Emil Frey Jaguar Racing experienced an up and down at their fifth participation of the Total 24 Hours of Spa – the racing highlight of the year for the Swiss privateers. The GT3 Jaguar mixed-up the competitive field with impressive performances, but firstly the #114 GT3 Jaguar suffered a broken suspension only for the sister car to also suffer a disappointing retirement following a string of bad luck in the first hours of the race. Despite the early finishes, Emil Frey Jaguar Racing demonstrated a strong race performance and is now focusing on the season final at Barcelona.
The qualifying for the Total 24 Hours of Spa could not have been more different for the two blue “cats”. Whilst the #14 GT3 Jaguar set the eighth fastest time, the #114 faced balancing problems and only managed an overall starting position of P35. Albert Costa Balboa had two very strong laps in Superpole, which secured him and his team-mates Stéphane Ortelli and Lorenz Frey P8 for the #14.
The Monegasque Ortelli had a good start and was able to keep his position, however, he was forced to let both the BMW and Bentley pass shortly. Nevertheless, the #14 GT3 Jaguar ran without any issues in P5 at one stage, until a very unlucky situation occurred.
“We were running in 12th place after a good start and the first pitstops, the car felt great and we had a strong pace”, said Lorenz Frey, Team Principal Emil Frey Jaguar Racing. “Then there was an accident on track which caused a Full-Course-Yellow and the Safety Car was deployed later on. We did our normal pitstop and driver change at that point. Unfortunately, the race director decided to have the entire field following the Safety Car through the pitlane, but our #14 car crossed the track via the Start-/Finishing line.
“Stéphane, however, did not see this information and we were also unable to reach him via radio. We were given a penalty for that mistake and dropped back to P45. But our performance was so strong we were able to fight back.”
The team recovered well from the setback and fought its way up, gaining many positions. Frey took over the wheel just before midnight when a sudden technical issue happened out of the blue, forcing the Swiss to park the GT3 Jaguar at the side of the track after heavy smoke inside the cockpit.
Christian Klien also had a great start into the race and was running in P29 in the sister car #114 after the first 25 laps. Everything went according to plan and after the first good pitstopps the car was running in the upper midfield by the early evening. Between the third and fourth hour of the race, the car suffered a broken rear suspension without any notification. Klien, who was completing his second stint at the time, was not able to bring the car back into the garage and had to retire out on track.
“A weekend with many highs and lows, but we have to take the positives from Spa”, said Jürg Flach, Technical Director Emil Frey Jaguar Racing. “Both issues with the cars are not related to the negligence by the team. The performance was very strong throughout the weekend. We prepared in the best possible way for this race and were able to show a great Qualifying and Superpole. It shows that the direction in terms of developing the car and the team is there, but we must look into the reliability and do further analyses with placing appropriate measurements. The pace during the race was also very good and we could have ended up in the Top-10, even with the #14, which received the time penalty.”
Despite two early retirements for the GT3 Jaguar, the team is now fully focusing on the season final at Barcelona, which takes place at the last weekend of September, to gain some more points after Silverstone.
Driver Quotes Emil Frey GT3 Jaguar #14
Stéphane Ortelli (MCO)
“I had a good start, but the cars behind me were faster than me in the opening laps and I had to let them pass. You could see after qualifying that the race would be very, very tough with 36 cars within one second only. We had a race car that was capable of finishing the race in the Top-10 and so it is even more frustrating to retire from the race before the night.”
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“Everything started off really well and we showed our potential in Superpole. Even in the Warm Up ahead of Superpole, we set very good lap times on old tyres and were 11thfastest. The GT3 Jaguar was strong every time we went out on track. Unfortunately, the problems started, but that´s racing! We have to accept it and put all our focus into the season final at Barcelona, which is my home town, and attack once more.”
Lorenz Frey (CH)
“Just really, really sad! When I drove through the double left corners I felt that something was wrong with the car. I was not able to accelerate anymore, parked the car at the side of the track and jumped out, because there was smoke everywhere. I tried to re-start the car, but nothing worked anymore on the GT3 Jaguar.”
Driver Quotes Emil Frey GT3 Jaguar #114
Marco Seefried (GER)
“It took us a while to find the right balance and Set-up. That was the reason why we were not as strong as the #14 in qualifying. But we were not bad at all. Spa showed an extreme density of competitiveness. After qualifying, we found the right step for the Set-up and our car felt great during Warm Up so we were quite confident for the race.”
Christian Klien (A)
“The first lap was very tight, because we were running side-by-side with other cars all the time, but they were all professional drivers and knew how much space the other one needed. We managed to find a good rhythm in the opening stint. The GT3 Jaguar felt strong and we improved lap-by-lap. In my next stint we had a failure on the rear suspension coming to Turn 5. Despite me touching the wall, the car was not heavily damaged, but since I lost power I was not able to bring the car back to the pits.”
Jonathan Hirschi (CH)
“If you start packing your things in the evening of a 24-hours race it is not ideal. The performance of our GT3 Jaguar was pretty strong at all times and we were competitive, despite our issues with the Set-up in the beginning. We were in a position to improve from P35 and could have ended the race with a satisfying result. It is very frustrating for the entire team, because everyone works so hard all year just to prepare for this one big race and then to retire so early is really disappointing.”
Source. Emil Frey AG