Emil Frey Lexus Racing celebrates debut in Portugal at GT Open season-opener

  • Outstanding victory in 2017 debut race in Europe with the Lexus RC F GT3 in GT Open
  • Despite 15-second extra time due to win on Saturday, team secures P8 on Sunday

Estoril (Portugal), 30 April 2017:
Emil Frey Lexus Racing has successfully passed the initial test: at the opening round of the International GT Open Championship at the Autodromo do Estoril (Portugal), the Swiss team took the first victory in the first race 2017 for the new Lexus RC F GT3 on European ground. The team received a 15-second extra time during the pitstop in Sunday´s race, resulting from winning on Saturday, but managed to finish in a good eighth place. Looking ahead, the team can be pleased with the progress of their test and development program following the first competitive race weekend.

Race #1, Saturday, 29 April 2017 – 70 Minutes
The Spaniard Albert Costa Balboa underlined the potential of the new Lexus RC F GT3 by setting the second-fastest lap-time in the first qualifying (third fastest sector overall) and Pole Position in PRO Class.

Therefore, the 26-year-old started from the front row into the 70-minute race on Saturday afternoon. Despite losing one position in the opening lap, he remained comfortably in third place until the pitstop and driver change. On lap 21, the Swiss team-mate Philipp Frommenwiler took over the #54 Lexus and re-joined the race in P3 after a good job by the pit crew. Frommenwiler closed in on the car in front of him, taking his chance on lap 35 to overtake the #22 McLaren on the start-/finish line turning into the first corner. The leading McLaren (#88) had an off into the gravel only a few corners later and Frommenwiler took the lead.

As soon as the 27-year-old had a clear track ahead of him, he extended his lead to over 3.5 seconds until crossing the finishing line, going one second per lap on average faster than his direct competitors.

With winning in Estoril, Lexus has taken the very first race victory in the very first race with the new Lexus RC F GT3 in Europe.

Race #2, Sunday, 30 April 2017 – 60 Minutes
After a rain shower on Sunday morning, the second qualifying started under wet track conditions with Philipp Frommenwiler (CH) completing seven laps on wet tyres. On the last three laps, he attacked once more on slicks, however, a suddenly occurring technical issue made an improvement above P8 not possible.

Just ahead of the 60-minute race, there was another quick shower, but Frommenwiler started the race from eighth on the grid on slicks. In the opening lap, he made up one position only to take two more competitors (Lamborghini and Ferrari) on the following lap. The Swiss was running in fourth place when pitting on lap 15. Albert Costa Balboa took behind the wheel of the #54 Lexus and came home in eighth place.

The next race of the International GT Open will take place from 27 until 28 May 2017 in Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium).

Team Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing

Hannes Gautschi, Technical Coordinator
“All in all, the Lexus RC F GT3 was running without any problems or technical issues all weekend. We had the perfect race on Saturday and what more can you ask for than winning the first race. According to the rules and regulations, we were given 15 seconds extra during the pitstop, which is very hard to make up during the race, especially since the front runners were very close together. The most important thing for us was to see the chequered flag in both races and we achieved that. We secured the first victory for Lexus with a GT3 homologated race car and it only speaks for the brand itself with Farnbacher taking win in the second race. I would like to say a big thank you to the entire team, because we have a completely new crew and everyone worked really well together.”

Lorenz Frey, Team Principal
“I am very pleased with the first race weekend, because we only received the car a few weeks ago. There is still a lot of development work to do, but we were already able to show a great performance at the first race weekend. We finished twice in the points, the car came home in one piece and now we have to prepare for the next race in Spa.”

Driver Quotes Emil Frey Lexus Racing #54

Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“I really enjoyed pushing with this great car during qualifying. It has been an amazing week starting with the tests and working with all the crew from Japan and Switzerland. We started from Zero and every day, we came closer to the right set-up. We finished the Free Practice on Friday pretty competitive and on Saturday, I just did my job which was easy, because the engineers gave me a perfect car with which I could push.

“I lost a bit of traction going into the first corner going wide and the McLaren behind me was so much better on braking, so I had to let him pass and be safe, rather than risking a collision on the first lap.

“It was my very first time to ever start a GT-race from the front row, it was my first ever win in GT racing. Portugal has always been really good for me, I also secured my very first Pole Position her during my Formula years so I am very, very happy.

“Unfortunately, we struggled a little bit on Sunday, but taking into consideration it was the first race weekend for a new team with a new car, we can be proud of ourselves. We are looking positively ahead to Spa.”

Philipp Frommenwiler (CH)
“The McLaren was super-fast on the straight and really good under braking. So I had to see where his weaknesses were and could find them in the last corner. I knew that I could only overtake him, if my last corner was better than his to overtake coming down start/finish.

“We were very good, the car was running very well and it made it easy for me to push. But I simply wanted to control our gap, take no risk and bring home the victory for the team.

“On Sunday we reached our maximum in the second race. Unfortunately, we lost quite a bit of time behind the Bentley and of course we had the additional 15 seconds during the pitstop. But despite that, it is a sensational debut for all, both Emil Frey Lexus Racing and Lexus.”