Spa 6 Hours: 5 Things to Look Out For

The FIA World Endurance Championship returns to the Ardennes this weekend for the annual rain-bothering event that is the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Here are five things you should be looking out for when the lights go green this Saturday:

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Triple Threat

We all know the best kind of maths is German maths, so when the two most successful sportscar marques of all time turn up to a six hour race with 50% extra hybrid monster in tow you know that stuff’s about to happen.

Both Audi and Porsche have half-agained their chances for Round 2 of the WEC. Will this be enough to crowd out Toyota, who continue with just their usual two entries? The Japanese team don’t look too bothered about it - as they say, why stretch an operation that already works so well with a brace of prototypes.

The 6 Hours of Silverstone had enough LMP1 action for a whole season, and now the competitive field is a third bigger. The numbers add up to something even better this time around...

New Blood
Two more top cars means that six more drivers are needed to pedal the world’s most advanced cars around the legendary Belgian track. Of these, four are brand new to LMP1 race action: Rene Rast for Audi and Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and some guy called Nicolas for Porsche.

Hulkenberg is the latest in a long line of F1 drivers to contest a top flight endurance race, but is the first since Sebastien Bourdais to do so while having a current drive with an F1 team. Could we be seeing a return to the days when drivers would cross racing disciplines? Many eyes will be turned his way on Saturday to find out.

On a similar note this will be Rast, Tandy and Bamber’s first proper introduction to the flat out, full on war that is a full-field WEC race. There’s a lot to think about sitting at the wheel of an LMP; tyres, regeneration, the fact that GT drivers have more of a right to the piece of tarmac in front of them than you do. They’re pros but this is a baptism of fire, let’s hope they’re up to it.

Le Mans Preppers
But it’s not all about the numbers game. The Spa 6 Hours has traditionally been a warm up for the Le Mans 24 Hours, meaning that the top teams often whack completely unsuitable aero kits on their Spa cars just to gather data for the great race.

2015 is no different with defending champions Audi electing to strap low drag body bits onto their two full season entries, the #7 and #8. Interestingly their third entry, that of Rast, Bonanomi and Albuquerque, will run the standard aero kit from the opening round of the season, meaning that the newbies will be driving two very different cars in their two races this season.

Both Porsche and Toyota have opted to stick with their Silverstone bodywork too so will be eager to capitalise on their advantage - as the WEC gains popularity the season long points race is becoming more important. Will Audi’s Le Mans focus see them losing out in this race to gain something in the next?

2015-6-Heures-de-Silverstone-Adrenal-Media-JR5-1887 hdLiterally Anything Could Happen in LMP2
If anybody ever says to you that they know what’s going to happen in the WEC’s LMP2 class then they’re either lying or not as clued-up as they think. Here are just some of the things to note for the Spa 6 Hours:

ESM have swapped their HPDs for Ligiers, which G-Drive used to great effect at Silverstone. Signatech-Alpine will be miffed with their first race performance off the back of a hugely successful few years in the ELMS and will be out to prove they’ve not lost it. Le Mans 2014 class champs JOTA Sport are back to stick two fingers up to the globe-trotting crowd, this time with GP2 and GP3 star Mitch Evans.

Strakka will be looking to extract more performance from their brand new Strakka-Dome which is widely regarded as looking like it should be absolutely mega. Team SARD-Morand will finally turn up with a car after sponsor shenanigans kept them out of Round 1. KCMG will continue to blind fans with their outright pace, extra dose of Nico Lapierre and natty blue and chrome Oreca. Oh, and Oak Racing will turn up with their three gentleman drivers who can rock a flat cap.

So, overall, no short odds to be found.

GTE Up to old tricks
Even the normally rock solid GTE Pro field has had a few changes in the driver department. Porsche have lost Christensen and Pilet to their TUSCC duties and Tandy and Bamber to the big brothers in LMP1 but gained Mclaren GT ace Kevin Estre. Meanwhile Aston Martin have lost the supersonic Nicki Thiim but gained the equally quick Rob Bell.

Other than that it’s largely business as usual in the grand touring ranks, which means there will be 15 cars attempting to power, swoop and smash their way to the front for six hours. So why are they on a list of things to look out for? Because, let’s be honest, we always have done and always will do. They’re awesome.

Oh, and another one: It’s Spa, Take a Brolly
Here’s the biggy. Spa-Francorchamps is lush and green and beautiful for a very good reason: all that pretty niceness perfectly offsets all the awful stuff nature throws at it, like rain and freezing temperatures and other unthinkable annoyances.

Of course, it’s due to rain for the majority of Fridays Free Practice 3 and both LMP and GTE qualifying sessions, that much is a given. Thankfully race day should be relatively dry and sunny… until about 8pm, with half an hour of the race to go. That’s the funny thing about these long, long races: they always seem to go right down to the last roll of the thunder cloud.

What are your predictions for Saturday’s FIAWEC 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps? Let us know by tweeting us @SpeedChillsView!