Sam Bird: 100 percent record continues at Spa

Sam Bird continued with his 100 percent victory record in his second race as Ferrari a factory driver at Spa, but only after his teammates suffered heartbreak.

Sam Bird: 100 percent record continues at Spa
Podium LMGTE Pro: first place Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, AF Corse, second place Marino Franchitti, Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, third place Richie Stanaway, Jonathan Adam, Fernando Rees, Aston Martin Racing
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
Sam Bird, AF Corse
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
LMGTE Pro class polesitter Sam Bird, Davide Rigon, AF Corse celebrates
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
LMGTE Pro class polesitter Sam Bird, Davide Rigon, AF Corse celebrates
LMGTE Pro class polesitter Sam Bird, AF Corse celebrates
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird

Spa was looking damn fine last week in the sunshine, as we set about tackling the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in our AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE.

After Silverstone, which saw Davide [Rigon] and I take pole and win the LMGTE Pro class, we had some great momentum, but as I said to quite a few people last weekend, I am still finding my feet in GTs because it is just so different in almost all areas to what I did in LMP2 last season.

The Aston Martins showed some improved pace in qualifying, especially in Sector 1 and Sector 3, and nobody really knows what they and Ford will be like at Le Mans next month.

To be honest, we just have to concentrate on where we are and at the moment, although we are getting the points and the results, we are still developing this car and unfortunately as we saw with Gimmi [Bruni] and James [Calado] in the race we are still working on reliability.

Qualifying was pretty good and Davide did an excellent job, and so did the team. If I'm honest, I struggled a little bit in free practice. It is a bit of an eye-opener when you are used to downforce cars going into Eau Rouge. It takes some big bollocks to get it flat there when you first try it!

I worked really hard with the engineers at AF Corse and also Michelin overnight, and qualifying was much better for me and we combined to get pole. Also, Davide really helped too and for me he was the standout Ferrari driver over the whole week at Spa.

We knew that the tyre management would be very crucial in the race. We knew that there would be a crossover point temperature-wise, and there were certain unknowns due to the warmer temperature than was anticipated.

We worked together as a complete team to ensure we got the best selection of tyres and then it was up to us how we used them on the stints.

The interesting things at the weekend were the speed traps figures. The Astons and the Fords were so much quicker, something like 8-10kph average faster on the straights, you just couldn't catch them.

Yet, we have shown that in the tighter sections and how we use the tyres we are working very well as a team. It is a good battle between all the engineers as well as the drivers.

The race was tough and we were fighting tooth-and-nail with Gimmi and James. The tyres were critical and so was the fuel.

I was bringing the gap down after we lost out at the start when I got boxed in by some LMP2 cars and then I had a moment at Pouhon where I ran wide. We were really evenly matched with the No.51 car but the safety car helped us out and we were only five seconds or so behind going in to the last 30 minutes, which is when James stopped.

I have to say that despite being pleased with the maximum points, you can't help but feel for Gimmi and James. It was going to be James' first WEC win and it was a tough one for him to take. But, it will happen for him eventually, because he is super-quick and he has the best GT driver in the world as his teammate.

The points cushion we got from Spa is welcome, of course, but it is so early in the season to make any big predictions and there is so much to fight for with double points at Le Mans and then six races after that.

Le Mans is only six weeks away and there is plenty of work to do before we go to the test day. To race at La Sarthe as a factory driver will be very special indeed.

I look forward to seeing many of you there next month and then telling you all about it afterwards here at Motorsport.com.

Sam

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