Clever strategy pays dividends for Marc VDS at Paul Ricard
02.07.2012: The Marc VDS Racing team consolidated their position at the top of both drivers' and teams'
The Marc VDS Racing team consolidated their position at the top of both drivers' and teams' standings in the Blancpain Endurance Series with a strong result at Le Castellet.
The Belgian team saw their #3 car, driven by Bas Leinders, Markus Palttala and Maxime Martin, finish in second place and the #4 car Bert Longin, Mike Hezemans and Henri Moser finish sixth.
After a difficult qualifying in the morning, which saw the team unable to find a good set up on either car, both cars started down the grid. #3 managed 13th with a flying lap from Maxime Martin and #4 44th, without a clear lap set thanks to heavy traffic.
The BMW Z4 GT3 was expected to struggle at the Paul Ricard track, with the long Mistral straight not suiting the car at all. The fastest lap from car #3 was two seconds shy of the fastest time of the race, despite the best efforts of all six drivers. However, the team profited from being able to rely on drivers able to consistently set competitive laps for the three-hour race.
In the first stint, both cars found themselves unable to make much progress in the heavy traffic. Though there was a brief shower of rain before the race started, the track was never in a condition for wet tyres.
Bas Leinders, starting #3 from 13th, used judgement to avoid collisions on the opening few laps and eventually settled to a rhythm and was able to run on the cusp of the top ten. For Bert Longin in #4, however, the story was more of struggle, as he found himself in a position unable to pass slower drivers thanks to the straightline speed disadvantage of the car - he still managed a nine place gain.
When a crash brought out the safety car, the team gambled on good fuel mileage, bringing both cars in a little earlier than usual. It was a strategy that worked beautifully. Markus Palttala, taking over from Leinders, found himself handed the car in an aggregate third place. Mike Hezemans took the wheel of #4 and, despite a fuel rig problem that cost 30 seconds, still emerged just outside the top ten.
The die of progress was cast, with both cars able to run strongly. Hezemans continued to push and, despite experiencing the same problem of a lack of straightline speed, handed over in a good position verging on the top ten, with Palttala ending his stint fourth.
A strong turn around in the pits put Martin into second place and he pushed to attempt to gain the lead. Despite a huge effort, and a gain of 11 seconds, the Belgian ace was unable to close quite enough and consolidated a podium finish, the fifth in a row for the team. It also leaves the crew of the #3 car with a commanding lead in the championship.
Another superb pitstop from the crew on #4 saw them take another leap up the timesheets, Henri Moser finding himself in sixth position after the pitstops had all been made. He was able to run consistently and at a good pace to secure the position - a 38-place gain on their starting slot.
With the next race being the biggest of the season at the 24 Hours of Spa, where strategy, pitstops and consistency are the most important factors, it is a fantastic preparation for all of the team.
Markus Palttala: #3
"The result was a lot, lot better than we thought we could achieve. We were afraid to come here - it was proven in practice and qualifying when we were way off the pace. It was proven in the race too, when Maxime Martin, probably the quickest driver in the field, was two seconds off the quickest race lap. It's a three hour race.
All three drivers had to do our jobs and, with the safety car, strategy was even more important than normal. I only lost one place, despite saving fuel, to a Mercedes. I didn't even try to defend, I waved at him when he passed on the straight because his car was so much faster.
It was a consistent, professional performance from everyone in the team - that's why we were on the podium. Pitstops were great again, despite a little problem with my launch control. I really have to thank all the guys for a superb effort."
Henri Moser: #4
"From 44th on the grid, sixth is almost a miracle. We went from maybe 35th to 11th with a brilliantly timed pitstop. It was the perfect time to stop, a great decision barely anyone else took. All the guys in the car did a great job.
I had the easy part because for me, the car was in a stable position and I had a McLaren in front of me that was so fast in the straights, and I could easily slipstream him. I pushed from the first to the last lap and the car stayed consistent all the way through. Huge thanks to the team for the car they gave me today."
Bas Leinders: Team Principal
"The end result is a lot better than we expected. We knew we would struggle on the straights and we did struggle on the straights, very badly. The race was very tough for us. It was impossible to follow even an Audi in the slipstream, and they have problems relative to some of the other cars!
It was ridiculous against some of the competition. We are two seconds from the ultimate pace. OK, the long straight wassn't great, but the extra weight and the higher ride height didn't help! We were slowest on the straight by a huge amount. We had to look to strategy to help us, and they were superb pitstops from the guys, again.
It's a good turn around for #4 to take a sixth place - it's great for the championship challenge. Now we look to Spa."
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