Reiter Young Stars trio led by Patric Niederhauser in brave but ultimately futile pursuit at Le Castellet
After the great race debut for Patric Niederhauser in the Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX at Monza, which included setting the best time in qualifying, there followed a more sobering experience for the team at Silverstone. Last weekend, the Reiter Young Stars trio of Niederhauser, Mads Siljehaug and Lenny Marioneck were looking to put the disappointment of Silverstone behind them at Le Castellet. In theory at least, the track layout should have been a better match for the Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX than two weeks previously at Silverstone. Nevertheless, the third weekend in the Blancpain Endurance Series did not get off to the best of starts for the team.
Niederhauser and his team-mates had missed out on the crucial tests at the Circuit Paul Ricard and therefore lacked the necessary data for the optimum setup. Consequently, the combined qualifying time was sufficient only for 32nd on the grid. In the race itself, which started in the late afternoon and lasted into the night, Niederhauser’s team-mates mounted a furious pursuit. The team was already up to 18th place when the Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX hit a slower car. The resultant damage was severe enough to oblige the Reiter Young Stars to retire. As the most experienced member of the crew, Niederhauser had been booked for the final double stint, but that was not to be.
After the Blancpain Endurance Series Double, the Swiss racer’s next engagement is at Suzuka in the context of the Blancpain GT Series Asia (30th June - 1st July).
Patric, the weekend at Le Castellet is probably one that you will want to forget as soon as possible...
That’s right. We knew that we would have difficulty in repeating the great weekend we had at Monza, but we were assuming that it would at least be better than Silverstone. The track layout of the Paul Ricard Circuit with its long straight suits our car. Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way this weekend.
Why were you unable to fulfil your expectations?
There are two main reasons for that. In contrast to most of the other teams, we were not able to test at Le Castellet in advance. As a result, we already had an experience deficit compared with our opponents. In free practice, we then had to sort out a problem that cost us the greater part of the 90 minutes’ track time.
In your qualifying session, you still managed to set a respectable lap time despite the difficult circumstances...
I was half a second off qualifying in the Top Ten and slightly more than a second off the pace of the leader. With the disadvantage we had in terms of knowledge of this particular track and the incredibly tight standard of competition, I am satisfied with my qualifying time. I squeezed everything I could out of the car and put in a clean, flawless lap.
In the race itself, you staged a magnificent charge through the field which ended in disappointment. Tell us more.
Between qualifying and the race, we did some more work on the setup, and that produced results. Mads and Lenny were first behind the wheel. I had been booked for a double stint during the night. That’s because I have more experience of driving in the dark than the other two, so it was a good plan. The guys did a really good job. On our last pit stop, though, we made a mistake that cost us a lot of time. After that, Mads went flat out to get us back towards the front. We were in 18th place overall when we came into contact with a slower car we were trying to lap. As a result of this collision, the mounting of our suspension broke, and unfortunately, that was the end of our race. I feel sure that I could have gained a few places during my final double stint.
The next item in your diary is the Blancpain GT Series Asia, and a very special race weekend for you...
Yes, the anticipation ahead of my first competitive outing on the Suzuka International Racing Course is immense. Like only a few other classics, this track has a magical quality about it. With its challenging Esses, long straights and mix of medium-fast and slow corners, the track has a pleasant flow throughout. This will definitely be one of my highlights of the year, especially as I am very happy to be lining up with GruppeM Racing and Markus Pommer again. The team is just fantastic, and I’m sure that we’ll be able to compete somewhere near the front.