Following the outstanding victory at the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup three weeks ago, Emil Frey Lexus Racing faced a new race track in their calendar: The team celebrated its race premiere at the Sprint Cup at Misano (Italy) this weekend and secured good points with three solid Top-10 results with the Lexus RC F GT3 at a track with difficult characteristics.
Torrential rain dominated the opening session of the third Sprint Cup weekend for the GT3 field, flooding some of the 4.226-km-long track for the free practice in some parts. The conditions improved slightly for the second Free Practice and both Lexus RC F GT3 finished in 12th and 18th position.
Qualifying for the 22 GT3 competitiors took place in almost perfect conditions on Saturday afternoon. The track of Misano, which layout is similar to that of Brands Hatch, showed an incredible competitiveness for the first qualifying, seeing the first 14 cars within one second. Albert Costa Balboa placed the #14 Lexus in P8 whilst team-mate Norbert Siedler secured P5 in the sister car #114 for the first race. Both Lexus RC F GT3 were not able to get the full potential out for the second qualifying and with the tough competition had to settle for 16th place (#114) and 18th place (#14).
Race #1, Saturday, 23 June 2018 – 60 minutes
The pilots Costa Balboa and Siedler both had a solid start into the first of two one-hour races of the weekend. After the #87 Mercedes-AMG GT3 retired, both cars gained one position. On lap 16, Siedler pitted from 3rd place and handed the #114 over to Stéphane Ortelli, who kept the position until the finishing line after showing some great defences. Costa Balboa had a lap-long battle with the Grasser Lamborghini and despite a faster performance was unable to overtake. The #14 came into the garage on lap 19 with a gap of nine seconds to the leading car. However, the Lexus team lost an immense amount of time due to a car next to the Lexus forced the team to re-position the Lexus. The team lost many position and approximately 20 seconds. The Austrian Klien returned to the track in ninth place and also crossed the finishing line in that position.
Race #2, Sunday, 24 June 2018 – 60 minutes
Both Lexus RC F GT3 made-up one position at the start. Whilst Stéphane Ortelli drove in 15th place in the number 114, Christian Klien closed the gap to the #55 Attempto Audi in the sister car number 14 and started a great fight for P16. Unfortunately, the Austrian was not going to be able to attack as he was forced to park the Lexus RC F GT3 at the side of the track on lap 16, after a broken cooler system brought up the engine temperature. Ortelli pitted from P14 on lap 16 and Norbert Siedler took over the wheel of the #114. The end phase of the race was heating up and with only ten minutes to go, seven GT3 cars were fighting for P9. Siedler, who had already overtaken the #3 Audi, took tenth place on lap 30 and overtook two more competitors until the chequered flag. After a strong performance, the number 114 Lexus RC F GT3 finished the second race in eighth place.
Next stop in the racing calender are the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the highlight of the year, taking place from 26 until 29 July 2018 at the famous race track at Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgium Ardennes.
Team Quote Emil Frey Lexus Racing
Hannes Gautschi, Technical Coordinator Emil Frey Lexus Racing
“We had a good race on Saturday with both cars finishing in the points. Another competitor crossed us during the #14’s pitstop and we lost a lot of time, re-positioning our car into the ideal place and moving it back. Both Lexus showed a good performance. First of all we suffered with the handicap of the starting positions on Sunday, but both cars had once again a good performance. The #14 suffered bad luck when a stone broke the cooling system, resulting in the rise of the engine temperature and we had to stop the car. Norbert Siedler and Stéphane Ortelli delivered excellent achievements. With fast laps and a fighting spirit, Norbert placed the #114 in a great eighth place in the end, despite Misano being famous for difficult overtakings.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #14
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“I had a great battle with the Lamborghini and was quicker, but Misano doesn’t offer that many possibilities to overtake. We had a little issue in qualifying and I was not able to give my best. It was very difficult to overtake in the races. The start into the second race was not easy, but we are still positive and now we are heading to Spa.”
Christian Klien (A)
“We had a lot of bad luck during the pitstop in the first race, because we had to move the car and lost some time and positions. In the end we were ninth, but I think sixth or seventh could have been possible without the problem at the pitstop. We lost cooling liquid in the second race and the damage was probably caused by a stone. Other than that we had a good performance, but it was impossible to overtake even when you were quicker.”
Driver Quote Emil Frey Lexus Racing #114
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO)
“I had good fights in the first race and with the Lexus RC F GT3 it is a lot of fun. The fifth place in the first race was the maximum we could achieve and we are happy with the points. It was a great race on Sunday coming from P16 and finishing in eighth place.”
Norbert Siedler (A)
“We can be pleased with this weekend. To finish in the points twice in the Sprint Cup Series is not easy. Thank you to the whole team for a top achievement.”