The season finale of the inaugural Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup (22 October, 2016) campaign was dubbed as a ‘win or bust’ for FFF Racing by ACM as while the team had shown great pace season-long, reliability and some just plain bad luck meant that they travelled to Estoril eliminated from the title challenge.
The misfortune continued right through to the Portuguese season finale today, with Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs unable to make the chequered flag in the #55 McLaren 650S as mechanical gremlins denied them a potential podium position in the season finale.
“It’s a frustrating end to the season, a season in which we showed we could run with the best,” declared FFF Racing Team Owner, Sean Fu Songyang. “Hiroshi drove well again at a circuit he has never raced at before, while Quaife-Hobbs never really got a chance to get the car up to speed after the mechanical problems intervened during the pit stop.
“Still, we can take a lot away from this first season in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans cup. We proved we could be up there and we had two great drivers and just not any luck. McLaren went above and beyond on numerous occasions and we a terrific partner, while our crew did a fantastic job with sadly less reward than we would have hoped for.”
Hamaguchi was on qualifying duties Saturday morning in wet and challenging conditions. The Japanese racer went on to record the second fastest time of the session commenting: “It was my first time at the track yesterday and I only had 30 minutes of dry running,” he explained. “I didn’t really know what the car should feel like in these conditions, so I am just thankful to be in P2 and I hope that track dried a bit for the race and it will be a please to race from the front.”
Lining up on the outside of the front row of the grid, Hamaguchi made a good start to maintain position behind the pole-sitting Mentos Porsche, but dropped down to fourth position in the early laps as he settled into the race.
Contact at the head of the field boosted Hamaguchi back up to third but with the McLaren starting to lose rear end grip, he was under pressure from three Ferraris behind and on lap 14 he braked too late at the first turn, and offline, quickly dropped from third to sixth.
With a rival spinning and losing time Hamaguchi also found the conditions difficult with a quick 360-degree spin at quarter-distance but lost very little time before continuing in fifth position before handing over to teammate Adrian Quaife-Hobbs at half-distance.
The 30-second deficit to the leader soon ballooned as a mechanical issue saw Quaife-Hobbs delayed five laps before the hard-working FFF Racing squad were able to send the #55 car back out. Sadly, it was to no avail as three laps later the team were forced to pit and retire the car once again.
The 2017 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup gets underway at Silverstone on April 14-15, 2017.