A new season dawns with fresh ambitions

Kévin Estre - Yas Marine 2015
Kévin Estre - Yas Marine 2015

 

Newsletter Kevin Estre #2-2015
2015 GT season preview + Gulf 12 Hours, Rolex 24 at Daytona, Bathurst 12 Hours, Pirelli World Challenge rounds 1 & 2 race reports


So far the early part of the season has been full of good news for Kevin Estre. Three weeks after the announcement of his participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours at the wheel of a Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop entered by OAK Racing, now is the time to have a look at his three priority programmes all at the wheel of the McLaren 650S GT3. In North America the French driver has joined the K-Pax Team with Flying Lizard Motorsports to race in the Pirelli World Challenge in which he has already scored a victory! In Europe, he will compete in both the Blancpain Endurance Series with the Von Ryan team and the Blancpain Sprint Series with Attempto Racing.

However, to begin with Kevin has a look back at the events that marked the end of his 2014 season and the start of the following one. Hardly had his contract as a works driver with McLaren GT been extended at the end of November when he gave the British manufacturer’s latest baby, the 650S GT3, its first top-3 finish in the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi… « We clinched pole thanks to the fastest laps of my team-mates Rob Bell, Alvaro Parente and myself. The race was run in two six-hour legs. On both occasions we finished third just missing out on victory. However, the most important thing was that we didn’t run into any mechanical problems. »

At the end of January he went off to Daytona for his fourth outing in the Rolex 24: « we had one of the best Porsches in GTD and Park Place Motorsports’s strategy was spot on. Up till the fifteenth hour we were in the running for a top-three finish. It’s a pity the gearbox failed to last the distance. »

Estre discovered Australia and ticked another box in his experience of the major endurance events on planet earth with his debut in the Bathurst 12 Hours. « With VIP Petfoods’ McLaren 12C GT3, we were well placed early on in the race before hitting a problem with the diffuser, which cost us so much time that the team decided to throw in the towel.” In this event in which nine different makes were entered in GT3, Estre only had time to do a single stint during which he was the fastest man on the track.

Pirelli World Challenge: sprint racing American style

This programme has got off to a great start for Kevin who has finished in the top 5 four times in four races scoring a third place and a victory, his first for McLaren GT. In Austin he crushed his rivals in the rain clinching a flag-to-flag win as well as setting the fastest lap. After the event on the Saint Petersburg city circuit he is in third place in the overall classification.

The Pirelli World Challenge is the championship that’s going from strength to strength in North America. What’s unusual about it in GT is that the races are sprints with standing starts and only one driver. The PWC often shares the billing with the prestigious Indycar Series that receives widespread media coverage. « The K-Pax team has had plenty of success in the Pirelli World Challenge over the years. It has merged for a full season effort with Flying Lizard Motorsports, which has seen the flag in the Le Mans 24 Hours five times including one top-three finish in its category. They’ve also won several titles in the American Le Mans Series (the former name of the current United SportsCar Championship). I am delighted to defend the colours of the team and McLaren GT in this very competitive top-class series. » The next round will take place on 18-19 April in Long Beach, near Los Angeles, California.



Blancpain GT Series: sprint racing AND Endurance!

As in 2014 Estre will race in the Blancpain Endurance Series in the Pro Cup, the top category in the championship, and he will also be involved in a programme in the sprint equivalent of the well-known series organised by SRO. He will be back in a familiar environment as he will be driving for Attempto Racing for which he won the 2013 Porsche Carrera Cup Germany. He will team up with his old mate British driver, Rob Bell. This front-running duo’s first outing will take place in the famous “Coupes de Pâques” on the Nogaro circuit on 5/6 April.

In the Blancpain Endurance Series which will kick off at Monza on 12th April the Frenchman will be driving for the British team Von Ryan Racing set up in 2012 by Dave Ryan. He worked in Formula 1 for 34 years and shared no fewer than 19 world titles with McLaren as mechanic, chief mechanic, factory manager, team manager and Sporting Director. One of his feats that can still be seen on You Tube was to lift James Hunt’s M23 to make a decisive tyre change easier in the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix! « I will share the wheel of one of the team’s two cars with Rob Bell and Shane Van Gisbergen, from Australia (2014 runner-up in the V8 Supercars Championship), so we should be in a position to fight for the title. » The highlight of Kévin’s European season will be the 67th Spa 24 Hours in the last weekend in July, its traditional date.

A quick reminder. In addition, the Endurance and Sprint Championships have a combined classification under the name Blancpain GT Series for which Kevin is among the favourites!