

There’s good reason that the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps is known as the dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Traditionally the race directly preceding the 24-hour classic, it gives the teams and drivers a great opportunity to iron out any issues and difficulties before tackling one of the toughest races in the world. And the 2022 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps had issues aplenty.

Toyota hybrid woes

Toyota Gazoo Racing retired a car due to a technical failure for the first time since the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans (the infamous pit-exit incident involving Kamui Kobayashi). The #8 GR010 Hybrid had trouble getting going again following a red flag, with driver Sébastien Buemi crawling to a standstill evidently with a hybrid issue.

“We will still keep pushing to always improve performance but we still need to work for reliability,” said race winner in the #7 car and Team Principal Kamui Kobayashi. “We cannot have issues like we did today with car #8.”

Glickenhaus misheard radio call

Glickenhaus Racing had put together a promising race weekend, with Frenchman Olivier Pla securing a maiden pole position for the US-flagged entry. Slightly down on race pace compared to the Toyota, especially in wet conditions, the #708 car was still on course for a solid podium – were it not for a misheard radio call.

As the weather became progressively worse, driver Pipo Derani was asked on the radio whether he would prefer “cut slicks” or “wets” for his next stint. Cut slicks, which are slick tyres with perforations for improved grip in wet conditions, were probably the preferred call, but Derani only heard “slicks” or “wets”. 

Knowing that the track was not damp enough for wets, the Brazilian told the team he wanted slicks and promptly ended up losing bags of time – a lesson in clear communications presumably learned for the Glickenhaus Racing squad.

Porsche pit stop confusion

Porsche’s GTE Pro race was almost over in the first corner, after a mistake by Kévin Estre in the #92 911 RSR led to the Frenchman making slight contact with the pole-setting Gianmaria Bruni in the #91 machine.

The contact caused some damage to the tyre and forced Bruni into the pits, effectively ending the #91’s race before it had really began. As Bruni pitted, the race was under safety car conditions and the pits were closed except for emergency service.

Replacing a damaged tyre certainly counts as emergency service, so there were no issues there. However, Porsche instinctively changed all four tyres, which would have resulted in a drive-through penalty. Fortunately, the team noticed the error before it was too late and re-fitted the three undamaged old tyres before sending Bruni on his way again.

United Autosports door trouble

The #23 United Autosports LMP2, winners in round one at Sebring, had an unusual issue with the car’s door, which certainly cost them a significant amount of time as the race progressed.

Normally drivers exit the car from their left, where the door is larger and there is more room to manoeuvre. Due to the issue, United Autosports had to complete their driver changes on the right-hand side of the car.

Outgoing drivers usually help the driver taking over the car tighten their belts as part of the driver change, but the US-entered team were forced to improvise. Running second and third at the time of the problems, the #22 and #23 cars could only finish fourth and fifth.

Read up on our other Spa coverage with our Race Report and, if you missed any of the action, our Live Ticker.