United Autosports celebrated its second victory in a row at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa having won the ELMS race the weekend before. Although the conditions of both races couldn’t be more different, the event played out in favour of the English-based squad. We talked to a delighted Phil Hanson who’d also put the Oreca 7 on pole the day before with a staggering 1.5-second gap.
Phil, congratulations on a perfect weekend, starting on pole position and topping it off with a win for the second time in a row. Talk us through the weekend.
Thank you! Having been here last weekend helped us massively. It’s absolutely fair to say it gave us some more miles under our belts before starting out the weekend here. Qualifying was great and went relatively smooth for us while we had seen other teams struggling with track limits and seeing their lap times being removed. I had my first lap removed for this as well but not knowing how much the gap was, I went for it again during my second lap and that proved to be enough for pole, so it worked out great in the end. In stark contrast to the rest of the weekend the race started under torrential rain, which added an extra challenge as it was the first wet weather running of the season. The important thing was that we had to think about the championship, which we were leading going into Spa, and the bigger picture. So, when it came to track dices I kept it safe especially when the Racing Team Holland car came charging through the field. Maybe in hindsight I played it a little too safe but if you saw what happened to Signatech Alpine’s Thomas Laurent, who got involved in a racing incident during a battle on track, I’m happy it all worked out in the end.
Obviously for you it’s only been a week ago since your last race, but for the rest of the WEC paddock it’s been 174 days. How was your experience in returning to racing?
It’s massive for me to be honest. It is, however, very weird to be here in this paddock without any fans here. There’s no autograph sessions and fan activation so that actually means that for us it’s a lot more waiting around in the paddock and it prolongs the wait to get back in the car. However, in the end it’s just a breath of fresh air for us that we can finally go back to racing.
Speaking of no spectators, it has just been announced that the upcoming 24 of Le Mans will also be run without spectators. What’s your feeling on this?
It’ll be very weird. Le Mans is such a festival and, with the massive parade on Friday, it’s always been an incredible experience for the fans. I don’t believe it’ll make any difference to the race itself. The 24 hours of Le Mans is all about the challenge for the drivers, teams and the machines, so not having a crowd doesn’t really impact that at all. For me personally I really enjoy these fan parades, but I struggle a bit managing my energy levels during such events. From my last Le Mans I distinctly remember being exhausted after the parade, so this time we won’t have that.
Some teams and drivers claim they came out of the lockdown stronger than ever. How do you feel coming out of this period?
I believe I came out of it physically and mentally as strong as I possibly could be. We’ve talked a lot about this and different drivers coming from different countries experienced different lockdowns. I feel fortunate that in the UK we could still have the freedom for some physical exercise. Having a good home gym also really helped. So when coming back in the paddock I felt physically as strong as I did going into lockdown, and maybe even a bit stronger, so having ticked that box I also have a mental takeaway from that.