The Tech1 Racing team came to the Imola circuit last weekend for the GT World Challenge Europe season debut, postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic. After claiming pole position in the Silver Cup on Saturday (7th overall), Aurelien Panis, Thomas Neubauer and Timothe Buret finished the race in P4. The final result is well below the potential shown on track throughout the meeting, altered by some controversial manoeuvres from our competitors.
Made up of Aurelien Panis, Thomas Neubauer and Timothe Buret, our purely French crew entered the Silver Cup with two private test sessions on Friday. In the morning, the #15 Lexus RC F GT3 was at the top of the time sheet – in 1st place (10th overall) – and in the afternoon on a wet track, in 2nd position (5th overall).
The day after, Timothe Buret was the first to join the track in the morning free practice session, with once again a 2nd place in the Silver Cup. A few hours later, both in pre-qualification and in qualy, Tech1 Racing confirmed his brilliant shape with pole position and a very good P7 overall.
Sunday, Timothe Buret was heading for the GT World Challenge Europe 3-hour endurance first round, amid a pack of 45 competitors. The Frenchman started from the 4th row and retained his leading position in his class. After 22 laps and a great job on track among three Full Course Yellow periods, he handed the car over to Aurelien Panis who rejoined the track still in the lead of the Silver Cup (13th overall), just ahead of Andrew Watson (Garage 59), racing in the same category. The official Lexus driver also made an excellent stint, including a very nice overtaking maneuver on the #63 Lamborghini of Marco Mapelli. Back in the box, he was about to pit when an unsporting action of our direct competitor and box neighbour, the Garage 59 (#159) team, then second in the Silver category, prevented Aurelien from stopping the car right on our working zone. We lost there a significant amount of time. When Thomas Neubauer finally managed to get on the track, the Lexus was relegated to P4 in the Silver Cup (P20 overall). Neubauer was fighting hard to catch up with rivals. Just after another safety-car period, the car got a drive-through penalty, and the Lexus was now once again in 4th place in its category, with 30 minutes remaining. After a final Full Course Yellow period with twelve minutes to go, the race resumed again with a podium place still at hand. Unfortunately, time ran out and this 4th place in the Silver category (19th overall) was the final position for the Lexus #15 when we crossed the chequered flag.
Sarah Abadie – Team Manager : “The team and the drivers proved an excellent level of performance throughout the weekend, not only in our Silver class by taking pole position in qualifying, but also by being seventh in the middle of the Pro class. Our three drivers were fast, and the Lexus was performing well in all track conditions. Unfortunately, the race scenario was not the one we had hoped for. Timothe started the race perfectly and cautiously to keep the lead in Silver, while setting an excellent pace until his way back to the pit. The situation then started to turn badly during the first pitstop with a very large number of cars about to refuel leading to a mess but also raising a human danger and an unfair sporting situation for some of them including our team. When Aurelien got back on the track, eight places were lost in the general classification, even if we kept the lead in Silver. He had a difficult stint, impended by a Pro slower than him. He had to stay cautious to avoid any contact. Things went even worst during the second pitstop because of the Garage 59 competitor whose box was next to ours and who logically had to make their driver change just after us. However, when they saw Aurelien in the pitlane, they placed a mobile sign at the far left of the working area, which was forbidden, preventing our driver from parking properly and forcing our team to do another maneuver. It was an unsporting manner, very penalizing for us as we stepped back in P4 in our category and lost a well-deserved place on the podium, perhaps the highest one. No doubt, it’s a lesson for the future. We now must expect such behaviour for the rest of the season!
Timothé Buret – Lexus #15 driver – Silver Cup GTWCE :“Our final result is below our expectations, but it was a very positive weekend after all. The performance was there from the very first laps with our Lexus. The car was very pleasant to drive, and I would like to thank the Tech1 Racing team and all the Lexus engineers for having prepared the car so well. I really enjoyed the start, and I’m happy to have been able to play my part by retaining our leading position in Silver until the end of my stint. With Aurelien and Thomas, we are a very homogenous team. I can’t wait to join forces with them again in the Endurance Cup at the Nurburgring in September, and I wish them all the best for the Sprint at Misano.
Aurélien Panis – Lexus #15 driver – Silver Cup GTWCE : “If we look back on this first GT World Challenge event, it was really a positive one. The Lexus was very quick, and we managed to shine right away in qualifying with this pole position in Silver. My teammates did a great job. Unfortunately, during the race we were a bit naive and didn’t finish in the place that logically belonged to us. The atmosphere in the team is really good and the collaboration between Tech1 Racing and Lexus engineers is very productive. Thomas and I are already focused on the Misano race, determined to fight at the front!”
Thomas Neubauer – Lexus #15 driver – Silver Cup GTWCE : “As early as Friday, we worked hard with the team to set a good basis for the race. Our combined efforts were rewarded with a pole position in Silver and a 7th place overall. Together with Aurelien and Timothe, we get along very well, and, most of all, we work as one. This endurance championship is very tough, especially for us as newcomers. We have to take the positives and move on from the problems we faced in the pits while learning from them for the next events.”
Source. Tech1 Racing