A character-building start!
Hexis Racing expected to run into some teething trouble at Nogaro by entering two brand-new cars in such a high-level championship. As things turned out the French team had its fair share of problems, which didn’t prevent it from showing the potential of the McLaren GT, and also that the world champions’ determination is as strong as ever.
Qualifying for the first round of the FIA GT1 World Championship was a reflection of the whole Easter weekend - encouraging but with a sense of unfulfilled promise. The two Hexis McLarens got into Q2, but the starter on no. 1 went on the blink just when Stef Dusseldorp was about to go out. In the meantime, by getting into the first eight Alvaro Parente qualified no. 2 for Q3, which Grégoire Demoustier was unable to take part in because of starter failure!
The two cars were in eighth and fourteenth places on the grid for the qualifying race, the first of the season. Only no. 2 started the 60-minute event as Dusseldorp hit the wall on the formation lap when he was on slicks on the damp track. Luckily, Parente thrilled the Hexis fans with a series of overtaking manoeuvres and got up to third place before handing over to Demoustier. The team carried out the best pit stop of the whole field and the young Frenchman rejoined in second place. He drove his first laps cautiously and was passed by two drivers who were much more experienced than him; he then locked on to their tails. He avoided all the pitfalls of a drying track, and took the flag in 4th place, glued to the gearbox of the quickest Lamborghini, just 7 seconds behind the winning Audi.
The next day, the Hexis drivers provided the excitement at the start of the championship race. Frédéric Makowiecki started from seventeenth place and pulled back eight places in one lap! Unfortunately, his meteoric comeback ground to a halt on lap 3 with an electrical problem. Demoustier hung on to his place in the first eight. During the driver and tyre change an electrical glitch caused a red alert for the engine. Parente did one slow lap and retired.
Philippe Dumas, the Hexis team manager, sums up the first meeting of the season: “First of all, I’d like to say how pleasant it was to come back to Nogaro, ten years after our debut here. The fans and the connoisseurs who turned up for our home race showed that they like our team and that they appreciate what we’ve accomplished. For me it’s a big encouragement and gives us even more determination to fight to defend our world title. We’ve had a very difficult week with a lot of work and a lot of fatigue, but overall I reckon that we’re even stronger as a team than in 2011. We’ve got the skills and the organization to win with the McLarens. We’re 200% concentrated on this championship and the make we’re representing. What happened to us at Nogaro isn’t the end of the world, but we’re going to have to work hard hand-in-hand with our English partners to solve the technical problems. We really have to finish the next races to remain in contention.”
The second round will take place on the Zolder circuit in Belgium on 21-22 April.