Kevin Estre stamps his class on two world-famous circuits

Newsletter Kévin Estre - 10 juillet 2014 par Romane Didier
Le Mans Porsche Cup, 14 juin
24 Heures ADAC du Nürburgring, 21-22 juin
Blancpain Endurance Series, Paul Ricard HTTT, 28 juin
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, Silverstone, 5-6 juillet

In the space of two weekends Kevin Estre set pole on two European tracks that are among the longest, the most difficult and the most prestigious in the world. He lapped the long Sarthe circuit quicker than 61 Porsche Cups identical to his own in the curtain-raiser for the Le Mans 24 Hours. In his first Nürburgring 24 Hours Estre not only gave Dörr Motorsport pole in the team’s McLaren GT, but his time of 8m 10.921sec is also a new record for the 25km 378-metre long layout. In addition, in both the Sarthe and at the ‘Ring the French driver set the fastest lap in the race: all that was missing was victory!

Le Mans Porsche Cup - an ill-rewarded exploit

Estre, who has scored 38 victories in the Porsche Cup, joined Oleksander Gaidai’s team Tsunami RT for the Sarthe event. While waiting for a drive in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Estre showed that he was completely at ease on the 13,629-km layout, one of the few road circuits on which the average speed exceeds 200 km/h. The heavy traffic did not make clinching pole an easy task. “I had just set the fastest time when the session was red-flagged. When we restarted everybody went back out on a second set of new tyres. Several drivers improved my time while I ran into traffic. I clinched pole on my third flying lap even though my tyres had gone off.”

It looked like the reigning German Porsche Carrera Cup champion would win the race, although he came under heavy pressure from the 2013 Asian Porsche Cup champion on the second lap. “I took the lead at the start and Earl Bamber closed the gap under slipstreaming. He came alongside me once, twice and the third time he jerked the steering wheel. We touched and the nose of my car lifted. Luckily, it landed back on the track, but the impact modified the geometry. The steering wheel was off centre.” Estre continued while Bamber retired. “I pushed hard to break away from Ben Barker. With two laps to go till the end I had to slow down behind a tail-ender as the yellow flags were being waved. Barker got close to me and I managed to pull away again. Unfortunately, my left-hand tyre blew between Mulsanne and Indianapolis on the last lap. I couldn’t even bring the car home to the flag.”

The Nürburgring 24 Hours: a Frenchman in an English car, pole position and a record!

Hardly had Estre digested his Le Mans setback when he had to concentrate on another aim which he had set his heart on: namely, to achieve an outstanding performance in the Dörr McLaren on its rivals’ home territory. He shared the no. 66 12C GT3 with Peter Kox, Tim Mullen and Sascha Bert, and was asked to go for pole in the top 30 shoot-out, which decided the first rows of the grid for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. The drivers were given the green light every ten seconds for two timed laps. Estre got round in 8m 10.921sec clinching pole by 2.5 seconds and setting a new record for the 25km 378-metre circuit combining the Nordschleife and the Grand Prix layout. “A Frenchman who improves the 2013 pole by over six seconds at the wheel of an English car isn’t something that happens every day at the Nürburgring!” he quipped.

On Saturday 21st June at 15h00 the works McLaren GT driver opened up a lead before he had to stop to have a punctured tyre changed. “This incident put our stints out of sync, but I retook first place when our rivals refuelled, and I had a 2.5-minute lead when it was time to change drivers” said Estre. “I set the fastest lap in the race in the early evening and we were battling for first place until midnight.” Then the car lost four laps because of a water leak. At 01h00 a collision between Kox and an Aston Martin eliminated no. 66.

Blancpain and the Supercup: race cut short in France – punted off in England

Kevin continued his hectic season taking part in ten meetings over the last 11 weekends! At Paul Ricard, ART Grand Prix gave him the job of qualifying the McLaren leading the Blancpain Endurance Series Pro Cup. “I set the same first sector time as Alvaro Parente who was driving the team’s other 12C GT3 before running into a mechanical problem in sector 2. I started from the back of the grid and overtook thirteen drivers during the first half lap. On the approach to the Beausset double right-hander the guy behind me missed his braking point and hit my right-hand rear wheel. The team tried to repair the damage but in vain.”

Then came an opportunity to plunge back into the ambience of the Porsche Supercup at Silverstone. “I was invited by my old team Attempto, which was running two rookies. In free practice I was the third quickest and in qualifying I managed to set the sixth-best time. The track conditions evolved during the session and we made a small mistake in tyre management. At the start of the race I got up into fourth and then one of my team-mates punted me into a spin. I restarted behind the whole field and saw the flag in eleventh place.”

Estre is now heading for Canada where he will race in a round of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship on 12-13 July. Two weeks later he will be tackling his third 24-hour race of the year, the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours.