The second race on English ground turned out to be yet another good circuit for Emil Frey Lexus Racing. After a last promising appearance at Brands Hatch with satisfying results and points, the Swiss private team presented another strong performance at the fourth round of the season and second Endurance Cup at Silverstone with taking the first podium of the championship in a heart-beating final with the Lexus number 114. The sister car #14 rounded-up the outstanding result with ninth place.
The team worked on different Setups during Free Practice, but in time for Pre-Qualifying both Lexus RC F GT3 were incredibly strong and surprised the gathered GT3 field with a momentarily best laptime. Thanks to a good balance and Speed through the fast corners, the Lexus #14 and #114 finished the first showdown in third and 14th place, heading into the important qualifying well-prepared.
The total of 50 competing cars met for qualifying in glorious sunshine on Sunday morning. With three absolute best sector times in section 1 between both Lexus RC F GT3, the team absolved an extraordinary performance and its best qualifying result in the Blancpain GT Series to date. Emil Frey Lexus Racing impressed with P3 for the number 14 and eighth place for the sister car #114, setting the first important milestone for the long race.
Both starting drivers, Christian Klien (#14) and Stéphane Ortelli (#114) lapped strong lap times at the opening phase of the race, especially in sector 1 they showed once again the best timings, applying pressure from fourth and sixth place. Klien pitted first, but lost immense amount of time due to a broken hammer drill with team-mate Marco Seefried re-joining the track in seventh place. Previously, Ortelli had taken fourth place after the Monegasque set the fastest time of all in sector one and coming into the pits from the leading position.
Markus Palttala came back into race action in P5, snapping fourth place from the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 after a lap-long battle. The Finn also arranged the #62 Aston Martin accordingly until taking third place in a breath-taking overtaking move on lap 52, only to start his hunt down to the second-placed #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 six seconds ahead of him. Both cars pitted on lap 57 and Norbert Siedler took over the wheel of the #114 Lexus RC F GT3. Siedler re-joined in third with a gap of only three seconds to the #88.
Seefried handed over the #14 from fourth place to Albert Costa Balboa, who started into the race from eighth place. The Spaniard also underlined the strong performance of the Lexus with absolute best third sector.
The last third of the race became a heart-beating final for the Lexus crew. Whilst Costa Balboa fought for eighth place with a total of four competitors, driving with part of the car off the track at times, Siedler had his nerves under control in the #114. Just before the end of the race, the #1 Audi was getting extremely close and becoming danger of jeopardising the safely thought third place. But the Austrian kept a cool head and took the first podium finish for the Lexus Team with a gap of 0.5 seconds at the finishing line.
The next stop in the racing calendar will mark one of the highlights of the year. The 1000 km of Paul Ricard are the only six-hour race and serve as ideal preparation for the 24-hours of Spa at the end of July. Both qualifying and race will take place on Saturday, 2 June 2018 at the South of France.
Team Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing
Lorenz Frey, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“We knew, that Silverstone would suit as a track and we benefited from the data from last year. However, the qualifying result was just fantastic taking into consideration where we started. We were three seconds off the pace at Brands Hatch and now we were able to fight for the front positions on our own – this is a great development for the team and I would like to thank each and everyone in the team. But nobody in the team thought that we could actually achieve a podium and that makes taking third place home even nicer. The result is well-deserved for each team members hard work.”
Hannes Gautschi, Technical Director Emil Frey Lexus Racing
“We are very happy with this result. Since Brands Hatch, we made another step for both the whole team and Lexus and are proud to celebrate our first podium position. The number 14 had an incredible third place in qualifying. Christian Klien drove very fast and consistent lap times in the first stint. Unfortunately, we faced a broken hammer drill in the first pitstop. This cost us time, which we could not make up later and ended up in P9 – a Top-10 results, which we were pleased about, because in the end that was our goal. All in all, we had a great team achievement.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #14
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“Our start into the weekend was very positive and we could already show a strong performance in Pre-Qualifying. We felt at the beginning that we would have a competitive car and would be strong for the first time since being successful last year. The intensive days in the workshop and the work on-track have proven right and that makes me very happy.”
Christian Klien (A)
“We had a very strong Saturday with third place in Pre-Qualifying, but had still lots to prepare for Sunday with both qualifying and the race taking place on the same day. The car was mega throughout the whole weekend and we knew that the first races would be difficult but now we were fighting for Pole Position. The team knew the track very well and that also helped us. We are very happy that our sister car got the first podium.”
Marco Seefried (GER)
“My stint was quite difficult unfortunately, because we had issues with the tyre pressure in the front tyres at the beginning. I had a lot of pressure from behind and had to defend strongly. Of course, we are all very happy that our sister car achieved such a great result. They did everything right in the race and now the whole team can celebrate the nice podium.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #114
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO)
“Silverstone is a track that suited our Lexus very well, we have shown in the past that we are strong especially in the fast corners. It felt just great to be able to fight for a podium. The team supplied us with a super car this weekend. Silverstone is always crazy, with a lot of grip and also physically demanding. I gave my best during my stint and the Lexus was very strong in the Long-runs. I am overwhelmed that we ended up on the podium.”
Norbert Siedler (A)
“We continuously work on the progress for the Lexus, but the car is definitely much better than at the beginning of the season, we could already see that at Brands Hatch. We are getting stronger and stronger and I hope that we continue to improve. A big thank you to the team, they have done a great job in the last three months and especially since Brands Hatch and the podium is well-deserved for all their hard work!”
Markus Palttala (FIN)
“We had a positive first day at Silverstone. Despite losing quite some time in Free Practice, we showed a good performance in Pre-Qualifying. The Lexus felt a lot better than in Monza. My stint was good and I was able to make up two places. It was really hard to overtake as the other cars were strong in the right places so I had to wait for traffic or mistakes to create an opportunity. Both happened once and I jumped for it. The team gave us a very good car and it feels great to be competitive for the first time this season. I would have never expected that we could drive onto the podium, it’s just a dream!”