Blancpain Endurance Series - Paul Ricard

Sunday, June 2, 2019

GPX Racing continues its upward momentum

GPX Racing again raised its level of performance in the race in the third round of its first season in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup on the Paul Ricard circuit; and its reward was its first points in the Silver Cup. But Jordan Grogor, Benjamin Goethe and Stuart Hall didn’t have it all their own way.

At Silverstone, the team’s car crossed the finishing line for the first time at the top level in the GT3 category just shy of the Silver Cup points. It was hoping for a step forward in the French round of the championship whose particularity is that the race is run over 1000 kilometres or six hours, and partially at nighttime.

Despite lining up in 34th place on the grid in the Var, there was no stress apparent in the Dubai team’s camp as the race pace of the no. 20 Porsche Gulf promised to be more competitive. The strategy was worked out taking into account several factors. Benjamin Goethe, the youngest of the 147 drivers in the field, had never yet done the start in the middle of around 50 cars nor had he raced in nocturnal conditions nor done a double stint. Jordan Grogor was designated to do the first stint with Benji taking over from him while it was still light. The two drivers repeated the same sequence as daylight morphed into darkness to let Stuart Hall finish the race with a double stint under the stars. During the six-hour event the three GPX Racing drivers gave their very best even if incidents weren’t lacking.

Right from the off Grogor began to move up the time sheets and when the first safety car was deployed on lap 3 he had already gained 10 places! This neutralisation that lasted more than 20 minutes was followed almost immediately by another, which led to some teams rebooting their strategies.

These early stops moved Grogor up into a slightly flattering 12th place only six seconds behind the lead car when the race restarted 45 minutes after the green light. The South African was now lying second in the Silver Cup. The no. 20 Porsche was expecting to lose places when it was its turn to come in to refuel. Unfortunately, it lost more than anticipated - around 40 seconds – as it was hindered by the simultaneous stop of the competitors in the neighbouring pit.

Thus, Benji found himself in 38th spot when he began his first stint. Grogor took over an hour later. In the middle of Goethe’s second stint after 3 hours 30 minutes racing the team was back in the top 20 and in sixth place in the Silver Cup category. But a final setback hit them at 21:54. Benji who had almost finished his second stint suffered a puncture on a rear tyre. He managed to nurse the car back to its pit, but lost 30 seconds in the process. The team repaired the damage to the bodywork as best it could. When Stuart Hall rejoined the car was unable to maintain its earlier speed, in particular because the diffuser had been damaged in the incident. It took the chequered flag in 21st place and 8th in the Silver Cup scoring its first points in the championship.

“Personally, I had two difficult stints as the puncture caused extensive damage to the rear of the car,” said Stuart Hall. “I managed to bring it home to the finish in a position which, if not great, is reasonable. We knew that it was never going to be easy in Blancpain GT, but we’re making progress every day. I’m a great believer and there is no secret to success. We have to work harder to be a little bit quicker and we’ll reap the rewards in the near future.”

Pierre-Brice Mena (Team Principal) summed up: “It was a long tough event for everybody. We were struggling at the end with a car that had lost a good second a lap compared to its potential performance. We weren’t spared, but in the end all our efforts resulted in a positive outcome. In the overall classification and in the Silver Cup, we finished higher than at Silverstone so mission accomplished. Ideally, the season should have started now as this race is representative of our level although we can count on a margin for progression that’s greater than that of the others. So we are eagerly looking forward to Barcelona.”