Kevin Estre renews with McLaren GT and will give the 650S GT3 its debut in Abu Dhabi

Kevin Estre Newsletter, 26 November 2014 by Romane Didier
Blancpain Endurance Series, Nürburgring 1000km, 21 September
United SportsCar Championship, Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta, 4 October
Blancpain Sprint Series, Baku World Challenge, 2 November

After a full season McLaren GT has decided to renew the contract of works driver Kevin Estre and has entrusted him with a final mission for 2014: namely, to give its new GT3 weapon, the 650S, its debut in the Abu Dhabi 12 hours with his two team-mates Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell. Before setting off for Yas Marina, Estre takes a look back at his recent outings at the Nürburgring, Road Atlanta and Baku.

In the late summer and early autumn the Frenchman did not add any top-3 finishes to his total of seven since the start of the year. This figure is way off the driver from Lyon’s personal record total of 21 in 2013! Of course, statistics aren’t everything as some of his performances gave him as much satisfaction as a victory. One example was his record lap in the Dörr Motorsport McLaren on the Nordschleife, which clinched him pole position for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Another was his pole on the big Le Mans circuit in the Sarthe in the Porsche Le Mans Cup. His domination of the race showed the added value he can bring to a team in view of the most famous long-distance event in the world, although the puncture on the final lap which robbed him of victory was a huge let-down.

Blancpain Endurance Series: 1000 km of incidents

The European endurance series for GT3 cars ended at the Nürburgring on the grand prix circuit. “I was given the job of qualifying the ART Grand Prix McLaren, but it was raining when the final session began,” says Kevin. “So it was Kevin Korjus’s time that gave us our fifth place on the grid. On the opening lap in pouring rain I passed several cars and moved up to second. I took the lead after twenty minutes. I had a no-holds-barred scrap with Christopher Mies and I had to put two wheels on the grass. I finished my stint in the lead and then my team-mates Kevin Korjus and Andy Soucek did two double stints and kept us in the top five.”

Two hours from the end Andy Soucek got up into third place and then went into a gravel trap and punctured a tyre. “We decided to take a risk to clinch a top-three finish. I rejoined on slicks on a circuit that was still greasy. Unfortunately, I spun and that cost us a minute although I managed to pull back forty seconds on the leader. We were really very quick and I set the second-fastest lap in the race. A podium finish was on the cards, but finally we had to make do with fifth place overall and fourth in the Pro Cup. Obviously, while we feel a bit frustrated I think that the team has had a good run this year in this highly-competitive, very tough series.”

Petit Le Mans – a big disappointment

Kevin arrived in Atlanta for the Petit Le Mans with his usual team-mate in the no. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche, Patrick Lindsey. Backing them up for the 10-hour endurance race were Norbert Siedler and Mike Skeen. It was Estre’s first outing in the event. “I set the third-quickest time in qualifying in the GTD category, only two-tenths off pole so we were on the pace, but Norbert who took the lead after thirty minutes punctured and went into a gravel trap. We lost three laps and another one when Patrick also had a puncture. We really went pedal to the metal and closed the gap to the leader to less than three laps, and then the alternator went on the blink as night was falling. We saw the chequered flag, but our result didn’t correspond to either our objectives or our potential.”

Baku, the anniversary

A year ago the Frenchman’s sizzling performance and his overtaking moves in the
streets of the capital of Azerbaijan made a big impression on the little world of GT racing. Thus, he was delighted to be back at the wheel of another McLaren 12C GT3 entered by Boutsen Ginion with the same team-mate, Englishman Rob Bell. “Unfortunately, we had quite a few problems during the weekend. The engine issue that dropped us back to eighteenth place in qualifying was solved by the engineers, so we made a fantastic comeback in the qualifying race in which we were lying sixth before the gearbox failed and we retired. It was a pity as we could have finished fourth. On Sunday, we started from the back of the grid for the main race and I was eighth when the suspension broke.”

Kevin’s next outing will be at the wheel of McLaren GT’s latest GT3 challenger, the 650S GT3, on the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi for the Gulf 12 Hours, which will start at 09h00 local time on Saturday 13th December.