Sébastien Loeb Racing once again showed itself as one of the teams to beat in the third round of the FIA GT Series.
With a pole position by Alvaro Parent and two fantastic climbs through the field from Parisy/Zuber (in the qualifying race) and Loeb/Parente (in the championship race) the Soultz-Sous-Forêts based team shined. However, three race incidents would keep the two Sébastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C from notching the good results they were looking for.
Mike Parisy (McLaren MP4-12C #10) « We were unlucky again. We had a few small issues in qualifying that forced us to start in the back of the grid. Despite that, I was able to go from fourteenth to sixth before handing the car over to Andi who did a very good job. For the second race, our hopes were even higher, because we found a top setup during the warmup. But we weren’t able to take advantage of it : a slight contact put us out of the race. The guys at Sébastien Loeb Racing made the repairs but we fell three laps down and couldn’t hope for a good result. The team, as usual, did a very good job and the positive is that we were able to put our finger on something that could make the difference in the future. ».
Alvaro Parente (McLaren MP4-12C #9): « What a disappointment it was to be unable to defend our chances in the qualifying race. I had a good start but I found myself between the Audi, who seems to have left the start line a little early, and the Mercedes, who turned into me ! I was stuck in the middle, like a sandwich, with no where to go. The damage was minor but our race was over, and it wasn’t the penalty handed to one of the two drivers that will change our result. We had the pace to legitimately aim for the podium this weekend, but not when you’re starting from the back of the grid. »
For the second consecutive time this season, the No.9 McLaren of Alvaro Parente and Sébastien Loeb is unable to take advantage of its front row start for long. Author of the pole position, Alvaro Parente takes the lead at the start before being hit by a competitor in the first
corner. With flat tyres, the Portugese driver’s No.9 MP4-12C is forced to retire.
The sister car, the No.10 who started from the seventh row, now carries the entirety of the team’s hopes, with Mike Parisy behind the wheel. The Frenchman shines during the early portion of the race, showing pace while avoiding competitors as they fall into trouble ahead of him. Author of the fastest race lap, he is shown in second position just before handing the controls to teammate Andi Zuber. Rejoining the action in sixth place, the Austrian driver resists the pressure put on by the No.2 Mercedes by being one of the fastest on track at the time. He even reduces the gap to the leaders before crossing the finish line in sixth position. It was a good climb back through the ranks from 14th position, meaning an interesting third row starting position for the following day’s championship race.
Under a glorious sun, the twenty GT cars had a decidedly calmer start to the race than the previous day. Alas, it was once again the higher placed Sébastien Loeb Racing McLaren which would fall victim to a racing incident that would prove terminal. With Andreas Züber at the wheel, the No.10 McLaren is in fifth position after the first corner before falling victim to light contact in the right rear, forcing a pitstop : two laps to repair a connector, a handicap that is nearly impossible to overcome in a sprint race at such a level.
Once again, thanks to the hard work from the entire team, and despite a starting position deep in the field of cars, the No.9 McLaren is looking to make the most of the race. Sébastien Loeb had a very good start of the race taking three positions very quickly, avoiding contact with competitors before a safety car period due to an accident. At the restart, the multiple World Rally champion finds himself in 11th place and keeps attacking. The No.9 McLaren MP4-12C then climbs to the sixth position thanks to the first round of pitstops.
Nearly perfect in the pits, the guys at Sébastien Loeb Racing send Alvaro Parent back into action. The Portuguese driver delivers a superb battle for the fourth position with the No.28 Mercedes, something that could have been unthinkable only 50 minutes earlier with a start from so far back in the pack. The two drivers continue to widen the gap to their adversaries. But, with two laps to go, Alvaro Parente sees a great performance unrewarded as he is forced to retire with transmission problems.
After this Dutch round, Sébastien Loeb Racing now heads to the Slovakia Ring on August 17 and 18 with the firm intentions to capitalise on good performances with a podium finish.
Sébastien Loeb Racing