The Emil Frey Lexus Racing Team fought with difficult conditions at the Sprint Cup weekend at Budapest, however, managed to secure the best-ever Sprint Cup position for the number 14 car with 6th position in the first race. Following an accident in qualifying, the #114 did not lap any times in both qualifying sessions, but Siedler and Palttala showed some great charges through the field coming from last on the grid in both races, finishing in 11th and 14th.
A total of 22 GT3 cars gathered for the second-to-last Sprint Cup weekend at the Hungaroring. In sunny conditions both Lexus RC F GT3 were running within the mid-field in the two Free Practice sessions.
The two qualifying sessions for each of the one-hour races took place on Saturday morning. Christian Klien secured 10th place for race one in the Lexus #14. Norbert Siedler had an unlucky start in the sister car with the number 114. Due to an issue with the rear right tyre, the Austrian lost control of his car going into Turn 4, spun and hit the barriers with the right-hand side. Siedler escaped unhurt, however, the Lexus suffered severe damage and missed out on the second qualifying in due course.
The Spaniard Albert Costa Balboa secured the ninth starting position in qualifying 2 for the second race on Sunday.
Race #1, Saturday, 01 September 2018 – 60 minutes
Thanks to an outstanding team job, the #114 Lexus RC F GT3 was repaired within a matter of a few hours and up and ready to race again. A rain shower just before the start of the race made for difficult conditions with driving on Slicks on a still wet tarmac, however, the mixed conditions played into the hands of the Lexus pilots.
Despite all, Siedler had a great start coming from last on the grid, finding himself up in P16 after a few laps only. Two laps later, he was already running in 11th place.
Team-mate Klien also had a good start from 10th on the grid and was running in ninth place on lap five. On the seventh lap, he snapped two more positions passing a Mercedes-AMG GT3 and a Lamborghini into seventh place.
Little by little, the tarmac dried-up and Siedler pitted on lap 15 from 11th place, handing the #114 to Markus Palttala. Klien waited a little longer with the obligatory pitstop until lap 18, as rain had started in parts of the track and the team could have changed onto rain tyres if necessary. Since the big rain did not happen, the #14 came into the pits and Costa Balboa took over the wheel of the #14.
In his stint, Costa Balboa snatched another position from the #90 Mercedes-AMG GT3 and crossed the finishing line in sixth position, securing the best-ever Sprint Cup result for the car #14. Palttala was running in 10th place with six laps to go, but a broken anti-roll bar slowed him down and he finished in 11th position.
Race #2, Sunday, 02 September – 60 minutes
Heaven opened its floodgates half an hour ahead of the start of the race and a heavy thunderstorm caused standing water on the track. The race was therefore started behind the Safety Car.
Costa Balboa started from P9 into the race, team-mate Markus Palttala gearing-up at the back of the pack due to two missed qualifying’s without a laptime.
After three laps, the Safety Car was brought in. The opening phase of the race saw some chaotic laps with cars going off the track left, right and centre. Both Lexus drivers, however, managed to make up ground and especially Palttala was attacking from the back.
On lap 15, Costa Balboa pitted from eighth place, Palttala followed him coming from 11th. The #14 returned to the track in 11th place, whilst Siedler in the #114 was now in 13th position.
With 15 minutes to go, the Safety Car was deployed following a Full-Course-Yellow. Towards the end, heavier rain made the track slippery again. With the more difficult conditions, both Lexus RC F GT3 lost some positions. At the end of the race, the #14 and #114 crossed the finishing line in P13 and P14 respectively.
The Sprint Cup Final is taking place in two weeks from 14 until 16 September 2018 at the Nürburgring (Germany).
Team Quote Emil Frey Lexus Racing
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“First of all, I would like to thank the whole team for the fantastic work on Saturday, when we managed to get the #114 up and running again for the first race. That was a very strong achievement. Unfortunately, we could already see in Free Practice, that the track did not suit us well and we were not close enough to the times at the front. We improved slightly in qualifying, but we had bad luck with the accident of the #114, which was in no way Norbert Siedler’s fault. On Saturday, we achieved some important points in the race for the championship. The race on Sunday was very frustrating for us, because we did not get enough grip on the track with the heavy rain. Although we do not have that much experience with the Pirelli rain tyres on the Lexus, we learned a lot again. Now we are hoping for the races at Nürburgring and Barcelona.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #14
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“All in all, I am happy, because we did not have an easy weekend, but we are fighters and that paid off. Unfortunately, we had problems with the heavy rain on Sunday and suffered from understeering, which meant we could not go the pace.”
Christian Klien (A)
“We had a difficult race on Saturday starting on Slicks on a still wet tarmac. But I felt at ease in these conditions and managed to drive up into seventh place. Albert fully attacked in the second half of the race and we finished the race in P6. This was the best-ever result for the number 14 in the Sprint Cup.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #114
Markus Palttala (FIN)
“Saturday was a day with many ups and downs. First it was a race against time, but the guys did an awesome job to get us on the grid and we finished the race in P11. Despite the broken anti-roll bar, it was still a great comeback. The track is great, but we were close to one second off the fastest cars this weekend. We had some experimental things in our car on Sunday, because basically we had nothing to lose.”
Norbert Siedler (A)
“The accident was a little strange and we do not know exactly what happened. The tyre seemed to go down the wheel and the air was gone. There was nothing I could do. But the team did once again a mega job and we had a perfect car for the race. We had a super run in the race and managed to drive up into 11th place. The mixed conditions were an advantage for us.”