On her return to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, Lilou Wadoux impressed during a disrupted final stint to move from fourth to third and claimed a superb podium finish in the Silver class - her first in the series.
Lilou Wadoux marked her return to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with an excellent third place Silver class result at Circuit de Barcelona. Teaming up with Cedric Sbirrazzuoli and Manny Franco, the AF Corse trio adapted to the championship well and were consistent class frontrunners throughout the weekend.
After qualifying sixth in their Ferrari 296 GT3, the team made steady progress during the three-hour contest, with Wadoux impressing during a disrupted final stint to move from fourth to third and claim a superb podium finish.
After the race, Lilou commented “I am delighted with my first podium in the GT World Challenge also because we didn’t have the easiest of weekends. The many Safety Cars also made the race really tricky, but in the end, I had fewer problems in my stint than my teammates, and we achieved a well-deserved podium.”
Lilou’s only previous appearance in GT World Challenge Europe this season came at the 24 Hours of Spa in which she impressed both with her speed and consistency. Remaining with AF Corse, Wadoux would enter the Silver class ranks alongside two new teammates in the form of Cedric Sbirrazzuoli and Manny Franco, both of whom have good experience in Ferrari machinery.
The weekend began with two paid test sessions on Friday, with the #53 Ferrari 296 GT3 topping the Silver class in session two, placing an impressive fifth in the overall classification.
Drivers were given a further three hours of practice spread across two sessions on Saturday. Lilou’s re-adaption to GT3 machinery was clear in the opening session where she set the fastest lap for the team, placing AF Corse atop the times in the Silver class. Pre-qualifying saw the trio set the seventh fastest time to round off a great start to the weekend.
Qualifying on Sunday morning saw the trio continue to improve, while displaying superb consistency on their first weekend together competing as a team. Manny took to the track in Q1 and set the seventh fastest time in the Silver class, before Cedric’s sixth place effort in Q2 set Lilou up to contend for a top-5 starting position within the class.
Wadoux set the quickest time for the car during qualifying and was fifth fastest among the Silver class runners in Q3, while her theoretical best lap would have seen her qualify second. On combined times, the #53 AF Corse Ferrari would line up sixth in the Silver class, with class rivals starting both directly ahead and behind the trio.
Manny took the start for AF Corse and his GT World Challenge America experience paid dividends as he negotiated a challenging start without incident. Despite falling to ninth in the Silver class, Franco was extremely consistent in the first half of his stint, before starting to climb back up the order in the later stages.
Gaining four overall positions between laps 13 and 20, the GT World Challenge Europe debutant took advantage of a safety car restart to position the car well before handing over to Cedric Sbirrazzuoli in ninth.
A smart decision from AF Corse to run one lap under the safety car before pitting saw the Monegasque driver move into seventh for the restart. Cedric’s race pace was extremely impressive throughout his stint and this allowed him to navigate traffic efficiently, while consistently making inroads on Silver class rivals. After passing Loris Hezemans on lap 37, Sbirrazzuoli was into sixth before overtaking a further three cars to close up on Gregoire Demoustier for a position within the top-5.
Making light work of the Sainteloc Junior Team driver, Cedric was into fifth and with a nice pass on Magnus Gustavsen, the #53 AF Corse Ferrari was now fourth in the Silver class. Sbirrazzuoli maintained his pace in the closing stages of his stint, handing over to Lilou with a realistic chance of a podium and an outside shot of claiming victory.
Wadoux began her stint well and held fourth position comfortably, before a lengthy full course yellow period halted her progress. This was unfortunate for the Ferrari factory driver who looked set to close in on the class leaders, and with the race restarted after a brief safety car period, the gaps were still substantial with around 25 minutes remaining.
On lap 79, Lilou moved into the podium positions following an incident for Daniele Di Amato, and with two GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan’s separating her for Silver class victory, Wadoux continued to push. This resulted in the young French driver setting the fastest lap for the car on lap 85, while holding off a late charge from countryman Paul Evrard.
Taking the checkered flag just six seconds away from the class winner, it was a fantastic return to GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup competition for Lilou who secured a third place finish for AF Corse.
Lilou once again showed her excellent adaptability by making an impressive return to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. Wadoux was consistently the fastest driver in the #53 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 and this allowed her to anchor the trio to a superb podium result, with the potential of a victory negated by the large periods of her stint spent behind the safety car.
Lilou will now aim to finish her FIA World Endurance Championship campaign on a high when she returns to the Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE at the 8 Hours of Bahrain on the weekend of 3rd/4th November.