Emil Frey Lexus Racing has gained a place in history books with its sensational win at the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Paul Ricard. Two months following the disappointing start to the season, Spaniard Albert Costa Balboa took the lead of only half a lap prior to the end, crossing the finishing line in the Lexus RC F GT3 as winner of the six-hour race at Le Castellet.
Rarely has a GT3 race in the recent past been so competitive and exciting. From a total of 51 race cars the Top-24 were running within one second and the fight for the front positions began already into the first corner. Christian Klien in the number 14 came from fourth on the grid into second place, whilst his team-mate Stéphane Ortelli in the sister car #114 had also a strong first stint, dashing from eighth place up into three in only a matter of a few laps and having a great nose-to-tail battle with the #1 Audi of Dries Vanthoor.
The #14 with Costa Balboa re-joined the race in P2 after the first pitstop with a gap of 3.7 seconds to the leader. Markus Palttala had a quiet stint in the #114 and pitted for the next stop from P5.
At nightfall, both Lexus RC F GT3 were promisingly heading for a podium. Norbert Siedler in the #114 had a strong fight with the #7 Bentley, but following a small contact had to settle in fourth position. Ortelli took over the #114 on lap 91, but also suffered contact with another car, which forced the Monegasque to come into the pits with damage on the steering. Despite outstanding teamwork of the mechanics, the fight for the lead was lost for this car. The team used the remaining hours to test and prepare for the highlight of the season, the 24-hours of Spa.
Meanwhile, Marco Seefried was running in a good fourth spot in the #14 and handed the Lexus RC F GT3 over to Costa Balboa for the last hour of the race. Once the leading #72 Ferrari suffered an engine failure and the second-placed McLaren #58 was penalised with a Drive-Through, the Emil Frey Lexus Racing Team found itself suddenly running in second place. But the fight for the lead was heating-up. Costa Balboa was only 0.8 seconds behind the leading Bentley with eight minutes to go until the chequered flag. On the very last lap, the Spaniard took the lead of the race in a great overtaking move coming into Turn 10 half a lap before the end of the race, securing an incredible first victory for the Lexus crew in the Blancpain GT Series.
Following on from the strong third place at Silverstone, the first victory was sealed in only the fifth race of the season. Emil Frey Lexus Racing is now leading the Endurance Cup team’s standings.
The next race of the Blancpain GT Series will take place with the Sprint Cup weekend in Misano (Italy) from 22 to 24 June 2018.
For more information, please visit www.emilfreyracing.com
Team Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing
Lorenz Frey, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“We still cannot believe it. We have one the 1000 kilometres of Paul Ricard in one of the most high-class GT Championships in the world. The last lap was nerve-racking, nobody would have thought that after six hours it would be so close. We have now definitely proven that we have a very strong package. We could show the performance of the Lexus and the expert work of our team. A big thank you to the whole team, who worked very hard to achieve this victory.”
Hannes Gautschi, Technical Coordinator Emil Frey Lexus Racing
“We confirmed the upwards trend coming from the first race on Friday. In qualifying, we showed once again the capacity and set the milestone for a good race. In the end, we also had luck on our side. The whole team had done an absolute professional and faultless job on both cars, starting from the good Setup and ending with the great race strategy by our race engineers Cosimo Prusciano and Marco Schüpbach. We are very proud to have won at Le Castellet and this encourages us even more to prepare for the next races.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #14
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“It was very exciting to fight for the podium for the first time with our car. My race engineer led me through my stints really great via the radio, so I could use the performance of the tyres at its best. And now it feels as if I am dreaming. I received a message by the team 40 minutes before the end, that we are now in P2 and I should look after my tyres. But then I realised that the Bentley was not so great in the last sector and I took my chance.”
Christian Klien (A)
“I had a pretty good start and the car was running fantastically. The team gave us a very strong Lexus and it is just phenomenal that we have won. I am very proud of the whole team, considering where we came from a few months ago, the development is just outstanding.”
Marco Seefried (GER)
“We drove here already during the official tests in March, but the track has got a new tarmac since then. Still, we have made a huge step forward when comparing the car from March to today. But we never thought of winning the race. We knew, we had a good chance for a satisfying result, but it’s just crazy that we have now climbed on the top step of the podium.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #114
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO)
“In Paul Ricard it is very important to find compromises with the Setup to accommodate all different corners. We improved the car well from qualifying to race. The race was a lot of fun, especially the battles at the beginning with some great drivers, but unfortunately, I had an attack from another car at the front left and with the long pitstop we lost five laps. We took the last laps for a test to try a few things in the dark for the race at Spa.”
Norbert Siedler (A)
“First of all, huge congratulations to the whole team, it was a great achievement and the first win! Unfortunately, our steering was broken after a light bump, because otherwise we could have also achieved a great result.”
Markus Palttala (FIN)
“My first stint was actually quite unspectacular. Unfortunately, I lost two positions and was caught-up behind the Bentley, which was very fast on the straights and I could not pass but only keep up. But we gained the positions again at the pitstop. Once Norbert was in the car, they took the place again with a hard-overtaking move and small contact.”