A promising restart at the Nürburgring

Tech 1 Racing’s 2019 season restarted at the Nürburgring during a weekend marked by the death of its former driver, Anthoine Hubert. The team from Toulouse made encouraging progress on only its second outing and equalled the best result of a Lexus RC F GT3 in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.

Simon and Sarah Abadie’s troops were back racing for the first time since the Total 24 Hours of Spa to continue their apprenticeship in the sprint format they discovered at Zandvoort. 

Aurélien Panis and Jack Hawksworth buckled down to the task in hand in the two free practice sessions on Friday and they tackled qualifying determined to improve on their Zandvoort performance. Despite traffic on their quickest laps they achieved their aim and the British driver posted the first top-10 time of a Lexus RC F GT3 in Pro this season. 

Panis started Saturday afternoon’s race in 15th place on the grid and lost a position straight away before going on the offensive and getting past Stéphane Ortelli. In what was a very tightly-bunched field overtaking opportunities were few and far between and his progress was stymied until he was relayed in mid-race by Hawksworth. Unfortunately, the duo’s pit stop did not go off as planned as the Englishman found himself outside the top 20 when he rejoined. But he put his head down and took the chequered flag in 19th place.

In the evening the Tech 1 Racing team was devastated by the shock of hearing of the death of young French hope, Anthoine Hubert, who had defended its colours in 2014 and 2015.

Thus, next day it was with a heavy heart that the team tackled the second race. At the start Hawksworth shot up from 12th to ninth place before making a successful attack on Jim Pla. Just after the opening of the window for driver changes Panis took over and put the Lexus into eight position when all the strategies had been executed. The French driver drove a solid focused stint and seized every opportunity offered by the different race incidents to clinch fifth spot.

“From a sporting point of view the weekend went off very well,” was how Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager, analysed the situation. “Jack and Aurélien did a good job in qualifying, but we reckon they lost four-tenths-of-a-second by being held up in traffic. We could have posted a better result and maybe even been in the top ten on the grid. As at Zandvoort the major reason for satisfaction was our race pace. Both drove very strong, quick stints without making the slightest mistake to equal the best result of the Lexus RC F GT3 in a sprint event in Europe.” 

On Thursday Tech 1 Racing will be back in action to continue its learning curve in the category in the final of the Blancpain GT World Challenge at the Hungaroring.     

“As expected we’re progressing and the car’s getting quicker and quicker. We still have work to do on the pit stops and on other small details, but that’s exactly why we want to prepare for the future and really learn about the sprint races this season. It will again be the case this coming weekend when we’ll be aiming for the top ten although we’re well aware of the fact that the level is very high and the racing is very close. We’d also like to say a big thank you to our whole team, our drivers, our partners and Lexus. This programme was put together fairly late on, but we’ve seen that we can do a good job by working conscientiously. Although there’s still a long way to go the first stages are proving to be very interesting.

“Beyond the sporting aspect the whole team was devastated to hear of Anthoine’s death,” added Abadie. “He was a really great guy who had a very endearing personality and we’re proud to have worked with him for more than two years. Our sport is dangerous and his death is a brutal reminder of this despite the deep sense of injustice we all feel.”