FFF Racing Team by ACM arrived in Belgium for Round 5 of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup keen to show both reliability and pace from the #55 McLaren 650S GT3. It was partially a case of mission accomplished this evening (24 September, 2016) as Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs finished fifth in the two-hour race at Spa. However, the result was clouded after losing an all but certain podium position in the final laps following a tyre issue.
“Luck certainly isn’t on our side at the moment,” stated Team Owner Sean Fu Songyang. “We were very strong here at Spa and should have finished in at least third position. Hiroshi and Adrian put in strong drives, Adrian especially as he was by far the quickest on track today. It’s just a shame that again we couldn’t get the result we wanted and we have to settle with P5.”
Having set the pace in Friday practice with Quaife-Hobbs behind the wheel of the McLaren, Hiroshi Hamaguchi got his first taste of the undulating Belgian circuit as he qualified the Roger Dubuis-liveried car a fine second.
The start saw Hamaguchi get the jump on the #72 pole-sitter, taking the lead from the first turn and controlling the pace as the Safety Car was called out following a mid-field clash behind. Once the race resumed the #72 car made an audacious pass around the outside in Fagnes and Hamaguchi’s attention turned to the charging #88 Porsche coming from behind. It was a short-lived battle as the Porsche cleared the McLaren on lap 10 at Pouhon.
Running third, Hamaguchi continued to lap competitively before pitting at the midpoint and handing over to Adrian Quaffe-Hobbs. “Spa is something else,” he said stepping from the car. “It’s my first time here and I’m really glad to be here, it’s an amazing circuit and to drive a McLaren through Eau Rouge and Blanchimont is really special. It wasn’t my best stint but it is my first time here and Adrian is running well and I hope he can close the gap.”
Quaffe-Hobbs was indeed immediately right on the pace, putting in a string of fastest laps to try and close down the 15 second gap to the race leader. Lapping two-seconds a lap quicker than the cars ahead, the Brit quickly closed the gap to just eight seconds by lap 31.
After a few laps respite for the tyres, Quaffe-Hobbs was again putting in fast laps with 30-minutes remaining as he chased down the #88 car before peeling into the pits with a left-rear tyre failure with just over ten minutes remaining.
With luck having evaporated yet again – this time in a puff of tyre smoke – and 70 seconds lost in the pits, Quaffe-Hobbs got back on track to bring the McLaren home in fifth position – taking the chequered flag less than a second behind the fourth-placed #26 Ferrari.
The final round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup gets underway 21-22 October at Autódromo do Estoril in Portugal.