The much-awaited sunshine brought out the very best of FFF Racing Team on Saturday (18 June) morning in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup’s headlining ‘Road to Le Mans’ race at Le Mans.
Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs guided the #55 McLaren 650S to another sensational second position after a stirring drive, against competitors who had previously completed a 24-hour race on the 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe.
Japanese gentleman racer Hamaguchi was slightly intimidated by the legendary French racetrack on his first run in the wet in practice.
However, a day spent on a simulator stood the McLaren teammates in good stead for the dry final qualifying practice on Thursday afternoon and Hamaguchi’s first flying lap was ultimately sufficient for P3 in the GT3 division.
Hamaguchi took the first stint on race day, running in fifth position from the outset to find himself embroiled in a fantastic battle, before handing the car over to Quaife-Hobbs with 27 off the 55 minutes completed.
Quaife-Hobbs quickly worked his way up to third position with just ten minutes remaining and then took the chequered flag in second as a rival hit trouble in the final moment of the race.
“Earning a top three at Le Mans is pretty special and the view from the podium was great,” said Hamaguchi. “To be honest, I didn’t drive too well today, as I found it difficult in traffic. I tried my best and I put up a good fight, but Adrian (Quaife-Hobbs) did very well, bringing the car forward. We’re leading the championship now, but we want to be one step higher on the podium. However, consistency is key.”
Quaife-Hobbs added: “It’s a massive achievement and an honour to stand on the podium at Le Mans. We thought this weekend would be a damage limitation exercise where we tried to bag as many points as we could, this being the McLarens weakest circuit of the season. We just ran our own race and we’ve managed to salvage something quite spectacular to now lead the championship, which is perfect.”
Over in the #5 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Matt Bell and Marco Attard were on the back foot due to a lack of track time in what was an unfamiliar car. However, they were enjoying the circuit and the Le Mans atmosphere, and the aim was to simply move forward in a race where there were a lot of unknowns.
And that they did, gaining three positions during the race and taking the chequered flag in 11th position.
“it has been a baptism of fire, because the hype around Le Mans and Circuit de la Sarthe is true,” said Bell. “It does take time to get your head around the track and I had three wet laps to go by going into the race. It was a bit tricky, but I tried to attack the race as I normally would, but I needed one more tour to catch a four-way battle ahead of me. Ultimately, I’m very happy to have been looked after by FFF Racing Team, which has done everything possible to help us.”
Attard added: “It was a great experience and we could have done better with more time in the car and more data. FFF Racing Team is a fantastic operation and there’s a great atmosphere and professionalism about it. The guys have done a phenomenal job and it’s only a lack of track time that has compromised us, but that’s scripted by the 24 Hours of Le Mans and you can’t do anything about that. It has been a fantastic experience and racing at Le Mans has certainly whet the appetite!”
The Michelin GT3 Le Mmans Cup heads next to Austria and the Red Bull Ring on (15-17 July).
Live timing will be available at the official www.24h-lemans.com website and the race will be broadcast live on Radio Le Mans.