Brands Hatch – UK 14.05.2023
The team competed in the first two races of the season at Brands Hatch. The promising positions after qualifying could not be translated into a top ranking in the races.
The first qualifying session went very well for Emil Frey Racing. After the first fast laps with the Ferrari 296 GT3s, Konsta Lappalainen’s #14 was in the first position just ahead of Albert Costa Balboa’s #69. After a restart due to a red flag three minutes before the end, Raffaele Marciello in the Mercedes secured pole position by a narrow margin. Costa Balboa improved his time and finished qualifying in front of his teammate in the second position. With positions 2 and 3, the team could start confidently into the second qualifying.
Immediately afterward, the second qualifying session took place. Giacomo Altoè #14 and Thierry Vermeulen #69 again showed fast lap times. Thierry Vermeulen was in the fourth position for a short time, which was immediately cancelled due to a crossing of the track boundary. Therefore, his second-fastest lap time counted, resulting in only 12th position on the grid. Giacomo Altoè finished qualifying in the third position, but because of a blocking manoeuvre to an opponent, a penalty of three starting positions was imposed, causing the team to drop back to position 6.
The first race started with a record field of 29 GT3 cars in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Series. Few overtaking movements characterized the first half of the race. Albert Costa Balboa was able to hold his second starting position until the halfway point and gain a good lead over the third-placed driver. However, during the tire and driver change, the automatic engine start did not work, which delayed the continuation of the race for Thierry Vermeulen. Several places were lost in the pits, and Vermeulen could only finish the Ferrari in 7th place. Lappalainen in the #14 had to lose a position at the start but was able to hold the position afterward until the pit stop. Not everything worked smoothly during this pit stop either. Altoè crossed the finish line in fifth place. Emil Frey Racing tried to use the time between the two races to find out the cause of the pit stop problems and to get ready for the second race.
In the second race, Altoè handed over the #14 to Lappalainen after a good start stint. Again, valuable seconds and positions were lost during the pit stop. Lappalainen showed a strong recovery with some overtaking manoeuvre and secured eighth place for the team. On the other hand, the race did not go well for the #69 team. Right at the beginning, Thierry Vermeulen lost control in turn 5 due to a contact and went off the track. This cost the team important time, and they briefly dropped back to 25th place. His teammate Albert Costa Balboa took over after the pit stop and fought his way up to 14th place.
“We came here not knowing exactly where we were. In qualifying we had the potential to be in front twice,” said Jürg Flach, Technical Director. “In the first qualifying, we even managed that with second and third places. In the second qualifying, at the end with places 6 and 12, 3 and 6 would also have been possible if we hadn’t received these penalties. If we look at the positive, we have podium potential. Now we have to analyse everything cleanly and draw the right conclusions.
“It’s a pity that we couldn’t achieve better results with the good starting positions. The problems during the pit stops cost too much time. To finish in the top 10 at the first race for us with the Ferrari 296 GT3 with both cars is certainly good, but more would definitely have been possible,” said Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal.
Emil Frey Racing
Schürmattstrasse, 5745 Safenwil