Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller believes that dealing with traffic will be more critical than usual in deciding the outcome of the Spa 1000km this weekend.
Every official session during the Spa weekend, which is the second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, has been red flagged, some of the stoppages being as a result of collisions between drivers of LMP1 cars and those in the slower categories.
Audi suffered a setback in the opening practice session when Benoit Treluyer spun into the tires while lapping a slower GTE car, while Pedro Lamy damaged his Peugeot heavily after making contact with Mike Newton's LMP2 class RML HPD later on Thursday.
Rockenfeller, whose R18 was put on pole position by his co-driver Timo Bernhard during qualifying, thinks that the 54-car entry will highlight the importance of decisive driving in traffic.
"It's the same number of cars at Le Mans, except on a circuit half the length," Rockenfeller said. "Also, we don't have the [Mulsanne] straight, like at Le Mans, which is where you can overtake a lot of cars easily.
"Compare Spa to Sebring, and the corners are mostly faster, so there's less chance to pass someone on the brakes. Also, if you're behind a slower car at Eau Rouge or Blanchimont, you just have to follow and you could maybe lose three seconds in one corner.
"Of course, you want less slower cars to pass, because, especially around Spa, you just want to enjoy the race, but that's always been a part of endurance racing and it's the same for everybody."
Rockenfeller's Audi teammate Allan McNish, whose R18 will start third thanks to Tom Kristensen's effort in qualifying, thinks that changes to engine rules this year regarding LMP1 diesels will also have an effect on his ability to pass lapped cars.
"We're slower in a straight line than we were last year, so the difference in speed between us and them [FLM and GTE cars], isn't as big," he said. "Also it's narrower than Le Mans or Sebring here and you get some FLM and GTE cars that just kind of float into the middle of the track on the straights and that doesn't help either.
Andy Priaulx, whose factory BMW will start seventh in the GTE Pro category, agrees that dealing with lapping will be key during the race.
"They [LMP drivers] aren't going to get many clear laps, but then, neither are we," he said. "It can actually be quite difficult for us in GTE because now we're so quick in a straight line – quicker than some of the FLM cars sometimes – but then we have less aero in the corners, so you have your speed at different points.
"It's going to be an interesting race and I think the guys who win will be the ones who keep out of trouble."