The second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship saw Inter Europol Competition head to the Portuguese venue full of optimism off the back of the fantastic showing at Sebring. Despite showing podium potential throughout the week at Portimao, the Polish quad leave the circuit Sunday evening disappointed with the tenth-place position.
It was all looking very promising with the trio of Kuba Śmiechowski, Fabio Scherer and Albert Costa showing good pace in the #34 Oreca LMP2 in what is a highly competitive field. The team worked through the three practice sessions, with top three times in the opening two. Qualifying saw Albert push hard and record a time good for fourth position on the grid.
Kuba took the opening two stints of the race, as was the case at Sebring. The whole LMP2 field ran closely together and even at the end of his run, only a minute covered the top ten runners. Fabio jumped in for the first of his eventual five stints on lap 44, quickly passing a rival at the hairpin, a common occurrence for him today, to run in sixth position.
With little incident or accident on the circuit, the race ran green, but despite this, the LMP2 field remained relatively compressed. Approaching the 100-lap mark, Fabio ran in fourth, before Albert began his double stint. Even approaching the three-hour point, just over 20 seconds covered the top seven runners, and it was clear that the #34 trio were firmly in contention for a strong result.
Following a string of quick laps, Fabio was back aboard the Oreca, enjoying some tight, and hard-fought battles, ahead of the sole safety car of the race with less than an hour remaining. Now the field was even more tightly packed, making the final stops of the race more crucial than ever.
The team kept Fabio in the hot seat at the final scheduled stop, sending him back out into the fight in sixth position. Soon it became apparent that tyre wear was more of an issue than expected however, with the team subsequently forced to make an additional stop for fresh tyres in the final minutes of the event.
Tenth position from the six-hour race was certainly not what the team expected, having shown great pace throughout the week and into the race itself. Ahead of the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps in two weeks’ time, Inter Europol Competition pack up here in Portugal and heads to Barcelona on Monday for the opening round of the European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup.