Due to the global situation, a change in race dates saw the Prologue move to the start of the race week at Spa-Francorchamps. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the start to the season that the team had hoped. A mistake by Keating and a puncture for Hoshino saw both Bronze drivers have substantial incidents, in the same place at Eau Rouge, within the first test session.
Thankfully both drivers were unharmed, and the crew wasted in no time in beginning to rebuild the #777 Vantage. As Keating’s machine was beyond repair, TF’s European Le Mans Series GTE chassis was driven over from the team’s UK base and adjustments were made to switch the #33 to WEC eligibility.
Less than 24 hours after the incidents, both entries were back on track for day two of the Prologue, with #33 soon sitting at the top of the timesheets. An incredible accomplishment by the TF crew.
The qualifying structure has changed for WEC’s Season 9 and it is now solely the Bronze driver’s responsibility to set the grid spot for each race. The session was marred by red flags, leaving Keating and Hoshino time for just two flying laps. Texan man Keating claimed pole position with an incredibly impressive lap and scored the team’s first point of the year. After having laps deleted for track limit infringements, D’station Racing’s entry would line up P11.
A stellar race start by Keating saw #33 jump ahead of the Pro class Corvette and begin to create a gap to the Am class behind, and held the class lead for the majority of the first hour. Gold-driver Fujii wasted no time in charging #777 through the order, taking the Japanese entry’s Vantage from the last row of the grid, to P2 within his opening stint.
Towards the end of the first hour, Keating became the innocent victim in an LMP2 battle when Dragon Speed’s Montoya drove G-Drive’s prototype into Ben, pushing him onto the grass. Some impressive car control by Keating meant #33 stayed pointing in the right direction and lost as little time as possible.
D’station Racing’s trio battled hard in their WEC debut. Between Hoshino, Fujii and Watson, #777 ran as high as second and a trouble-free race saw the crew take the flag in seventh, scoring valuable points at the season opener.
An unfortunately timed full course yellow period was the second strike of bad luck for TF Sport’s Vantage, meaning the class leader gained an advantage during a pit stop. Despite Pereira and Fraga’s best efforts, they were denied the chance to fight for the win and Fraga brought #33 over the line in second place.
The second round of the 2021 World Endurance Series takes place at Portimão, Portugal on June 13.