Six hours of thrilling racing and strategy on Pirelli GT tyres at Paul Ricard
After six hours of thrilling racing, the 1000-kilometre Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup race into darkness at Paul Ricard came down to the very last lap. The Lexus RC F GT3 run by Emil Frey Racing claimed its first victory in the series in the hands of Christian Klien, Marco Seefried and Albert Costa, after Costa passed another new car – the latest Bentley Continental GT3 – just a few corners from the finish.
Matteo Braga (Pirelli circuit technical manager):“As we saw at the last event at Silverstone, the new smoother track surface at Paul Ricard had quite an effect. The fastest lap times were more than two seconds quicker than what we saw in 2017, and there was minimal tyre wear and degradation during the race. This enabled the drivers to push hard through every stint, helping to create some very exciting racing across the field over the course of six hours. The consistent performance of the P Zero DHD2 tyres, together with the new ‘joker’ rule enabling shorter pit-stops, also allowed for some varied strategies among the teams. Numerous manufacturers were in contention for the win during the race, and it came down to a battle between two new models from Lexus and Bentley, demonstrating the increasing competitiveness of the Blancpain GT Series, with six different brands represented in the top six finishers.”
Christian Klien, winning #14 Lexus driver:“Being on the top step of the podium is such a great achievement for the whole Emil Frey Racing team, it’s amazing. We knew we had a very good car with the Lexus but it is the first year for it in this championship, the first year on the Pirelli tyres, and at every track we go to we start from zero. We have a very good group of people around us who have helped us to improve this quickly. Since Brands Hatch we have learned how to set the car up to get the most out of the tyres. The fast and flowing tracks tracks like Silverstone and here at Paul Ricard suit our car better and we were able to unleash the potential of the car. When we had new tyres we had very fast lap times, and we could keep that pace pretty easily: my first stint was very consistent.”
Fact of the day:The Blancpain GT race was held three weeks before the French Grand Prix makes its return at Paul Ricard – the first time Formula 1 will race at the venue since 1990. Several modifications have been made to the circuit in preparation, including a new surface as well as modifications to several of the corners, with Turns 1, 5, 14 and 15 opened out a little.
Number of the day:5. During the six-hour race, each car was required to complete five pit-stops – one every hour on average. Usually, each pit-stop must last at least 72 seconds, but in a rule change for this season, teams were allowed one ‘joker’ stop, where there was no minimum time. The #58 McLaren led the race for the first five hours, using its joker at its second pit-stop. The rival #72 Ferrari saved its joker for its final stop and used that to jump ahead of the McLaren but late issues for both handed the opportunity to Lexus and Bentley, setting up a thrilling final dogfight over the last half hour.
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