Emil Frey Lexus Racing showed a clear upswing at the second round of the Blancpain GT Series and the season opener of the Endurance Cup. After the disappointment from Zolder two weeks ago, both Lexus RC F GT3 saw the chequered flag after the three-hour race in Monza (Italy) and secured 17th and 21st place after an improving performance throughout the weekend.
The weekend started off with an extensive test session on Friday, which the team thankfully took to try different Setups. Both Lexus were running on different settings in order to define the best way and this was reflected in the positions 23 and 47 in Saturday’s Free Practice. The #14 set the 23rd fastest time in Pre-Qualifying, whilst the sister car with the 114 finished in 15th place.
After the three qualifying sessions, from which the average determines the starting position, the Lexus team demonstrated clear improvements and qualified in P21 (#114) and P22 (#14) from a total of 54 GT3 cars.
The starting driver Christian Klien (#14) had a good start into the first Endurance Cup race for the Lexus RC F GT3. Stéphane Ortelli had to avoid a car at the start and lost positions. Both Lexus, however, managed to improve seven positions until the pitstop. Unfortunately, the good work was destroyed by drive-through penalties for both Lexus: the #14 was penalised due to an “Unsafe Release” at the pitstop, the #114 didn’t slow down in time for the Full-Course-Yellow since the team had issues with the radio and could not reach the driver. Marco Seefried pitted the #14 from P20 for the driver change, Markus Palttala the #114 from P19.
The last race stint was taken over by Albert Costa Balboa and Norbert Siedler. After two solid stints, Costa Balboa crossed the finishing line in P17 for the #14, the Austrian Siedler came home in 21st place.
The third race of the season of the Blancpain GT Series and the second race weekend of the Sprint Cup will take place on 05 and 06 May 2018 at Brands Hatch, England.
Team Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing
Lorenz Frey, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“After the first race at Zolder, the engineers and mechanics worked really hard in our workshop trying to understand the problems better. Luckily, we had two test sessions at Monza which we used to try different things as well as the performance and drivability of the Lexus. We tried different Setups on both cars to see which is more efficient. In the end we could see, that there is still a lot of work ahead of us, but we are on the right way.”
Hannes Gautschi, Technical Coordinator Emil Frey Lexus Racing
“Unfortunately, the #114 had to accept a drive-through penalty, as we suffered communication issues during the Full-Course-Yellow and our driver did not slow down in time. The #14 left the pit space after the first pitstop too close to the entry of another car, which race control valued as an “Unsafe Release” and a further drive-through was given. We have collected many data at Monza, which we will look at now in our workshop.”
Jürg Flach, Technical Director Emil Frey Racing
“Although the weekend was not easy for the Lexus with the pre-tests on Friday, we still continuously worked on the Setup and found a good direction in the end, which made the tyres work and improved the balance of the car. The team worked very well and despite the penalties we showed a good performance in the race!”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #14
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“On Friday, I drove into the Top-6 with new tyres, but we could see that there is still a lot of work to do. Especially here at Monza with over 50 cars on the track, the qualifying is crucial. We managed to qualify in the mid-field and also finished the race there. In the end, we know the car can win, we proved so impressively last year. We were a little bit better in Monza than in Zolder, we didn’t start from zero but from two. Of course, we always want to win, but to do so we always have to give our best.”
Christian Klien (A)
“The start was very exciting as we were four cars side-by-side heading down to the first chicane. I managed to squeeze by a few cars and the performance of the Lexus RC F GT3 was very good in the race. I was able to attack, to overtake and made up some places. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the radio during the Full-Course-Yellow and the team could not reach me. We were given a drive-through penalty in due course and lost many positions, which we gained in hard work before. An unlucky situation.”
Marco Seefried (GER)
“Both Lexus showed a similar performance during qualifying and we must stay realistic and see, that we are currently running in the mid-field. After the qualifying, we did some changes to the Setup, which we tested in the practice sessions in the long-runs. We have always given our best. It was not an easy race. I tried to save my tyres as much as possible, but that was not simple in warm temperatures as we had them in Monza today.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #114
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO)
“We were not where we expected to be this weekend, especially in qualifying. But considering there were 30 cars within one second, we can be pleased. At the start, I was caught up behind a car and some other competitors overtook me and I lost some positions. The good thing is, I was able to overtake and I was really happy with the speed, but in the end, it was not enough.”
Norbert Siedler (A)
“We started well with the practice sessions, but we found out pretty quickly that we have to improve a lot to make the car quicker, especially in the long-runs. We could already see improvements in qualifying and continued to get better. The race performance of the Lexus was good.”
Markus Palttala (FIN)
“The last time I drove for Emil Frey Racing was at the 24-hours race at Spa two year ago and since then, the team has immensely developed and has grown stronger. We need time to test the car. The winter tests were good, but then you come to Monza with 26° degrees and all is different, it was good that we had the extra day testing on Friday to drive the car. I don’t know how long it will take, but we are a good team and I think we will have some good results during the season.”