Difficult ADAC GT Masters weekend for Emil Frey Racing at the Sachsenring
- Drivers’ title now a remote possibility after frustrating pair of races
- #19 of Rougier and Perera enjoy double top 10 finish
- Wishofer and Lappalainen taken out early in race two contact
Sachsenring (Germany), September 25th, 2022
Emil Frey Racing endured a difficult penultimate weekend of the ADAC GT Masters season at the Sachsenring, leaving its title aspirations hanging by a thread following a challenging pair of races.
The #63 crew of Jack Aitken and Albert Costa Balboa managed 11th and seventh from the two races, while the #19 of Franck Perera and Arthur Rougier produced strong drives in each to record ninth and sixth. Unfortunately, for the #14, 12th place in race one was their best result after being forced out of race two following contact.
Aitken and Costa Balboa remain fourth in the drivers’ standings, 54 points adrift of the leader but crucially only one point behind third place heading into the final round at Hockenheim next month. The #63 is also just 12 points behind second place, meaning a runner-up position in the championship is up for grabs.
With no pre-event test for the team’s first appearance at the Sachsenring, all three cars had to hit the ground running in Friday’s two one-hour practice sessions. Tyre management was a big theme of the day, especially important in sector two through sequence of seven consecutive left-handers. The #63 finished second in FP1, with the #19 was fifth fastest. After finishing ninth in FP1, the #14 was fourth in the junior trophy session. The afternoon session was more challenging, with the team making setup changes between FP1 and FP2.
Saturday morning was a case of what could have been for the team as Costa Balboa had to settle for the sixth fastest time, despite being on a lap which could have been good enough for pole before a mistake. It was a similar story for the #19 of Rougier, whose final lap was scuppered after a red flag for the Porsche that went off track in the final minutes. The #14 of Wishofer was the highest place EFR Lamborghini in fifth but was penalised three places on the grid after he was deemed to have blocked another car.
At the start of the race, Costa Balboa initially made ground from his fifth place, moving up a position by taking the inside line at the first right-hander. Wishofer dropped one position while Rougier made good progress to lie 13th early on.
Unfortunately for Costa Balboa, the race did not go quite to plan as the #63 suffered from high tyre pressures which caused vibrations during the opening stint. Along with an additional 10kg of success weight and a differential issue, the #63 was under pressure from cars behind until Costa Balboa brought it into the pits at the start of the window to swap with Aitken.
The #63 dropped four places to eighth after the pit-stops, and Aitken also struggled with the handling of the car in the second half of the race. He fell behind the #19 of Perera and the #14 of Lappalainen before making his way back ahead of the Finn to finish 11th at the flag.
Perera and Rougier were the best placed Huracáns in ninth after spending much of the opening stint stuck in traffic on the cusp of the top 10. After making up one position on the first lap, Rougier then made a superb dive to the inside of turn one to move into 13th passed the Porsche of Spengler. The #19 remained on the cusp of the top until the pit-stops, where Perera took over for the second half of the one-hour race. Benefitting from clever team strategy, Perera moved forward to 10th before working his way ahead of the #63 in the closing stages.
The #14 started strongly and ran as high as seventh with Wishofer at the wheel in the first stint, in the middle of the train of cars behind Costa Balboa. Unfortunately, Lappalainen lost out in the pit sequence, rejoining a few places down in 10th but with strong pace. Lappalainen then lost a position to Drudi’s Audi and then the Lamborghini of Mapelli but made one place back after a puncture for Mapelli. He finished just behind Aitken in 12th at the end.
The second qualifying session was a bitter disappointment as the #63 was the highest placed car in 10th position. Conditions and track temperature were similar to Saturday’s session and the team used the same baseline set-up from the previous day. Despite this, the performance was not where the team expected to be as the #63 could only manage 10th fastest, while the #19 was 14th and the #14 down in 16th.
All three cars moved up one place on the grid after the Mercedes was stripped of pole position after qualifying. The #63 therefore started ninth, the #14 from 13th and the #19 from 15th.
The race could not have started any worse for the team as Lappalainen was hit at the rear as the field reached the first corner. The contact from the Audi behind sent the #14 into the gravel, forcing it out of the race. Further around the opening lap, Aitken also received contact from the Mercedes at turn six, which sent the #63 through the gravel trap, dropping it to 17th position.
Following an early safety car intervention to recover Lappalainen’s car, both remaining EFR Lamborghinis began to make some progress as several cars in front hit trouble. Perera and Aitken made it past a total of five competitors before the pit window opened, with both cars waiting until the end of the window before making their pit-stops.
Perera switched with Rougier, who continued the strong run in the second stint, fighting with the Audi and BMW in seventh place. Meanwhile, Aitken consolidated 12th place throughout his stint having passed the Audi of Siedler after the restart before handing over to Costa Balboa.
The action intensified in the closing stages of the race, as Rougier closed in on the Audi for sixth place. That scrap brought the BMW and Costa Balboa into the mix and the #63 eventually made it into eighth place with a minute left on the clock.
The drama didn’t stop there, however, as the second-placed Audi retire on the final lap with a puncture, which elevated the #19 to sixth at the end of the race, while Costa Balboa salvaged an unexpected seventh in the #63.
Jürg Flach, Technical Director
“We knew that this weekend was not going to be easy for us because this was our first time here and we had no testing before the weekend. All in all, it was a difficult weekend, and we have to learn our lessons. In first qualifying, the pace was good but today we were clearly behind our expectations. Race one was really difficult, we had a lot of degradation, and we were fighting a lot with the tyres. Today, after the changes we made, it looked really encouraging and the tyres were a big improvement; we didn’t have the degradation from Saturday so we could have a decent pace, which was reflected in the pace of the #19 and the #63. In terms of the championship, on the Teams’ side, we have the same score as the second-place team, but we are going to fight for it at Hockenheim, where we know we are strong. We made a lot of progress in the second race, and we need to take this momentum with us for the final round.”
Driver quote Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #14
Mick Wishofer (AUT)
“On Saturday the qualifying was okay, we showed quite good pace, but then I got a drop of three positions because I blocked another car, so we had to start P8 for the race. It was really tricky to pass cars, you could just follow those in front. Konsta took over but there was not much he could do. It was a tough weekend for us all, but we showed that we had some good speed, and I hope we can end the season on a high. We’re still in the fight for the Teams’ championship and we will give everything at Hockenheim to make sure we win that.”
Driver quote Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19
Arthur Rougier (FRA)
“It’s another weekend where we have the speed, but we didn’t get the points we deserved. Yesterday, my qualifying was really frustrating because of the red flag; I was really fighting for the top positions on the grid. Also, Franck had a tough qualifying this morning and we showed pace in the races to come back and win a lot of positions. P9 in race one and P6 today from really far back on the grid was really positive on a track where it is really hard to overtake.”
Driver quote Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63
Jack Aitken (UK)
“It was a very difficult weekend for us, we were lacking a little bit of pace all weekend. It was not the kind of track which suits the Lamborghini and also, we were taken out by another car in race two, putting us right at the back. We recovered to P7 at the end with some really good driving from Albert, but overall, a very tough weekend for us.”