The first season for the Lexus RC F GT3 in the Blancpain GT Series is history since the last race in Barcelona. Following a modest start to the season, the Emil Frey Lexus Racing Team managed to close the gap swiftly and climbed onto the podium in only the fourth round of the championship in the most renowned GT3 Series in the world. Something that would have been difficult to understand at the beginning of the year, was reality at the end: until the finale race the Swiss led the Endurance Cup and secured second place with only six points missing to win the Cup. Additionally, Emil Frey Racing secured its best-ever team result with third place in the overall Team Championship.
Hopes were high after the successful winter tests. However, in Zolder, a former Formula One track that requires hard driving over curbs featuring many tight corners, the performance did not match. The disappointment was great with two results outside the Top-10. Emil Frey Lexus Racing was also lacking a fair amount to the top teams at Monza, the high-speed temple. But with 17th and 21st position in the race in a field stronger than 50 cars the team was slightly optimistic.
Then followed the English double-strike with the Sprint Cup in Brands Hatch and the Endurance Cup in Silverstone. The first rewards were earned at the first engagement at the legendary track of Brands Hatch. Twice the team finished in the Top-10 and was satisfied with the turn taken. Two weeks later at Silverstone, “The Home of British Motorsport”, the team could not have asked for a better place for their first success. With P3 and P7 in qualifying and P3 in the race for the number 114 the first step onto the podium was done – an incredible achievement reflecting the immensely intense team work.
One of the toughest tests was due with the 1000 km of Paul Ricard: 1000 km on a modern and fast track, serving as preparation for the famous Total 24 Hours of Spa. Qualifying showed once again a thriving form with 4th and 8th place. The race should become one of the greatest thrillers of the year. The number 14 Lexus RC F GT3 was constantly running at the front. One hour before the end of the race the team was running in a great second place – then the incredible happened: Albert Costa Balboa found himself suddenly right at the tale of the Bentley number 7 and great two-way battle came head-to-head in the finale laps of the race. Left, right and centre, the Spaniard tried everything until he managed the impossible by taking the race lead three corners before the chequered flag, storming to take the very first overall victory for Lexus and the Emil Frey Racing Team in the Blancpain GT Series.
Following the grand victory in France, the journey continued satisfyingly with three Top-10 results at the difficult track of Misano, in which the #114 quite incidentally secured its best-ever Sprint Cup result with P5. The highlight of the season was next with the Total 24 Hours of Spa, but despite the #14 Lexus making its way into Super Pole, more than 13th place in the race was not possible. The 24-hours-race was more than overshadowed by the heavy accident by Stéphane Ortelli in the Emil Frey Lexus RC F GT3, who was forced to pause from racing until the season final.
Budapest was the next stop after a one-month summer break. Everyone expected a high-temperature heat battle, but severe rain and thunderstorms dominated the second-to-last Sprint Cup weekend at the Hungaroring. It was not an easy race. Despite difficult conditions, the #14 managed its best result with 6th place. The Sprint Cup Final took place at Nürburgring where Albert Costa Balboa showed once again a strong performance, storming to take second place in Q1. Unfortunately, the team was not able to take advantage of the good starting position and reached the positions fifth and nine and seventh and eighth respectively in the last two Sprint Cup races.
The Swiss Privateer arrived at the great Season Final at Barcelona as leaders in the Endurance Cup. But the last race weekend of the year would ironically become the darkest of the year. With a disappointing qualifying including technical issues, further technical problems found their ways into both cars during the race, leading to the retirement of both Lexus RC F GT3.
Despite all, the team secured for the first time in the history of the Swiss racing team the second place in the Endurance Cup as well as an outstanding third place in the overall standings. The groundwork for the future has been laid after a good debut year and the preparations for the 2019 season can begin.
“For us it was the first full season with all ten races in the Blancpain GT Series and I think it could not have been more diversified”, reflects Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing. “We were fighting with immense difficulties at the beginning, especially with finding the right Set-up with the Pirelli tyres, which were new for us this year. But once again our team demonstrated professional team work, continuously trying to find improvements day and night to make the Lexus RC F GT3 competitive in a matter of short time. The accident at Spa was a huge shock to all of us, and I was very happy to see Stéphane Ortelli race with us again at the season finale at Barcelona. We set a few milestones with a podium and a race win. Now we have to take the experience and the data from this year and use them for the preparations over the winter to use for next year – to attack even stronger. I am immensely proud of our team and the development we have gone through and I am excited to see the next steps.”
Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup: Race Results 2018
|Lexus RC F GT3 #14||Lexus RC F GT3 #114|
|Zolder Race 1||N/C||P 14|
|Zolder Race 2||P 20||P 13|
|Brands Hatch Race 1||P 11||P9|
|Brands Hatch Race 2||P 14||P 9|
|Misano Race 1||P 9||P 5|
|Misano Race 2||N/C||P 8|
|Hungaroring Race 1||P 6||P 11|
|Hungaroring Race 2||P 13||P 14|
|Nürburgring Race 1||P 5||P 9|
|Nürburgring Race 2||P 7||P 8|
Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup: Race Results 2018
|Lexus RC F GT3 #14||Lexus RC F GT3 #114|
|Monza||P 17||P 21|
|Silverstone||P 9||P 3|
|Paul Ricard||P 1||P 35|
|Total 24 Hours of Spa||P 13||N/C|
Overview Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Team Championship
|1||Belgian Audi Club WRT||123|
|3||GRT Grasser Racing Team||95|
|5||Sainteloc Junior Team||77.5|
|6||Emil Frey Racing||50.5|
|10||Team Parker Racing Ltd||7|
|11||Audi Sport Slovakia||4|
|14||Boutsen Ginion Racing||1|
Overview Blancpain GT Endurance Cup Team Championship
|2||Emil Frey Racing||119|
|4||Belgian Audi Club WRT||83|
|5||Bentley Team M-Sport||77.5|
|9||AF Racing AG / R-Motorsport||11|
|10||Sainteloc Junior Team||7|
|12||GRT Grasser Racing Team||3|
Overview Blancpain GT Series Overall Championship
|2||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||174|
|3||Emil Frey Racing||123.5|
|4||GRT Grasser Racing Team||121|
|5||Sainteloc Junior Team||109.5|
|8||Bentley Team M-Sport||50|
|12||AF Racing AG / R-Motorsport||39|
|19||Team Parker Racing Ltd||7|
|20||Audi Sport Slovakia||4|
|23||Boutsen Ginion Racing||1|
The Emil Frey Lexus Racing Team suffered a great disappointment at the season final of the Blancpain GT Series in Barcelona (Spain) and narrowly missed out on winning the Endurance Cup Title. Following a difficult start, the team was facing engine problems on both Lexus RC F GT3 and had to retire both cars early in the race. Despite the unsuccessful race, the team is pleased about securing third place in the Endurance Cup Team Championship and with that obtaining the best-ever result in the history of Emil Frey Racing in the Blancpain GT Series.
The team around Lorenz Frey-Hilti had imagined their start into the last race weekend a little different. With P25 and P40 as well as 37th and 33rd place in Free Practice respectively Pre-Qualifying, the team was way beyond their expectations. It continued to be turbulent on Sunday morning with the three 15-minute qualifyings. Expect for the last session, both the first and second were dominated by yellow and red flags, making it almost impossible to set fast lap times due to heavy traffic. In addition, lap times of the second qualifying were cancelled, which made the final starting positions a disappointment. Moreover, the #114 suffered problems with the oil pressure and the car had to be towed back into the pits.
At exactly 03:00 pm, 52 GT3 race cars made their way into the final formation lap only to then put their foots down to give their all with the flying start into the 10th race of the year. Marco Seefried started in the number 14 Lexus RC F GT3 from 19th on the grid and made-up one position at the start. After issues with the oil pump the engine on the #114 was changed and in due course, Stéphane Ortelli started into the race from the pitlane.
Seefried had improved by one further position and was running in 17th place when he suddenly lost power on lap ten. The Lexus driver steered the number 14 into the pits and following a quick check, the team had to retire the car with a broken exhaust in the garage.
Meanwhile, Ortelli showed all his class, gaining position after position. On lap 31, the Monegasque was ranging in P27 and pitted to hand the car over to team-mate Markus Palttala. The Finn returned in 28th place and was already running in P25, after he had taken two positions on one lap only. With a laptime of 1.48.900, he was doing similar lap times to the leading car at the time, the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 with 1.48.400.
But as with the sister car, the #114 Lexus RC F GT3 also suffered a technical failure. Whilst running in P23 another engine issue occurred and the car had to be parked in Turn 9. Despite both retirements, Emil Frey Lexus Racing secured third place in the overall Team Championship – a considerable achievement in the debut year with the Lexus RC F GT3.
Team Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“We have had other things on our minds for our last race of the year, that’s for sure. Throughout the whole season, the Lexus RC F GT3 shown with its reliability, today we lost both cars due to technical failures. It is very disappointing for the whole team. We were so close in taking home the team title in the Endurance Cup and that would have been a very strong achievement. Despite today’s disappointment, we still look with pleasure at our first season of the Blancpain GT Series and are pleased to have secured third place in the Endurance Cup Teams Championship. We had a great podium and a fantastic win at Paul Ricard. We showed that we are competitive, and we will now work even harder over the winter to prepare for next season. We would like to congratulate all winners in the Blancpain GT Series for their victories. Thank you to each and everyone in the team, to Lexus and our drivers for a great year. We will come back stronger next year.”
Hannes Gautschi, Technical Coordinator Emil Frey Lexus Racing
“To this date, we could say that in the two years that we have been running with the Lexus RC F GT3, we never suffered a technical failure that led to a retirement. The reason for today´s retirement was a broken exhaust collector. We had an issue with the oil pressure on the #114, which prompted us to change the engine. Why we still had the retirement in the race, we have to analyse. The current data do not give enough analyses, but it looks like it was in the engine area again. The mechanics did a fantastic job between qualifying and race, which unfortunately didn´t pay off and now the disappointment is of course very high. Nevertheless, we gained a lot of experience this year, we learned a lot and celebrated some achievements.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #14
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“Our qualifying was ok in the end, but we were not where we wanted to be. We were missing a few tenth of a second to the front runners. We had a lot of traffic, on my fastest lap I overtook six cars. We made another improvement from qualifying to the race and the Lexus felt good. I am so disappointed that I did not get to race in my home race and that we had to retire the car after only ten laps. Nobody wants to finish the season with such a tragic end.”
Christian Klien (A)
“Very sad and disappointing with the failure, because we were fighting for a good position in the final. But that’s racing! All in all, we had a very good first season with the Lexus RC F GT3 in the Blancpain GT Series, especially with winning in Paul Ricard.”
Marco Seefried (GER)
“I lost power going into Turn 3 and I noticed that one cylinder was missing, but I did not get an alarm. When I was in the garage we saw that the exhaust was broken. We had not contact with another car, it simply broke. It would have taken too long to change, so unfortunately, we had to end the race. It is very sad, that we did not win the Endurance Cup, we were so close.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #114
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO)
“First of all, it was a great team achievement to change the engine so quickly. The car was flying and was very strong and positive for a long time. At one stage we were one of the fastest cars on track. Unfortunately, we had to finish the race early with a problem on the engine. But that does not change the fact that we had a fantastic year with our first podium and our first victory. We are capable of doing it, today is a sad story. But that’s racing and we must accept it. For me personally I was very happy to be back in the car and give 100 percent. I am excited about the winter and the preparations for next year.”
Norbert Siedler (A)
“Unfortunately, we had a weekend that was different to what we had expected. After a very good test in the winter we thought we would have the speed to race at the front, but that was not the case. The guys improved the car a lot between yesterday and today, we could have had a much better position in qualifying. Unfortunately, we suffered an issue with the engine in Q2 and had to start the race from the pitlane. We suffered the same issue during the race. Stéphane and Markus both had great stints and we were already in the Top-20 – what a shame! Thanks for the great achievement by the whole team, to change the engine so quickly. Thank you also to the whole team for this season, it was great to be part of it!”
Markus Palttala (FIN)
“With technical problems in today’s qualifying and race, the year obviously didn’t end as we wanted. However, I’m looking back at a positive season. Everyone has been working hard from the first test back in February and we made massive steps leading to our podium at Silverstone and the win in Paul Ricard. As always, there were some ups and downs during the season, but we came here leading the team championship and every single person in the team can be proud for being in that position.”