Sebring frustrates, as Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen finish sixth

17 March 2024

Normally, finishing 12 seconds behind the race winner at least requires a trip to the podium, but this weekend at Sebring, for the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Inter Europol by PR Mathiasen Motorsports squad had to be content with sixth position after 12 hours of hard racing.

Nick Boulle, Jakub ‘Kuba’ Śmiechowski and Tom Dillmann travelled to the Florida venue keen to capitalise on the solid fourth-place finish secured at the season-opening Rolex 24. Nick was relatively content with his fourth position in qualifying, believing that the #52 Oreca would come into its own in race conditions.

Indeed, he repeated his Daytona feat by leading the LMP2 field in the opening stint as the first of many Full Course Yellows flew. A pitstop infringement earned a drive-through penalty, but this was soon negated, and by the two-hour mark, Kuba ran sixth, two seconds behind the leader.

The gaps may have been closed, but track position is crucial at this circuit, courtesy of the dirty air generated by the prototypes. By mid-race, the team had worked its way to the head of the LMP2 pack once again, with both Nick and Kuba enjoying brief spells of clear air.

Ultimately, the race result was dependent on the final hour of racing—and FCY. With 38 minutes to go, Tom duly took the final set of fresh Michelins, under FCY, and resumed his race. Two placed were gained but sixth it would be as the battle-scarred Oreca was unable to make further gains in those frantic last few laps.

The car had sustained minor damage in the race, including steering and sidepod. With passing a premium, the team can at least take some satisfaction in securing solid points at the four- and eight-hour points for the Michelin Endurance Cup. The car finished, had no mechanical gremlins – aside from contact – and the crew executed perfect stops throughout.

Fourth in the LMP2 standings, Inter Europol Competition is now preparing for the start of the European Le Mans Series in Barcelona next month, with three entries and two in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. The next IMSA action is in late June at Watkins Glen.

Tom Dillmann
“We had strong pace, and we maximised the Michelin Endurance Cup points with a P2 and P1, that’s the positive part. At the end we didn’t have track position and it was difficult to make overtakes.

“We played with the pit sequences to get clean air and gained back positions, but it was always going to be an issue if the last pit stop was under FCY – or close to a FCY – with more fuel to add than our rivals and that is what happened. We dropped to P8 after the last stop and then couldn’t make much progress with the damage from contacts.”

Nick Boulle
“The team put together a great car; we really had no major issues. We clearly were doing a great job with a second place and first place in the four- and eight-hour marks respectively.

“Sadly, though, we lacked track position when it counted. I think we can turn things around in Watkins Glen – obviously we are happy with the points to be in second position, so we just have to keep our heads down and make it happen at the Glen.”

Kuba Smiechowski
“For the first 10 hours, everything went pretty well. We followed the plan, and it was ok. The last hour turned out to be really a lottery. Tom was on P4 and attacked P3, but a rival pushed him off the track, and he dropped to P6. Then there was another neutralization and Era and Riley, who were one of the last, had to refuel shorter because they benefited from the last neutralization, they were able to refuel much later than the rest and thus jumped to 1-2 when refuelling at the next neutralization because they had less fuel.

“We dropped to P8. And the last half hour of the race we ran like that. It’s very difficult to overtake at Sebring, so P6 is quite ok under the circumstances. We won the points for 8 hours, and at 4 hours, we were on P2, so not bad either. Unfortunately, the last hours were not favourable for us and that decided the whole race.”

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