Lilou Wadoux secures Top-6 at her first 24H of Spa
“It was a new experience for me, my first 24 Hours of Spa, and honestly, I was very surprised by this race" - At her first participation at the 24 Hours of Spa, Lilou Wadoux displayed impressive pace and consistency to claim a sixth place in the Bronze Cup.
Lilou Wadoux impressed in her first ever SRO appearance and at her first start in the highly challenging 24 Hours of Spa - in a rookie start in GT3 machinery.
The young Ferrari GT factory driver is in fact contesting the FIA World Endurance Championship in GTE machinery and has previously driven LMP2 prototypes before being contracted by the Prancing Horse.
Wadoux, 22 year-old from France, was one of the seven women on the grid of this year's edition of the biggest GT3 race on the planet: she joined Iron Dames' Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Doriane Pin, Theeba Motorsport's Reema Juffali and ST Racing's Samantha Tan. Just one week after making her IMSA debut at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, Wadoux shared the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 with Louis Machiels, Jef machiels and Andrea Bertolini.
Lilou was among the stars of the mixed-weather Q1: she was third in her qualifying stint, but in the heavy rain the team eventually qualified in 11th place in the Bronze Class, just missing out on a spot for the SuperPole. Louis Machiels took the start for the #52 AF Corse Ferrari entry.
Machiels initially moved up to P10 but then dropped to 20th in class over the first hour, as the Belgian driver struggled for pace in the slippery conditions. The race was in fact underway after a rain shower but in quickly drying conditions. After stints for Andrea Bertolini and Jef Machiels, the team settled in 18th in class. Unfortunately, the #52 entry received a few penalties for track limits.
Lilou Wadoux got behind the wheel for her first stint in the race around the fifth hour mark - and immediately made up a few positions in class, also setting the fastest lap of her team.
Having completed a one hour stint, Lilou Wadoux left the wheel of the #52 AF Corse Ferrari back in the hands of Jef Machiels and then Andrea Bertolini once again; the team was hit by a 30 second stop and go penalty for track limits that demoted it to 15th in Bronze Cup.
Experienced Ferrari driver Andrea Bertolini managed to get back into the top-15 in Bronze
With a pit stop under yellow, Wadoux was back in the car for her second stint - having moved up to 12th in Bronze. Lilou was the protagonist of yet another brilliant stint and, at one point, the Frenchwoman was the fastest driver in the Bronze class. She brought the #52 Ferrari up in the top-10 in class at the ten hour mark.
Wadoux remained at the wheel for another stint and, having run as high as tenth, was back out in P12, chasing the Haupt Racing Mercedes of Jordan Love only a few seconds ahead. She would gain a position during the following a Full Course Yellow, when the #52 AF Corse stayed out.
Lilou pitted at the following Full Course Yellow, caused by a big accident on the Kemmel straight and handed over to Jef Machiels, from tenth in class. With barrier repairs underway, the neutralization lasted for almost two hours. At the restart, Machiels managed to snatch ninth in Bronze by overtaking the #62 Team Parker Racing Porsche. Machiels further climbed the order up to seventh before his pit stop with 10 hours left on the clock, when Andrea Bertolini was back in the seat.
Over the course of the following hours, Bertolini settled in eighth place in Bronze; the Italian driver alternated with Louis Machiels in the early morning hours retaining eighth, in a quieter stage of the race for the team. Lilou Wadoux took over from Louis Machiels for her third driving shift of the race and immediately set the team's fastest reference. Lilou showcased once again her consistency and gained positions, running as high as fifth during the pit cycle, before slotting in sixth place in class.
With six hours to go, Wadoux and her teammates remained in the hunt for a top five in class.
Lilou pitted on lap 394 after a very strong double stint; Andrea Bertolini was up next, as the Italian held sixth position. Louis Machiels eventually lost sixth to the #79 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes of Sebastien Baud with 4 hours to go, as the team hit trouble once again for another series of track limit strikes.
With three hours to go, Jef Machiels took over the #52 machine and, a few laps later, he was handed a 30 second penalty for track limits. While he could reclaim sixth, he had approximately 50 seconds to manage and stay ahead of the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche once he would have to serve his penalty at the next pit stop. Unfortunately, new track limits infringements gained him a further drive through penalty.
The penalty cost AF Corse three positions, as Machiels re-emerged in ninth place in Bronze, behind the Herberth Motorsport Porsche, the #188 Garage 59 McLaren and the #31 Team WRT BMW.
With two hours to go, Lilou Wadoux took over the reins of the AF Corse Ferrari for the final stints of the race. The young racer had a big task ahead: try to recover from the cars ahead and at the same time defend from the #66 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi of Pereira, who was gaining ground. Lilou gained some breathing space to the #66 Audi once the latter also received a penalty just before its final stop.
Up to eighth after the final rounds of pit stops, Wadoux capitalized on her speed in the final stages of the race and eventually crossed the finish line in sixth place in class, 26th overall.
Her performance was yet another proof of her speed and adaptability: already a race winner in WEC, Lilou has now added to her resumé a top ten in class at the prestigious 24 Hours of Spa.
“I am very pleased with sixth position", Lilou commented after the race. "It was a new experience for me, my first 24 Hours of Spa, and honestly, I was very surprised by this race, which was extremely complex and fascinating. We performed well, for which I congratulate the entire team.”
Despite the several penalties that hit the #52 Ferrari - and that cost the team over 4 minutes - Lilou Wadoux completed yet another sports car crown jewel - to add to her top 10 in the LMP2 class at Le Mans - showcasing her pace and consistency.
She will be back in the Richard Mille Racing AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE at Monza in a week's time, for the fifth round of the FIA WEC season.