Inter Europol Competition made an impressive start to its 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship campaign today (17 March 2023) in the 1000 Miles of Sebring, taking the chequered flag in fourth position following a tense, exciting and rewarding eight-hour endurance race. It was a flawless performance from the team and drivers, Kuba Śmiechowski, Fabio Scherer and Albert Costa, setting up the season and providing the all-important momentum.
Being the opening round of the season, the team travelled to the Florida venue early, taking in two days of testing, dubbed the WEC Prologue, before commencing with the official practice session on Wednesday. After a difficult test, things began to turn around in the official sessions, with Albert – making his LMP2 race debut with the team today – rapidly gaining knowledge and subsequent confidence behind the wheel.
Qualifying for the eight-hour event saw Albert further improve on his personal best lap time, but while happy with the gains, he was less thrilled to set the 11th-best time in the LMP2 class. Thankfully, race day made the qualifying form irrelevant.
Kuba started the race and steered clear of the early lap troubles and the safety car intervention on lap four. Pitting for fuel on lap eight, the team went off sequence on the strategy compared to its rivals This meant that while rivals pitted, the #34 Oreca remained on track and visa-versa. Kuba took the lead of the race on lap 30, before concluding his mandated drive time on lap 44.
Fabio resumed in 11th place, quickly up to speed and seeking a way to pass the #22 United Autosport car driven by Philip Hanson. It was a battle that would resume later in the race and become a reoccurring theme. Still out of sequence, Fabio completed his double stint and handed over to Albert to make his race debut. Impressive it was too.
Albert wasted little time getting up to speed, recording a best of 1:51.715 on lap 82, at the time the third fastest lap of the race, and ultimately the fifth best LMP2 time of the whole event. While positions fluctuated by the pit stop sequence, the #34 squad remained less than a minute behind the class leader and importantly, on the lead lap.
Fabio took over from Albert as the two drivers alternated double stints, now utilising fresh tyres for the first of each run. Fabio ran third for a long period of the race, enjoying another great tussle for position with Philip Hanson. Ultimately, the race result came down to the final pitstop of the race, who needed to stop again, and who did not.
Fabio took over from Albert with 42 minutes remaining, and that’s a relatively long stint fuel-wise in the LMP2 class. Very much in economy mode, the lap times remained surprisingly competitive. It worked out perfectly with the #34 Oreca securing fourth position after 230 laps of competition and getting the 2023 season off to a flying start.
Inter Europol Competition are next on track next weekend for the opening round of the Ultimate Cup. The second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, a six-hour race, takes place in Portimao on April 16.
Sascha Fassbender, Team Manager
“We did a lot of work over the winter period and the great results we had in the Asian Le Mans Series have carried forward to here in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The Prologue was tricky for us, but we picked up the pace as the week progressed. It was Albert’s first time in the car, he was quick, I think the fifth fastest in the class, while Fabio was very very strong. We had to conserve fuel in the final stint with Fabio and he did a great job. I am proud of the team. There were no mistakes in the pitstops, the strategy was good, and it was an overall strong team performance. We head to Portimao full of confidence and seeking even more!”
“A great performance and a great performance from the team. Albert and Fabio both did an amazing job, and P4 is a strong start. Perhaps we got a bit lucky with the strategy at the start, pitting early and going off sequence with the safety car. We knew we were off sequence, which was risky, but in the end, it worked out beautifully and I am very happy.”
“Impressive! I wasn’t expecting that result when we finished the Prologue last weekend. We kept pushing, making changes, so it’s a fantastic result. We could have even secured the podium I believe, but it was a very difficult race, and we race against very strong competition and fight for podiums, so we couldn’t ask for more. Yes, we had to fuel save at the end, but the car was so good, and the lap time was not affected too much. Congratulations to Albert on his debut, he did an unbelievable job and as a team, we have a great deal of potential.”
“I’m very happy. We started the week here at Sebring and it was all new to me and I had so much to learn about the car, the track, and different modes be it qualifying or race. I had to focus a lot and to be honest, I didn’t think I would be that strong in race conditions, but we certainly showed our potential and I am very proud of the team with this great result. We all worked together, pushed together and are heading very much in the right direction. It’s a dream and I am very thankful.”
*With the #48 JOTA not eligible for championship points, Inter Europol Competition are third in the standings with 23 points.