Kubica feels red flag cost Prema victory shot on WEC debut


Having lined up sixth in an expanded 15-car LMP2 grid for the WEC season opener, Kubica made rapid progress at the wheel of the #9 Oreca 07 in the first quarter of the race, jumping up to third behind the two United Autosports entries.

Prema then pulled the trigger by not changing tyres when Kubica came into the pits the next time to hand over the car to Lorenzo Colombo, allowing the Italian driver to emerge in front of the two United Orecas after they had completed their own pitstops.

But the strategy backfired when the race had to be red-flagged following a massive crash for Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota Hypercar, making Colombo a sitting duck on old tyres when the race resumed.

Colombo and Louis Deletraz later managed to regain some of the lost ground and the team was hoping to return to podium contention after putting its star driver Kubica back in the car for the final two hours of the enduro.

However, the race had to be halted again as per US regulations following lightning in the area, with attempts to restart the race later coming to naught.

Kubica, Deletraz and Colombo were eventually classified fourth behind the two WRT cars, as Paul di Resta, Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson clinched United’s first WEC victory since Monza in July 2021.

Kubica felt Prema was on course for at least a podium finish, if not a victory, at the Florida classic before the red flag severely compromised the team’s strategy, leaving it on the back foot for the second half of the race.

“I think we can summarise the race in two halves,” said Kubica, who won last year’s European Le Mans title with current Prema teammate Deletraz and Yifei Ye. “I started the race, gave the car to Lorenzo in P3 and we were quite competitive, we could have fought for the podium or even the win. 

“Lorenzo did a very good job and we were offsetting the tyre strategy. Then, the red flag came out with four hours to go and Louis in P1, but it didn’t help because it compacted the pack. 

“In the second half of the race, we still did okay. The crew worked really well in the pit lane but we lost a bit of time in some crucial moments. 

“I jumped in the car to drive in the last one hour and 40 minutes. The plan was to go to the end but the weather started to change. 

“We tried to regain ground and get back into the fight but the race was eventually stopped. However, we should be really happy as a team as we executed really well in the pits, and we look forward to the next WEC round at Spa-Francorchamps.”

Challenging debut for Vector Sport

#10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson: Nico Müller, Ryan Cullen, Mike Rockenfeller

#10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 – Gibson: Nico Müller, Ryan Cullen, Mike Rockenfeller

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Another team to make its WEC debut at Sebring was Vector Sport, which fielded a single Oreca 07 for Audi DTM star Nico Muller, Irish racer Ryan Cullen and 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Mike Rockenfeller – the last-named replacing Sebastien Bourdais, who was absent on IndyCar duty.

But while Prema returned from Sebring encouraged by its performance even if a podium result went begging, Vector Sport was left to analyse severe handling issues that ultimately forced the team to retire the car from the race.

Muller felt that the car had “zero performance from start to end” and team boss Gary Holland added that Vector Sport had its work cut out to fix its problems before the next round of the season at Spa on May 1.

“We’re obviously disappointed not to have been able to give a better account of ourselves here, but we always knew it was going to be tough,” said Holland.

“Feedback from the drivers has been that the car didn’t feel as it should right from early on in the race and we felt it was very difficult for us to continue running at the pace we were, going backwards. Given the driver line up we have, this wasn’t doing justice to them or us as a team. 

“With the tight turnaround for the next round we decided to fully investigate the cause of the handling issues, regroup and refocus on that and come back stronger for Spa rather than jeopardise that event as well.”

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