Fifth position and valuable points for Inter Europol Competition in the 6 Hours of Monza

9 July 2023

Victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was always going to be a tough act to follow up from. With the first FIA World Endurance Championship podium coming at Spa-Francorchamps and then winning at Circuit de la Sarthe the next time out, the 6 Hours of Monza was always going to be a tough race in terms of expectations.

It was a determined race from the Polish team, running inside the top three for much of the first half of the race before ultimately finishing in fifth position.

“We know that you cannot win every race, and today we scored important points for the championship, stated Team Manager Sascha Fassbender. “We are second in the championship, and our rival scored, I think, five points more, but there are still two races still to go. Now we focus fully on these rounds in Fuji and Bahrain, and we’ll push and fight for the championship to the very end.

“The team did a fantastic job; the pitstops went like clockwork. We have a very strong crew and driver lineup, and we worked hard to achieve this result. We will work even harder to get the result we wish for.”

The team and drivers – Jakub (Kuba) Śmiechowski, Fabio Scherer, and Albert Costa Balboa – arrived at the Italian circuit understandably pumped up and ready for the next battle. The #34 Oreca proved to be quick from the start, recording the third and second fastest times in Friday’s practice. Saturday saw a further practice session and then qualifying, where Albert set a best lap for fifth on the grid, equalling the team’s best qualifying session of the season.

Race day dawned hot and sunny once again, and it was Kuba behind the wheel for the start. There was an early safety car, providing an opportunity after 30 minutes to pit for fuel before resuming sixth. Kuba ran close behind the #10 Vector entry for much of the next stint in a high-speed LMP2 train, fending off advances from behind to maintain position.

The field cycled through the second stop, with Kuba handing over to Fabio. The pitstop was three laps before many others, providing a clear circuit, and once the stops were complete, the Swiss racer was up to third position.

A long green flag period of the race followed, with Fabio inching up on the #22 ahead in second position, while initially holding off the challenge from behind. He lost third place, however, just ahead of his first stop and resumed in fourth, still just eight seconds behind the race leader with almost two hours of racing complete.

The race didn’t require a safety car, as it was tight anyway. The second intervention saw the crew box the car, with Fabio giving the car over to Albert. Others pitted a few laps later, and by that time, the team ran second, just five seconds behind the race leader.

The fifth stop came just before a full course yellow, with Albert resuming third before completing his double stint. Fabio continued fifth, 11 seconds behind the race leader four hours into the race, and, despite a trip through the gravel at Ascari, maintained that margin through to his next stop.

The timing of the full course yellow was not ideal, forcing the team to make an emergency fuel stop and then, three laps later, having to pit again to comply with the regulations. With 90 minutes remaining, Fabio ran sixth, and it was Albert who completed the final segment of the race, taking the chequered flag fifth and scoring ten valuable points.

With 65,000 fans over the race weekend here at Monza, the series now looks forward to the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which takes place at Fuji Speedway, Japan, on September 10.

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