Emil Frey Racing succeeded in bringing both Emil Frey GT3 Jaguars past the finishing line at the Total 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium. At the end of the endurance classic, Jonathan Hirschi (CH), Christian Klien (A) and Markus Palttala (FIN) – who briefly snatched the lead position on Saturday evening – achieved an adequate 49th place. In the sister car, Lorenz Frey (CH), Stéphane Ortelli (MC) and Albert Costa (E) enjoyed a hard-earned 53rd place.
With this, Emil Frey Racing fulfilled its own, self-set minimum goal for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the fourth points-scoring meeting of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup 2016. For the first time, the Safenwil, Switzerland, based team deployed two Emil Frey GT3 Jaguars. The core team, comprising Lorenz Frey, Stéphane Ortelli and Albert Costa had starting number 14. In the newly constructed car with starting number 114, Markus Palttala of Finland – last year’s winner of the Total 24 Hours of Spa – and former Formula 1 driver, Christian Klien, made their debut; third man at the wheel was Jonathan Hirschi who had already supported the team the previous two years at Spa.
Already during the training days, it became clear that both teams were operating as equals, giving a convincing overall performance with fast lap times in the 65-strong starting field of GT3 vehicles. With starting positions 37 (#14) and 39 (#114), Emil Frey Racing ultimately secured a good basis for the race on the 7,004 km Ardennes circuit.
The beginning of the 24-hour race was unspectacular, with both Emil Frey GT3 Jaguars falling into line in the high-class field without any incidents. As the end of the second hour neared, the two British big cats were already prowling among the Top 5. And then, after 66 laps, came the big bang: Jonathan Hirschi snatched first place, marking a premiere: for the first time ever, an Emil Frey GT3 Jaguar had taken the lead at the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. And that at the season’s highlight!
This temporary high point was made possible by an adept race strategy, fast laps and good luck with the pit stops. Time and again, the race had to be neutralised by the so-called “Full Course Yellow”, a yellow phase combined with an 80 km/h top speed that applied to the entire course after an accident. With meticulous timing, Emil Frey Racing successfully combined these with the obligatory pit stops and reaped its just rewards.
As night finally fell on the Ardennes, one incident followed hot on the heels of the other. #114 was the first to be afflicted when, after colliding with an Audi after around five hours into the race, it ended up in the gravel bed resulting in a damaged front. The one-hour repair cost numerous positions and.
The sister car’s (#14) fortunes were also anything but gratifying. The front suspension damper had to be replaced in the early hours of the morning. Finally another stop was needed to fix an electrical problem, during which a power train defect was also diagnosed. This lead to an inescapably long break that finally thwarted any hope of a top placement for both cars.
Despite this, the car returned to the race after the repair. In the end, both Emil Frey GT3 Jaguars made it past the finishing line in 49th (#114) and 53rd (#14) places.
“For us, it was an achievement for both cars to finish the race. We’re the only team with a privately developed GT3 vehicle and were able to show that, speed-wise, we can certainly keep up with the GT3 elite. The brief leadership in the beginning of the race showed our potential. Unfortunately, an accident and the reliability of some of the components ‘on the second car put a spoke in our wheel’. The double finish is nevertheless a conciliatory ending. I’d like to thank the entire team for its unrelenting work, and my team colleagues who, with much experience, brought the cars to their destination,” concluded team manager and driver, Lorenz Frey.
The next race, the Final of the GT Series Endurance Cups 2016, takes place from 17-18 September at the Grand Prix circuit at the Nürburgring.