Nürburgring – Germany, 06th August 2023
Emil Frey Racing premiered with the new Ferrari 296 GT3 at the DTM round at Nürburgring last weekend. But the team experienced a rollercoaster ride: whilst the Dutchman Thierry Vermeulen took home a point finish in both races, his team-mate Jack Aitken suffered bad luck and bitter disappointments. But despite all difficulties, the team suffered later with the pit stop work, the team managed to set the fastest pit stops on Saturday and Sunday.
Race 1 I Saturday, 05th August 2023:
The first qualifying session took place in dry track conditions on Saturday morning. Jack Aitken set the fifth-fastest time in the number 14 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari with only 0.320 seconds off Pole position. Unfortunately, his teammate Thierry Vermeulen in the number 69 sister car did not manage more than 14th place on the grid – but the strategy for the race was promising.
At the flying start, with the track still being dry, the two Emil Frey Racing drivers started from the grid’s right-hand side. While Jack Aitken maintained fifth place, Thierry Vermeulen made up one position on the first lap and was in 13th place. Over the next few laps, the Dutchman engaged in some exciting duels, losing a position at one point but regaining it shortly afterwards.
Light rain set in from the eleventh lap, but it didn’t last long. For the pit stop window, the team first brought Jack Aitken from 5th place into the pits on lap 17. Unfortunately, luck was not on the side of the Swiss team this time because one lap later, a Full-Course-Yellow was deployed, and thus the number 14 was passed through to the rear places of the field. Thierry Vermeulen came in for the obligatory pit stop on lap 20 and again one lap later, and with 25 minutes to go until the end of the race, the heavens opened again, and it was raining heavily.
Jack Aitken pitted once more. However, Frank Perera in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO 2 had an unsafe release through his pit crew, resulting in him crashing directly into the side of the incoming Jack Aitken. It was a lucky escape since the Ferrari didn´t take away any damage, but valid time was lost due to the incident. Jack Aitken was forced to join the pack of the race in the last position. On lap 25, the Safety Car was called out, and since the rain had stopped one lap prior, the number 14 came in to change onto slick tyres. From then on, the team set about damage limitation and used the final laps as a test session for Sunday.
Thierry Vermeulen was running in a solid 9th place, thanks to a good strategy. During a great battle with the, he lost out one position to the #3 Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO, which was too fast on the straights. However, he finished the race in tenth place, scoring some solid points for the team and the championship.
Race 2 I Sunday, 06th August 2023:
The qualifying on Sunday morning was declared as a “Wet Session”. Shortly after the green flag, an accident stopped the session. Whilst the session turned on red flags, Jack Aitken was on a fast lap. The English driver was given a three-place grid penalty as he slowed down too late, not starting from P3 but from sixth place on the grid. Team-mate Thierry Vermeulen also suffered bad luck: first, he was stuck in traffic, and the late tyre change made it difficult for the slicks to work quickly. He was forced to start the 60-minute race from 24th on the grid.
The second race went underway in harsh conditions. Heavy rain had already started during the grid formation and continued until the race’s end. Thierry Vermeulen had a fantastic start after two formation laps behind the Safety Car, making up nine positions on the first lap while setting the fastest second sector. Jack Aitken had great fights for positions early in the race. However, he had an off in Turn five during one of these fights. Despite being able to join the race again, he could not improve his position. He pitted from 13th place on lap 21 to finish the race in a disappointing 18th position.
Thierry Vermeulen was running in a solid fifth place when he came into the pits for new tyres on lap 22, taking advantage of the Full-Course-Yellow. Until the end of the race, which was finished behind the Safety Car, he had some great fights for positions and crossed the finishing line in eighth place, securing yet other points finish for the team.
Team Quote Emil Frey Racing
Jürg Flach, Technical Director: “I am quite satisfied with the weekend. A BoP change from Saturday to Sunday resulted in more Pace for us, allowing us to fight for positions on our terms for the first time. Thierry´s weekend was extremely positive, and he had some strong races. Our strategy paid off in Sunday´s race as we stayed out as long as possible. On the other side, Jack suffered some really bad disappointments, he ran wide on Sunday and lost many positions, but he most certainly had the pace. I am very happy with our fast pitstops; the team did an incredible job throughout the weekend. It was a strong team effort, and we deserve the point results.”
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal: “The team was fighting with some challenging circumstances at the Nürburgring. Jack was strong in Qualifying, whilst Thierry had powerful races on the other side and secured another two Top-10 finishes. Considering the situation and the team’s difficulties, I am happy with the overall outcome. For the first time this year in the DTM, we were able to fight for positions. Furthermore, the team worked hard in the weeks leading up to Nürburgring to improve from the mistakes we had at recent races during the pitstops. This time it worked extremely well. All in all, we can say it was a satisfying weekend.”
Driver Quote Ferrari 296 GT3 #14
Jack Aitken (Great Britain): “It was a lot of bad luck over the entire weekend. I mean, it is something that people often say, but we had bad luck here. We miss-timed the pitstop with the Safety Car on Saturday, so effectively, we went from P5 to almost the last position. We again had bad luck on Sunday as it was a Full-Course-Yellow one lap after my pitstop. And then we had the accident with Frank (Perera) on Saturday in the pits, which was a bit sad. They released him too soon, and we lost time untangling the car. The only positive was that the car was not damaged, and we did some more testing for Sunday’s race. The conditions were super tricky on Sunday, and in one of my battles for positions, I ran wide off the track and with the unlucky timing with the pitstop, we suffered a setback to P18 – which, of course, is extremely disappointing having started the race from P6.”
Driver Quote Ferrari 296 GT3 #69
Thierry Vermeulen (The Netherlands): “I think, overall, it was not a bad weekend at all. Qualifying was quite tricky to put it together. My teammate Jack was quite quick, but I could not match him in qualifying. But then, in the race, we knew we had quite a difference in set-up. We had the feeling it should come a bit more our way. We were lacking top speed on the straights, and when you were in the pack, it was quite tough with other cars that were much faster on the straights, and I was forced to defend quite aggressively. I think we have to improve on our qualifying performance. But despite all up and down, I am happy to have scored points in both races for the team.”