McLaren GT kicks off the European GT season in style
On its competitive European debut, the 2013-specification McLaren 12C GT3 helped Sébastian Loeb Racing claim victory in the opening round of the FIA GT Series at Nogaro, France.
Loeb, a nine-time World Rally Championship winner, is racing one of two 12C GT3s campaigned by the French-based team, sharing driving duties with Alvaro Parente, part of the McLaren GT programme.
The weekend started brightly, with the team Qualifying on the front and second rows for the FIA GT Series Qualifying Race, from where Loeb and Parente went on to claim a hard-fought victory in the 2013-specification 12C GT3, its third in as many outings.
The second race saw Loeb start from pole position, and maintain a lead up until the pit window opened for the mandatory pitstop and driver change. The sister 12C GT3 of Mike Parisy and Andreas Zuber showed competitive pace, and steadily moved through the field despite the tricky, wet conditions. However, during the second half of the hour-long race, both Sébastien Loeb Racing 12C GT3s were hit with driver penalties, dropping them back before finishing 11th and 12th.
“Over the course of the weekend the 12C GT3 felt great, especially in the dry condition,” Loeb said. “There are some areas of set up where I feel we can find some more pace, and we need to work on optimising the balance in the wet, but I really enjoyed the event, and we showed good pace.”
The results, in one of the most competitive GT series, build on last week’s winning result in Asia, and see Sébastien Loeb Racing joint second in the standings in the Pro Championship.
McLaren GT’s other customer team in the FIA GT Series, Dörr Motorsport, suffered a less lucrative racing weekend. After qualifying in 19th, the German duo of Daniel Keilwitz and Niclas Kentenich failed to finish in the Qualifying Race, before achieving 17th place in the Championship Race. They now look forward to the next race at Zolder, Belgium.
On home soil at Oulton Park, UK, McLaren GT customer teams Preci-Spark and United Autosports competed in the first two rounds of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship. In the first race both qualified well with Preci-Spark in seventh and United Autosports in ninth, however both fell back during the race, finishing in 13th and 24th respectively.
In the second race both improved on lower qualifying positions. The Preci-Spark duo of David Jones and Godfrey Jones managed to rise through the field to secure eighth place after qualifying in 22nd whilst Zak Brown and Glynn Geddie of United Autosports gained seven places from their initial qualifying position of 17th to take tenth.
McLaren 12C GT3 sets a new lap record
Down under, this weekend the 12C GT3 was also in action in New Zealand, the homeland of McLaren founder Bruce McLaren. At the opening of the new Highlands Motorsport Park on South Island, local favourite Craig Baird used it to set a new lap record of 1:41.9.