6 top-3 finishes in 6 weekends 50% victories!

Kévin Estre - June 2015
Kévin Estre - June 2015

 

Kévin Estre newsletter #4-2015 :
WEC at Spa (1-2 May), Blancpain GT Series (Brands Hatch Sprint 9-10 May & Silverstone Endurance 23-24 May), Pirelli World Challenge (Mosport 16-17 May & Detroit 30-31 May),
OAK Racing LM P2 tests.

WEC : a hectic but positive one-off

The last newsletter ended with Kevin Estre’s second victory in the Pirelli World Challenge in the Barber Motorsports Park. Since then the works McLaren GT driver has achieved a top-3 finish each weekend in May. His first outing in the FIA WEC in the LM GTE Pro category ended in a stunning third place at Spa. In the Blancpain GT Series Estre came third at Brands Hatch in the sprint championship and scored a victory at Silverstone in endurance. In the Pirelli World Challenge he clinched another top-3 finish at Mosport and another victory in the streets of Detroit. The man from Lyon also took part in the tests organised by OAK Racing at Spa and Magny-Cours in the Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop LM P2 that he’ll drive on his debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours next week.

Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche are locked in a ruthless battle in the LM GTE Pro category. Some of Porsche’s drivers were racing in the USA so the German manufacturer called in Estre for the Belgian round of the FIA WEC. “I’d like to thank McLaren GT for allowing me to take part in this event with the Manthey team, Porsche’s works representative. The weekend got off to a great start as I set the fastest times in free practices one and two in the rain. My team-mate Sven Müller and I just pipped the other works Porsche in qualifying. I gained two places at the start and I was lying fourth in the category when I was punted into a spin by Nick Tandy in one of the Porsche 919 Hybrid prototypes.”

Although it was far from evident that the Frenchman was responsible for the incident he was given a drive-through penalty. “We were handed another one for exceeding the track limits, but after that we fought our way back to fourth. After the six-hour race, thanks to the penalty given to a Ferrari, we were able to join our Porsche team-mates, Mako and Lietz, on the podium.”

Blancpain GT Series: first European victory for the McLaren 650S GT3

At Brands Hatch the Franco-British duo in the Attempto Racing McLaren 650S GT3 was on the third step of the podium in the second event of the Blancpain Sprint Series. “I set the fastest time in Q1, but Q3 didn’t go off well for Rob Bell and we started in ninth place. In the qualifying race we pulled back four places. I got up to fourth in the main event at the start and then I overtook two BMWs. I was the quickest in the first stint and I was second when I handed over to Rob. Our pit stop could have been better and finally we saw the flag in third spot. It was the first top-3 finish for the McLaren 650S GT3 in Europe and also Attempto’s first significant result in the Blancpain.”

In the Silverstone 3 Hours counting for the Blancpain Endurance Series the Von Ryan team scored a clear-cut victory with the new McLaren GT. “Rob Bell made a scintillating start going from fourth to second place. After forty minutes racing the team decided to take advantage of a neutralisation and called him in early. The risk was the possibility of a third stop. To win our bet Shane Van Gisbergen had to save fuel – which he did - and he maintained a thirty-second gap. I did the final stint and controlled our lead which was twenty seconds at the flag.” These good results have put Kevin in sixth place in the Sprint ratings, third in endurance and fifth in the Blancpain GT Series which combines both championships.

Pirelli World Challenge: Estre pulls in the leader

878 to 913 is the current score between Estre and Olivier Beretta, between the no. 9 K-Pax with Flying Lizard Motorsports McLaren and the no. 61 Ferrari. In the last two meetings he has eaten into his Monegasque rival’s lead. “At Mosport (former Canadian F1 Grand Prix circuit) I was quicker over a lap than the winner Johnny O’Connell whose Cadillac was marginally faster in a straight line. I was third on the grid for race 1 and I passed Beretta on the outside at the start and finished second. The next day I was again second. After a restart Beretta overtook me but I repassed him a bit further on. Then he came up on the outside under braking and pulled over on top of me like I wasn’t there! The contact pushed me into a Nissan and I went off. I rejoined in twelfth place and finished sixth. All three of us were penalised, but I was cleared on appeal unlike the other two.”

Estre scored his third victory in the USA in 2015 in Detroit. “Qualifying was cancelled because of an accident and the grid was formed according to the championship positions so I started from second place. I overtook Beretta very quickly and pulled away and I saw the flag with nine seconds in hand over my rivals. A downpour led to the cancellation of race 2.”

He came back to France to test the Ligier JS P2-Honda-Dunlop LM P2 he’ll be driving in the Le Mans 24 Hours on the Bugatti circuit two days after the test day. “I had already done a few laps at Spa on 20th May but rain didn’t exactly help matters. Philippe Dumas, the OAK Racing team principal, managed to find us a slot at Magny-Cours on Thursday 21st May in the evening, just after I’d done my stint on the Aotech simulator that’s obligatory for drivers making their Le Mans debut. I’m very happy to be taking part in this great adventure with Chris Cumming and Laurens Vanthoor who set the fastest time in the LM P2 category at the test day.” Rendezvous on Wednesday 10th June in the first practice session to cheer on Kevin in the Sarthe!