Tech 1 Racing amassed an abundance of information at Zandvoort

Tech 1 Racing had its first taste of sprint events in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe this weekend at Zandvoort. Faced with a new circuit, new race format and new drivers the Toulouse-based team garnered precious information for the development of its Lexus RC F GT3.

Tech 1 Racing put its faith in Jack Hawksworth and Aurélien Panis, a new driver pairing also having their first outing at Zandvoort, for its first foray into sprint racing. 

Despite conditions that did nothing to help the French outfit get to grips with this new challenge due to rain in the first free practice session and a track that was still wet at the start of the second, Tech 1 Racing was one of the teams that did the most work covering 62 laps on Friday.

The weather was still unstable on Saturday morning during qualifying. Panis was the first to tackle the soaking wet Dutch circuit and he had to make do with 25th place while Hawksworth set the eighteenth-quickest time in more clement conditions. 

The first race took place the same afternoon and the young French driver gained six places avoiding all the first lap traps and incidents and then overtook two more rivals after the safety car intervention. At half distance he handed over to Hawksworth. The Briton rejoined in 18th spot after the driver change and did just as solid a stint taking the chequered flag in 15th place, only a few second outside the top 10 in the Pro category.  

Boosted by the pace shown on their first outing in sprint racing, Simon and Sarah Abadie’s troops’ had high ambitions for the second round on Sunday afternoon. This time Hawksworth took the start and he immediately pulled back two places after which he overtook two more cars in quick succession, moved up to 14th place and set off in hot pursuit of the drivers in front of him. Unfortunately, he had to pit for good after 10 laps as he was the victim of a broken suspension mounting on the left-hand rear corner of the Lexus. 

This weekend was a mixture of really good and not quite so good,” analysed Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. “We were up against a number of challenges, in particular the fact that we had never raced with Jack and Aurélien. Things weren’t easy for us in free practice as we only managed ten laps on a dry track after which we had to cope with variable conditions that continued in qualifying. Our lack of running in the rain cost us dear, but we were able to put our finger on several areas where we could improve. Jack was also hindered in the last two sectors in Q2. Without that he could have set the eighth-quickest time in the dry so overall we were happy with our level of performance and the team’s work on the setups. 

“In the first race Aurélien did a really great first stint and Jack too. The pit stop didn’t go off all that well as we lost five seconds by leaving in just as two Ferraris came in, but Jack’s last fifteen laps had nothing to envy the top 5. On Sunday he made a superb start and was closing in on the leading group before a part broke. It’s a pity as he was very quick and we wanted to see what Aurélien could have done on new slicks as we thought that a place in the top 10 was within our grasp.”   

Next Tuesday Tech 1 Racing will be back in action in the Bronze practice session opening the hectic Total 24 Hours of Spa week. The Toulouse team’s no. 23 Lexus RG F GT3 will be crewed by Fabien Barthez, Timothée Buret, Eric Cayrolle and Bernard Delhez. After Spa it will be back in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe driven by Aurélien Panis and Jack Hawksworth at the Nürburgring (30th August – 1st September) and Budapest (6-8 September). 

This weekend, the result wasn’t really the most important thing as we were there to work and prepare for next season,” concluded Simon Abadie. “Above all, we wanted to see where we stood and we were curious to find out the balance of our car after the evolutions we made to it between the two races. We’ve identified several areas for improvement, including pit stops, where we have to focus. We’re racing in a category of experts where our rivals are perfect in this domain; we’re going to continue finding our feet while putting our trust in Aurélien and Jack for the development of the car. In any case, our race pace was a great source of satisfaction. We’ve still got a long way to go to reach the same level as our rivals in the tiniest details, but I’ve got every confidence in my team to continue our progress between now and the Nürburgring.”