Since the collective pre-season testing on the Paul Ricard circuit in mid-March, Tech 1 Racing had had few opportunities to continue getting to know GT3 and learning the ropes in the category. Thus, the team arrived at Monza with the aim of covering as many kilometres as possible.
On Friday, Barthez and Delhez had to cope with rain. Simon Abadie’s men used the situation to study the behaviour of their Lexus RC F GT3 and the Pirelli tyres in these conditions, which they were tackling for the first time, and improved the car during the three sessions.
After covering over 420 kilometres, the team from Toulouse continued working on the basics in free practice and pre-qualifying. On Sunday morning it was raining again, but Barthez and Delhez didn’t have too many problems dealing with the unstable weather and the numerous traps and clinched sixth place in their category helped by a brilliant third-quickest time in Q2.
Barthez was in the car for the start of the race behind the safety car and did an excellent first stint fighting his way up to third place before being relayed by Delhez. The Belgian took to the difficult weather conditions like a duck to water as he coped with making the tricky choice between slicks and wet weather tyres; he kept up the momentum before handing over to Barthez for the final hour. Unfortunately, the safety car was deployed very soon after the team’s pit stop. The Frenchman found himself stuck between the leaders in the overall classification and his lead over his pursuers began to shrink. It was reduced to nothing when he had to move over for the leading group on the restart. Finally, the no. 23 Lexus RC F GT3 had to be content with fifth place at the finish.
“It was an exceptional weekend in terms of experience,” analysed Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. “There were a lot of good things and some not so good, but it should be remembered that our programme was put together very late. Before this event we hadn’t done a lot of running in the dry and none at all in the rain. Given the conditions our aim was to avoid making the slightest mistake and gather the maximum amount of experience and that’s exactly what we achieved. In the race itself, Fabien did a superb stint to claw his way up to third while constantly improving his times like Bernard when he took over. Unfortunately, our lead melted away when the safety car appeared just after Fabien got back behind the wheel. At the restart he had to move over to let the leaders past on a pretty slippery track and our pursuers took advantage of this. It’s a pity and a bit disappointing as our two drivers were quick in the rain even though they don’t yet really know the car in these conditions.”
Tech 1 Racing is already looking towards the next round, the Silverstone 3 Hours on 10-12 May, with a great deal of optimism and hope.
“Overall, things went really well for our first weekend’s racing,” concluded Abadie. “Obviously, it wasn’t easy; we had to take the time to put things in place. We finished very late every evening and our two drivers had to get to grips with the car, but everybody’s done a fantastic job over these past few weeks after a winter that was a bit difficult at times. The team didn’t make any mistakes, Fabien and Bernard got on very well and we worked in an atmosphere that was serious and relaxed at the same time. We were on track for a podium finish to reward us for our efforts and I know it’s only a matter of time so we have every reason to be optimistic as we were quick during the long stints, even though we still have work to do on new tyres and driver changes. Finally, we’d like to say a big thank you to Lexus for putting their trust in us as starting a relationship with a new team is never easy. But it’s all looking very promising and we’re convinced that we’ll come back much stronger at Silverstone where our aim will be to fight at the front and score a podium finish.”
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