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|