First podium finish in North America

Kévin Estre Newsletter, 19 August 2014 by Romane Didier
United SportsCar Championship (Mosport 13 July, Road America 10 August) - Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup (Hockenheim, 20 July) - Blancpain Endurance Series (Spa 24 Hours, 26-27 July) - VLN (Nürburgring Nordschleife, Round 6, 2 August)

During the summer Kevin Estre clinched two more podium finishes bringing his total to seven so far for the 2014 season. The one at Mosport had a particular flavor to it for the French driver as it was his first on North American soil and in the GTD category in the United SportsCar Championship. Kevin also left his mark on the German round of the Porsche Supercup. However, in both the Spa 24 Hours and the VLN the results were not in keeping with the sheer performance of the works McLaren GT driver.

United SportsCar Championship : a good result at Mosport

Estre and his team-mate Patrick Lindsey scored their first top-3 finish in the USCC on the circuit that hosted some legendary Canadian F1 Grand Prix between 1967 and 1977. The driver line-up in the no. 73 Park Place Porsche finished second although victory seemed within their grasp. Kevin looks back at 165 minutes hectic racing.

“Patrick did a great opening stint. He started ninth and when he handed over to me we were third. Fifteen minutes later I was in the lead in the category. I opened up a gap of around ten seconds over Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Viper. The team carried out a good refuelling stop and the gap remained the same until the last fifteen minutes when suddenly Bleekemolen closed it to five seconds. I thought I could keep him behind me, but unfortunately I caught two tail-enders who refused to let me past and I lost my advantage. With two laps to go to the finish Michael Christensen in a Porsche GT LM came up to lap me in Turn 3. I knew that if he overtook me there Bleekemolen would take advantage of the situation to do the same. So I closed the door but Christensen didn’t give up; he touched me and pushed me off line and Bleekemolen got past. I’m obviously satisfied with my first podium finish in North America as it proves our level of performance, but it’s a bit frustrating to miss out on my first victory by so little.”

In the next round of the USCC at Road America the Frenchman and the Californian suffered gearbox problems, a drive through due to a mistake with the pit limiter and a part of the wheel arch rubbing against a wheel at the end of the race so the best they could do was tenth.

Supercup : a podium finish and fastest lap

As at Silverstone Estre gave the Attempto team, with which he enjoyed so many successes between 2011 and 2013, a helping hand at Hockenheim. “I set the second-quickest time in qualifying and I came out of the first corner in the lead. Then I felt the rear end of the car starting to go off. We didn’t have the right tyre pressures and I found myself in third place. Towards the end of the race it all came good again, but it was difficult to overtake, in particular because of the large number of yellow flags. I finished a second behind the winner setting the fastest lap in the race. I think I achieved our aim: namely, to show that Attempto is still a front-runner.”

Spa 24 Hours – the fastest McLaren in Belgium

The blue riband GT3 event attracted 61 entries. The week got off to a good start for the Frenchman who was quickest in prequalifying and third-fastest in qualifying itself. “We thought we’d be further down the time sheets in the Superpole, as BMW and Audi were probably keeping their powder dry. I pushed really hard, maybe a little too much, as I lost seven-hundredths over the full lap while going two-tenths quicker in the Raidillon. But the gap of six-tenths to pole proved that the balance of performance no longer enabled us to fight for victory as at the beginning of the season. The first hour of the race confirmed this.”

Kevin was eighth on the grid and he made a great start getting up to sixth during his first stint. Unfortunately, he had to stop at the entry to the pit lane to change a sensor. This cost the no. 99 McLaren three laps, but by the seventh hour it had sliced its way up to twelfth from fifty-seventh place! It retired just after midnight when its engine gave up the ghost. “It’s a pity as the ART Grand Prix team was very well prepared and organised as usual; we had a good package to play a major role in that event.”

VLN : a stunning lap!

At the Nürburgring Estre was back with his usual team-mates in Dörr Motorsport, Arno Klasen and Rudi Adams, plus the very quick Nick Catsburg a newcomer to the crew in the no. 40 McLaren 12C GT3. “As in the Blancpain Endurance Series the McLaren’s performance was pegged back by the series organisers after its good results at the start of the season. I qualified the car in sixth place and I soon fought my way up to second. We weren’t on the same strategy as Jens Klingmann in his BMW who started with less fuel and filled up at the end of lap four. I led for the next three laps and then Arno Klasen was harpooned by a Porsche and we retired. What I’ll take away from this race are the two fastest laps in the history of the VLN Series on the 24 358-metre layout that Klingmann and I set second time round.” Kevin failed to break the 8-minute barrier by only 34/1000sec at an average speed of over 182 km/h!

He spent the weekend of 15th August with his family, and he will again be gunning for a top-3 finish in the USCC on 24th August in Virginia before racing in the Supercup, the VLN and the Blancpain Endurance Series in what will be a very busy September.