After making its debut at Monza crowned by fifth place in the Am Cup, Tech 1 Racing’s aim on arriving at Silverstone was to close the gap to the leaders.
Right from the start of practice on Friday, Barthez and Delhez racked up the kilometres to provide the team with precious information as it gets to grips with the Lexus RC F GT3. As the sessions unfolded the duo felt increasingly at ease in the car and broke into the top 5 in prequalifying on Saturday.
On Sunday, Barthez tackled the first qualifying session. The Frenchman avoided the traps posed by the tricky Silverstone circuit and set the third-fastest time in Q1 and the quickest lap in the AM Cup in the following session. Delhez finished the job by putting the car in 25th place on the grid, and second in their category.
Thanks to this superb performance, Barthez survived a hectic first lap during which several cars were eliminated. When the long safety car deployment ended it took him only a few minutes to snatch the lead in his category. The Lexus RC F GT3 was still in front after Delhez’s stint in the second hour and the Japanese car tackled the final sprint in third place. Barthez strung together a series of fastest laps and closed the gap to the leader to only three seconds, but contact with a Silver driver stymied his attack. The former international goal keeper crossed the finishing line in second place, 20 seconds behind the winner.
“Our first podium finish is a great morale-booster for the whole team, especially after our poor season last year in Formula Renault Eurocup,” said a delighted Simon Abadie, the Tech 1 Racing team manager. “This result crowns a very positive second weekend in the Blancpain GT Series. We’re really satisfied with our level of performance. Fabien was very quick in qualifying and his fastest lap in the race in the category matched those of numerous professionals. If he hadn’t been tagged by a Silver driver, he could have posed a threat to Miguel Ramos for much longer in the final hour. Bernard also put on a great show, in particular in the race itself where he held on to the category lead for over an hour when he was up against the regulars in the Am Cup. His performance is really encouraging and you have to bear in mind that he’s still discovering the car and learning about it. He keeps gaining confidence every lap, which bodes well for some great things to come at the next events."
“We’re continuing to gradually find our marks in this new environment. Even if we still have to make up for our lack of track time at the beginning of the year, our second place shows that the work we’ve done with the Lexus is bearing fruit. What’s even more important is that we still have a huge amount of leeway to improve in all areas: settings, rapidity of technical interventions, pit stops, driver changes and other finer points of the championship. We’re fine-tuning our organisation bit by bit to understand where we’re going. I’m convinced that we’ll be even stronger at the forthcoming rounds.
Fabien Barthez, Bernard Delhez and Tech 1 Racing have moved up to fourth in the Am Cup separated from second place by only two points. Next month they will be in the south of France for the Paul Ricard 1000 km on 1-2 June.
“We’re really going to maximise our preparation for the Le Castellet rendezvous,” concluded Abadie. “We’re very much aware of the fact that Barwell Motorsport is a very strong team and they’re on a run of four straight victories, but there’s still a long way to go this season. If we want to aim for the title in keeping with our objectives, we have to optimise all aspects of our organisation to continue in the same vein. The Lexus RC F GT3 should again be quick on the Paul Ricard circuit on which it has already won. We’re aiming for the podium there - if it’s not victory!”
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