Unfortunately we didn’t have the best start to our Blancpain Sprint Series season. With high expectations we travelled to the south of France. The new Gallardo R-EX had some very promising test results and me and Albert [von Thurn und Taxis] were as ready as ever.
We both raced at Nogaro before, although it had been a while, so all the ingredients for a good result where there. It wasn’t meant to be unfortunately.
For the first race of the season you have to start the weekend with two new sets of tires.
This means you are a little bit limited on tires for the two free practices. After a couple of minutes of runtime on the first set we got a puncture, that meant we had to put on our second set of tires immediately.
The grip level at Nogaro last weekend was bad and there was an enormous peak on the new tires. We spent the whole of FP2 on old rubber which didn’t help us getting ready for qualifying. This in combination with adjusting to the new BoP settings made it a difficult Saturday for us.
Qualifying wasn’t all that bad, Albert set a good lap in Q1 and in Q2 I managed to get us up to P6 which allowed us to run in Q3. In Q3 I did the same lap time as in Q2, but this time it was only good for tenth place.
I wasn’t too unhappy with that after the day before. But this is not where we should be with the new Gallardo R-EX. There was more time in the car, I just didn’t get it all out.
I was on starting duty for Race One. In Turn Two, it all went horribly wrong a few cars ahead of me, luckily I got around the carnage without too much damage. I got a hard hit from behind while slowing down for the accident in front of me. But all in all I went from P10 to P4 in the space of two corners.
After that I got in a nice battle with, once again this season, Kevin Estre. He was much faster since I was struggling to get the tires to work in the beginning of the race.
He had quite some damage to his car from the earlier start accident, so I was surprised he could still be that fast. He pushed me on the grass while we were doing over 200 km/h, that was definitely a scary moment. He apologized for that after the race.
Once he got passed me, my pace stabilized and I was faster than the guys behind me. The pit stop went very well, the guys practiced a lot and did a quick tire change.
Very early in Albert’s stint he got pushed of by the same McLaren, this time with Rob Bell in it. Unfortunately this was the end of our race. We could have finished P5 which would have been a good result and great starting position for the main race.
The Reiter Engineering crew had to work until early morning to get the car ready for the Monday race. We had some damage from the contact at the start and with the McLaren which were a little bit bigger than expected.
Race Two we started from 15th position with Albert taking the start this time. In Turn 4, he got hit from behind by a Bentley which caused damages and would seriously set our pace back for the remainder of the race. We were fighting for the last positions over the course of the race.
Interesting though, we would always be relatively quick end the end of our stints. This shows the Gallardo R-EX is handling the tires quite well over the course of a stint.
At the end of the race I got quite close to Ragginger and Dolby who were battling it out for 15/16th position. I wasn’t quick enough to attack either one of them.
All in all, it was not the first Sprint Series weekend I was hoping for. I am confident we will be back strong in Brands Hatch for round two of the Blancpain Sprint Series.
On a more general note, Audi seemed awfully strong this weekend, the BMW was the only car which could match the pace and eventually beat them in the main race.
I’m looking forward to see how the differences between cars will turn out of the course of the season.
I must say, the last couple of years Claude Surmont and the SRO have been doing a great job with the BoP.
Congratulations to the race winners with a special mention to my Marc VDS Racing Team teammate Maxime Martin and Dirk Muller for winning the main race.
Next up is Brands Hatch but first I will go back to the U.S. for some more racing in the Pirelli World Challenge. Can’t wait!