Fifth at Monza and second at Silverstone, Tech 1 Racing was hoping to continue its upward momentum in the third round of the season on the Paul Ricard circuit. For this event the Toulouse-based outfit could count on the arrival of the experienced Éric Cayrolle, triple French Supertouring champion, to back up Fabien Barthez and Bernard Delhez.
On the track where Lexus had scored its maiden victory in the Blancpain GT Series a year earlier, the three drivers found their marks and quickly whittled down their times in the top five in practice while showing very promising potential in race conditions. After being fourth quickest in pre-qualifying, the team had to settle for seventh in qualifying itself.
The race started at 18:00 and Delhez did the first stint. The Belgian made a great getaway on what was a pretty hectic first lap and got up to fourth place in the first half hour. Cayrolle and Barthez continued to move up the time sheets in the no. 23 Lexus RC F GT3, which was lying second after the first quarter of the race. They were still in the running for a podium finish despite a contact with the no. 59 Aston Martin when a mechanical breakage put a stop to their promising run with two hours to go to the chequered flag.
“Despite the disappointing result it’s our most complete weekend since our debut in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup,” was how Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing Team Manager, analysed the situation. “Drivers, engineers and mechanics all put on a really impeccable show in every area. I’m very happy with the high level of performance of Bernard, Fabien and Éric, who fitted into our outfit without a hitch. Bernard drove a very strong first stint and a half like Éric who brought our car up into second place. Fabien was well on his way to consolidating our position on the podium and I’m convinced he’d have crossed the finishing line in second place without this unfortunate retirement.
“Retiring is never ideal but this doesn’t take away from the excellent job done by the team and the drivers. We’re trying to find out why we retired; we think that crossing over a sausage kerb cracked the sump. We’ll draw all the necessary conclusions for the coming races; and we intend to confirm our potential in the blue-riband event of the season as this weekend only underlines how much room we still have for improvement.”
Even if the team has returned to base empty handed from the Var, Barthez, Delhez, Cayrolle and Tech 1 Racing can take some consolation from the fact that they set the third-fastest lap in their category, further proof of their competitiveness before tackling the big one, the Total 24 Hours of Spa (27-28 July).
“Some very intense weeks of work await us with preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in LM P2 and then the 24 Hours of Spa in GT3,” concluded Abadie. “We’re going to give it our best shot by analysing all the data we’ve collected to continue the optimisation of our organisation and our operations in every area. Obviously, we’ve lost ground in the overall classification, but there’s still a long way to go and the results of the next round could change everything. Despite the glitches we’re still true racers and we’ll redouble our efforts to reach the topmost step of the podium as quickly as possible with the Lexus RC F GT3!”
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