Hockenheim – Germany, 03rd September 2023
Even though the third round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS Sprint Cup produced solid results, disappointment prevailed at Emil Frey Racing after the two races at the Hockenheimring. A pole position that was thought to be safe was cancelled on Saturday as was a third podium place that was lost after an incomprehensible penalty by the stewards.
Emil Frey Racing showed a strong performance despite everything with an up-and-coming performance that gives hope for the next races.
Race 1 I Saturday, 02nd September 2023:
Emil Frey Racing already underlined the performance of the Ferrari 296 GT3 with the third fastest time in Free Practice – only 0.046 seconds behind the fastest time of the #40 Audi at the start of the weekend.
The performance was also right in the first qualifying session on Saturday and Albert Costa Balboa secured a provisional pole position in the #69 Ferrari. However, his two best lap-times were cancelled due to infringements against track limits and the #69 thus only started the race from the 13th position on the grid. The sister car was even worse off as the #14 struggled with electronic problems and could not complete a lap.
Despite a chaotic start, all 41 cars made it safely through the first corner. Albert Costa Balboa in the #69 slipped back to 15th place in the first half of the lap, and Giacomo Altoè in the #14 remained at the back of the field.
But the race rhythm was soon interrupted after an accident in the hairpin called the Safety-Car onto the track. On lap 6, the race was restarted, and Albert Costa Balboa passed the #26 Audi. While the Spaniard´s race to catch up did not stop there, the #14 Ferrari of Giacomo Altoè was forced to retire early due to ongoing technical problems.
Albert Costa Balboa overtook the #111 McLaren on lap eight only to take over P11 from the #77 Mercedes-AMG one lap later. The Safety-Car was deployed once more on lap 10 for one lap only. On the re-start, Albert Costa Balboa secured tenth place and gained one more position after a great overtaking move into the second corner past the #81 Mercedes-AMG one lap later.
Just before he pitted, Albert Costa Balboa set the fastest lap-time of the race up to that point whilst also setting the absolute fastest first sector. The Spaniard handed over the cockpit to team-mate Thierry Vermeulen from P2 on lap 18 and the Dutchman re-joined the race in fifth place.
The Dutchman’s stint began with a great duel with the #60 Lamborghini. Due to a puncture on their rival, they secured 4th place. With seven minutes to go until the finishing line, a great duel with the #32 BMW came to a head. Corner after corner, Thierry Vermeulen tried to pass the competitor, but played it safe and took no chances. In one of his best races this year, the young driver secured his first Sprint Cup podium result thanks to a spirited overtaking move in the last corner of the race. However, due to a decision by the race stewards, the podium was cancelled later on.
Race 2 I Sunday, 03rd September 2023:
The team fixed the technical problems on the #14 Ferrari overnight and completed a good qualifying session. Both Emil Frey Racing Ferraris initially secured a good starting position with grid positions 4 (for #69) and 7 (for #14) in a chance for a podium finish once again. However, the fastest lap-time, this time for number 14, was cancelled and the car dropped back to the 14th position.
Konsta Lappalainen maintained his 14th position at the start while the sister-car with Thierry Vermeulen in the #69 Ferrari lost a few positions in the turmoil. After the collision of three cars, the Safety-Car came on track at the end of the first lap and the race was green-flagged from lap 5. At the re-start, Konsta Lappalainen made-up two positions and was in 11th position. The Finn was the first to pit on lap 15 and handed the car over to Giacomo Altoè, who found himself in 13th position.
Thierry Vermeulen came into the pits one lap later, but his pitstop didn´t go as planned and they lost a few positions with the number 69. Albert Costa Balboa, now in the cockpit, found himself in 10th place and also took ninth shortly after. At the end of the race, both Ferraris were behind a BMW, and both tried to pass the BMWs, but the competitors were so fast, especially on the straights. In the end, number 69 had to settle for sixth place and number 14 for 12th.
Team Quotes Emil Frey Racing
Jürg Flach, Technical Director: “We had the Speed to be at the front of the field in both qualifying and race, but we didn’t make enough of our opportunities. The technical problems of the number 14 prevented us from performing in the first qualifying and race. In addition, we lost the pole position of the number 69 in quali 1 and a possible seventh place in the second qualifying. Furthermore, we lost our deserved podium due to the protest of WRT in race 1 and problems with the driver changes during the pitstops cost us valuable time too, which prevented us from finishing further ahead in the second race. I am optimistic, that we will be able to show our full potential again in the next races.”
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal: “On Saturday, the technical problems on the number 14, which we unfortunately couldn’t solve, and Albert’s cancelled fastest laps were very disappointing, because we definitely had the pace to be at the front. We were very competitive as soon as we had a free run during the weekend. In the number 69, both drivers showed incredible laps on Saturday, and it was all the more disappointing at the end that we lost the podium position due to the stewards’ decision, because it wasn’t an overtaking manoeuvre that should have been penalised. Sunday was a new situation, Thierry was very strong in qualifying, and it was difficult for Konsta, because he didn’t get to drive at all on Saturday, but still showed great sector times. Unfortunately, the seventh time was also cancelled, and we dropped back. We had a good pace in the race on Sunday, but as you could see, overtaking was very difficult at Hockenheim. There could have been more potential, but generally the drivers did a clean and tidy job.”
Driver Quotes Ferrari 296 GT3 #14
Giacomo Altoè (Italy): “It was certainly not the weekend we had hoped for. Due to the electrical problems, I couldn’t set a time on Saturday, and we started the race from last place. The same problems arose in the race as in qualifying, and we had to retire the car in the pits. Unfortunately, this means our chances in the championship are gone, but from now on we will concentrate from race to race and bring out the best.”
Konsta Lappalainen (Finland): “At least we got the problems from Saturday under control so I could drive qualifying on Sunday. P12 was certainly not the result we were hoping for. The car felt good in the race, but we were almost without a chance against the BMWs, because they were so fast on the straights. We will quickly forget this weekend and focus on Valencia in two weeks.”
Driver Quotes Ferrari 296 GT3 #69
Albert Costa Balboa (Spain): “Yesterday was a tough day with many ups and downs. In the end, we showed a good overtaking move, even though overtaking is difficult at Hockenheim, and were not rewarded for it. The team did a great job over the weekend, and we gave our best again on Sunday. I’m very happy with the direction our Ferrari is going, and we’ve learned a lot over the last test days. I’m enjoying it and of course, we hope to be on the podium at the next race in Valencia again.”
Thierry Vermeulen (Netherlands): “We had two solid races. The good thing was that we had a very strong package and could put pressure on our competitors. Especially the race on Saturday was a lot of fun, because I had some great fights and that’s just part of a race in my opinion. With the podium on Saturday, we had great success and even if we got the one-second penalty at the end, it didn’t break our team spirit and we know that we deserved the podium. Qualifying on Sunday was difficult, but we made the most of it and brought home decent points results.”