The final GT World challenge Europe Sprint race took place on the Spanish soil with a triple race meeting in Barcelona for Aurelien Panis and Thomas Neubauer at the wheel of the Lexus RC F GT3 #15. The weekend was quite complicated for the team: an unfavorable track, a frustrating first race, a mechanical retirement in race 2. But it came to a happy end with a podium in the Silver Cup in the final race.
Tech1 Racing ran its first laps on Thursday at the 4655-meter-long and 16-corner Barcelona circuit during a four-hour private test session where the Lexus signed the fifth best lap time in the Silver Cup. The day after, free practice got underway with the Lexus in P8 in Silver (P15 overall) during the morning and P4 in Silver (P14 overall) during the afternoon.
Saturday began with a 90-minute pre-qualifying session with few raindrops on the Catalan circuit during the last fifteen minutes. The Panis/Neubauer duo finished the morning in P4 in the Silver Cup (P9 overall).
In the early afternoon, Thomas Neubauer was the man in action for the Race 1 qualifying session. At the beginning of the session, while the track was still dry, he was hindered by traffic during his hot lap. As the following laps were done in the rain, he couldn’t improve his lap time and placed the #15 Lexus 6th in the Silver Cup (P16 overall).
Track was still wet at 17.15 when Thomas started the first race of the meeting, on the 8th row of the grid. He gained one place at the start and quickly found himself under Full Course Yellow then behind the safety-car after only 8 minutes of racing. At the restart, he was then P5 in Silver (P14 overall). As soon as the pit stop window was opened, Aurelien Panis jumped into the Lexus. After all driver changes were made throughout the entire field, he was in P6 in the Silver Cup (P14 overall). A second Full Course Yellow occurred with 7 minutes to go before the end of the race. The safety-car entered the track with only one lap to race for the competitors when the race resumed. At the end, the Lexus crossed the Race 1 chequered flag in P5 in the Silver Cup (P12 overall).
The sun went back on Sunday when Aurelien Panis tackled the other qualifying sessions for race 2 and race 3. On a tricky half-dry track, he reached the 2nd place in the Silver Cup (P10 overall). Ten minutes later, he entered the final qualifying session of the season in the Sprint and signed the fourth fastest time in Silver (P10 overall).
The driver from Grenoble started the race 2 on the fifth row of the grid. In the first corner, because of a driver’s spin, Aurelien was forced to move away to avoid any contact and moved back to P13 overall (P4 Silver). After 26 minutes on track, he handed the car over to Thomas Neubauer who, after the first pit stop window, found himself in P13 (P4 Silver). Under Full Course Yellow and then behind the Safety Car, a gearbox issue forced him to retire.
The Tech1 Racing mechanics worked over and over to give a fully repaired Lexus back to Aurelien Panis for the last race start of the season in Sprint, at 4.30 pm. Starting from P10 (P4 in Silver), he immediately gained a place, up to third of his category, but the safety car came out for three laps. At the restart, he maintained his position and handed the car over to Thomas Neubauer after 30 minutes. The Parisian rejoined the race with the podium in the Silver Cup in mind. He improved his lap times nearly every lap and crossed the finish line in third place in the Silver Cup (P8 overall). Podium!
Simon Abadie – Team Manager
This weekend was particularly tough for both the team and drivers, even if it was quite expected on a Barcelona track that didn’t suit our car. The real disappointment came from the difficulty to improve the situation through the weekend. We were at the maximum of our capabilities. The first race didn’t give us a lot of satisfaction, no more than race 2 with a gearbox failure that forced us to retire. But, fortunately, we finished on a positive note with a podium. We are already looking forward to the 24 Hours of Spa, with a lot of experience and good knowledge, especially in the pit stops management. We are optimistic because we are going to prepare the race well. Our team and line-up have proved so far that fighting at the top is where we belong.
Source. Tech1 Racing/Photo Twenty One Creation