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.”