Lilou Wadoux denied top-five after strong first half of WEC 6H of Monza
Lilou Wadoux kept momentum after her strongest finish to date at Le Mans and was on course to her first top-five finish in FIA WEC before a contact that damaged the #1 Richard Mille Racing Team Oreca's gearbox. Still, the 6H of Monza offered plenty of positives for the young Frenchwoman, who is quickly progressing. Here's what she told us after the race.
Coming off her best result to date in sports car racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Lilou Wadoux is noticeably getting more at ease in the LMP2 Oreca operated by Richard Mille Racing Team weekend after weekend. The young Frenchwoman has taken on the big challenge after two seasons in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup, where she won a race and was third in the drivers' standings in 2021. Her first international campaign at the top of endurance racing is, though, showing great promise for the young lady. Wadoux partnered compatriots Charles Milesi and multiple rally champion Sebastien Ogier – also at his debut in sports cars – in the first part of the season leading up to the biggest race of the year: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At La Sarthe, the Richard Mille Racing Team crew had a strong run to finish in an impressive P6, despite an early penalty picked up by Ogier and served by Milesi that had demoted the drivers of the #1 Oreca temporarily outside the top ten. Wadoux drove consistent stints and could finish her first ever Le Mans on a high. At the fourth round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship, teams headed to another iconic racing venue: Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, for a 6 Hour race that saw Lilou Wadoux partnering Charles Milesi and new teammate Paul Loup Chatin. After good improvements in the practice sessions, the #1 Richard Mille Racing LMP2 Oreca qualified P9 in class in the hands of Charles Milesi. On a sunny and warm day in Italy, Milesi took the start and was soon on a charge: having gained two places after the first lap, the #1 continued to move up the ranks throughout the first stint. At the first Full Course Yellow – deployed for the stranded AF Corse Ferrari of Thomas Flohr at Parabolica after contact with the Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana after only 12 minutes of racing – the Richard Mille Racing crew opted to bring Milesi back to the pits for a refueling while running in P5. The strategy call paid off and, after the first round of pit stops for the LMP2 class, Milesi found himself in fourth place. He would move to third after passing Rui Andrade (WRT), a little under the one hour mark. At the second stop, Filipe Albuquerque took over from Will Owen in the pole sitting #22 United Autosport and handed second place to Charles Milesi, who remained at the helm of the #1 Oreca. The #9 Prema Racing driven by Louis Deletraz had taken the class lead in the early stages after a fierce battle with the United Autosport entry. Towards the end of the stint, though, Milesi was caught by a fast charging group of LMP2 cars: on older tyres, the French driver struggled to keep Albuquerque and Habsburg (WRT) behind and pitted. On lap 52, Lilou Wadoux got behind the wheel for her first driving shift of the day. Having rejoined in seventh place after the stop under green, Wadoux had a solid run and signed consistent lap times, retaining seventh – until the big crash of the #33 TF Sports Aston Martin of Henrique Chaves, who rolled over the sausage kerb at speed at the second chicane, triggering a Safety Car. The accident – which saw the Aston launched up in the air and across the track – revealed without physical consequences for the driver and, when the pit lane opened, everyone stopped for their fourth stop. Wadoux handed over to Paul Loup Chatin. At the restart, the #708 Glickenhaus – that had led the race from pole position in comfortable fashion – received a penalty and soon after retired for an engine failure, leaving the #7 and 8 Toyotas fighting for the overall lead with the #36 Alpine hypercar. The French squad leapfrogged the Toyotas with a faster pit stop after an outstanding wheel to wheel battle. Chatin, meanwhile, had moved back into third place, also making the most out of a troubled fifth stop by the leading #22 United Autosport. Leading a train of LMP2 cars fighting for position, Chatin was hit and spun by the #9 Prema Racing of Robert Kubica at the First Chicane, just after the mid-race point. The #1 Richard Mille Racing Team Oreca was able to limp back to the pits, despite the crash having caused gearbox damage and the car was wheeled back into the garage for repairs. At the four hour mark, the #28 JOTA entry had conquered the lead in LMP2 from 12th on the grid, after Robert Kubica was handed a drive through penalty for causing the collision with Paul Loup Chatin. The latter made it back out on track briefly, but the technical gremlins on his #1 Oreca persisted and the team spent the next hour in the garage. The red Richard Mille prototype made it back on pit lane with 46 minutes to go and, after two installation laps by Chatin, Lilou Wadoux was back behind the wheel to bring the #1 across the finish line. Albeit 42 laps down, Wadoux was still able to add important mileage and complete the race in P14. "There are a lot of positives to take compared to the other race meetings, actually", Lilou Wadoux told us after the race. "The team did a very good job and the performance of the car was great", she continued. "My teammates are very good and they did a mega job throughout the whole week. Today we had a good pace, but the contact with Kubica broke the gearbox. Nevertheless, it was a good race up until that point." Lilou continued to get closer to her teammates, showing a really strong progression since the beginning of her rookie season. "My pace was very good today and I felt good in the car – I think it's normal to progress like that [as a rookie]". "[With a trouble-free race] a top five – or maybe even a podium with some luck – was possible, so not a bad day." In the overall classification, Alpine took a remarkable win after Nicolas Lapierre had fought his way up to the lead with a great pass on the #8 Toyota. When he hunted down the #7 driven by Kamui Kobayashi, the two made contact on the main straight, and Kobayashi had to pit with damages. The Japanese would also receive a 70-second penalty for moving on the straight. The Alpine hypercar was not significantly damaged and could continue to the end, taking its second overall victory. In LMP2, the #41 RealTeam WRT Oreca (Andrade-Habsburg-Nato) took home the class honors, with heartbreak for JOTA in the final minutes of the race. Gonzalez-Da Costa-Stevens were therefore second, ahead of the Vector Sport entry of Muller-Cullen-Bourdais. With now two rounds to go, FIA WEC will return to the track in September, for the 6 Hours of Fuji, Japan, for the final rounds on Asian soil. "I've never been there" – Wadoux said – "but I'll try to be at the same level as today and to continue with this positive atmosphere in the team also at Fuji."