Last weekend Rui Andrade achieved what no Angolan has ever achieved before. He finished the 24 Hours of Le Mans in second place, adding his name to a prestigious list as the first of his home nation in front of 3325.000 motorsport fans on track and millions of viewers around the world. His second-place finish is the best result an African driver has ever achieved over the 100-year history of the race.
The centenary running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans has been one of the most sought-after motorsport events on the calendar with one of the most exciting grids the Circuit de La Sarthe has ever witnessed.
Andrade who shares the #41 Team WRT LMP2 car with Robert Kubica and Louis Déletraz in the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship season, arrived at Le Mans for the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship following a stunning victory in their Spa as the runner ups in the LMP2 standings.
The one-week-long build-up to the greatest motor race in the world went smoothly and without any technical issues for Rui and his team. Déletraz was chosen to do the Qualifying and the stunning lap he set put the #41 through the Hyperpole. The Swiss also excelled in the eight-car shootout and secured P3 on the LMP2 grid for Saturday.
The starting flag waved under blue skies, however, rain was lurking in the area, and just after the start of the 24-hour race, the heavens opened up at certain parts of the circuit, causing absolute chaos, catching out several drivers who all fell victim to it including Rui who spun after his car became uncontrollable on the standing water but fortunately managed to keep it out of the wall and brought the car back to the pits for a quick touch-up. He completed the rest of his stint impeccably in spite of the treacherous conditions. Louis and Robert also delivered on the highest level. The trio chased the leader until the very last minute, and thanks to Team WRT’s tremendous efforts, the #41 LMP2 car survived the race without technical issues. Apart from a puncture caused by debris on the track, nothing has hindered their mission and after an eventful and FCY-ridden 24 hours, they crossed the line in second place.
Thanks to this podium, Rui, Robert and Louis took the lead in LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship with three podium finishes out of four races, never finishing outside of the Top 4.
“It felt special to be up there on the podium. I’ve seen the photos and videos about it but none of them do it justice, you have to experience it yourself. Of course, we wanted to win. It’s Le Mans, everyone comes here for the biggest trophy. But it just wasn’t meant to be this time. The entire team did incredible. Every single member of WRT would have deserved to be on that podium after all the endless days of work that went into preparing for this race. The car was mega, and my teammates Robert and Louis did a fantastic job. I am incredibly thankful for my sponsors Sonangol and Welwitschia Racing who allow me to chase my dreams.”
Jamie Campbell- Walter, Managing Director, Bullet Sports Management:
“Rui Joined Bullet Sports Management in 2019 as an up-and-coming junior single-seater driver. F3 was a great learning ground but it was in 2021 when we decided together to give a go to endurance racing when Rui really started to thrive. He claimed his first podium in his first weekend in an LMP2 car, then went on to win the European Le Mans Series in Pro-AM. He joined Team WRT in 2022, and claimed his first win in a World Championship race in Monza. Considering this incredible progress and knowing how hard he’s been working, this result doesn’t come as a surprise, but this is not just another podium finish. Finishing on the Le Mans rostrum is something every racing driver is dreaming about. Achieving it at the young age of 22, as the first person in his home country Angola makes this achievement even more special. We are all proud of Rui and we know there is a lot more to come from him.“
The FIA WEC season continues in one month’s time (7-9 July) at the Temple of Speed in Monza.