With Bertrand Baguette behind the wheel, the #30 Castrol Honda Racing NSX GT3 was the quickest Pro-Am car during the fourth and final qualifying session today. Baguette’s best effort of a 2m 19.883 was also the third fastest Pro-Am qualifying time overall, just over a tenth of a second down on the Pro-Am class best.
In the first 24 hour endurance race for both the Castrol Honda Racing team and for the Honda NSX GT3, the crew have made solid and consistent progress throughout the day, closing the gap to the absolute fastest time from two seconds in pre-qualifying to 0.8seconds in qualifying.
Esteban Guerrieri set a very respectable 2m 20.874 despite a run that was constantly interrupted by traffic, oil on the track and a red flag, whilst Bronze driver Loic Depailler had a strong and consistent run to set his best time aboard the NSX GT3 with a 2m 25.953 as he continues to gel with a car that was totally new to him just one month ago. Riccardo Patrese set a 2m 22.505 in the opening free practice, but unfortunately a spin during his qualifying session affected his ability to build upon that, leaving him on a 2m 25.418.
The combined average of the four times leaves the Castrol Honda Racing team 9th in class and in line with the squad’s expectations of this point in the weekend, but with Bertrand Baguette starting Saturday’s race and setting a time today a second faster than nine of the 15 cars immediately in front of him, the #30 is likely to be cutting its way through the field.
Racing on Saturday gets underway at 1630h local time, after Esteban Guerrieri will lead a parade lap of more than 30 Honda NSXs, driven to Spa by owners from all over Europe, in a celebration of the return of the NSX name to the 24 Hours of Spa after 25 years.
Bertrand Baguette: “We went much better in qualifying – I was a little worried after FP1 as we made a little mistake with setup and went outside of the optimal window for the car. There was a short time between FP1 and qualifying to understand the problem but the team did a good job and we made a big improvement. My qualifying time was 0.8s off the overall fastest and we were quickest in class in Quali 4, which we can be pretty happy with. We still have some steps to go but today has been positive, especially when you consider this championship and the Spa 24hrs is some of the toughest GT3 racing, and we come here with a new car which we haven’t ever raced in a 24hr before, and with two drivers who one month ago hadn’t driven a GT3.”
Esteban Guerrieri: “I didn’t have a clean session unfortunately as in the first two laps I had guys cutting the track in front of me which forced me to lift a bit, and then I had big oversteer through Eau Rouge which turned out to be oil, so fortunately I saved the car. The red flag interrupted my rhythm again and I did my best lap on my last, but I couldn’t fully capitalise on the session. We made a good step with the car since FP1 and the changes worked well, so we’re learning and making progress each time we’re on track which is good.”
Riccardo Patrese: “Exiting T14 I got on the power just a touch too early and had a spin which really cut my qualifying time. I had one more lap afterwards, but by that time the tyres were not new anymore and round here the best laptimes come in the first or second lap. I’m trying to improve my limit and we’re making improvements, but the level here is so high it’s not easy. We’re working well though and have a good direction, and it’s encouraging to see the pace the car is capable of already.”
Loic Depailler: “I’ve never been that fast before in this car which is good, and also I was very consistent which is crucial in endurance racing. We’ve been trying a few things and improving the car all day, and in qualifying the balance was better than it’s ever been. We’re looking at the data to see where I can continue to improve, but we’re going in the right way and I’m happy.”
Alessandro Mariani, CEO JAS Motorsport: “After qualifying we’re where we thought we’d be so we can be satisfied. The Bronze drivers of Riccardo and Loic reached the targets we had in mind, and Esteban and Bertrand did a very good job. Everything is new for us so it is a challenge within a challenge here at Spa, but we’re satisfied with the progress we’re making and what we’re learning about this new NSX in its first 24 hour race.”