This weekend, the Hexis Racing team dominated the third round of the FIA GT1 World Championship on the Navarra circuit in Spain giving the McLaren MP4-12 GT3 its first world championship victory. The French team scored a double in the qualifying event on Saturday in the evening, and then won the championship race today, Sunday, thanks to a stunning drive by Frédéric Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp in no.1. Grégoire Demoustier held on to second place during his stint, but a minor technical problem during the pit stop cost no. 2 three places. Alvaro Parente brought the car home in fourth spot.
When Hexis Racing arrived in Navarra its sole aim was a podium finish. It went one better and the reigning world championship team scored a telling victory. In free practice, the two McLarens reigned supreme and while the team had done a lot of testing during the winter on this circuit, that didn’t explain everything. In fact, two of Hexis Racing’s most feared rivals had done exactly the same thing.
Just to demonstrate that victory wasn’t a foregone conclusion the cards were reshuffled in qualifying. No.1 had a fuel pump problem in Q1 and couldn’t complete a single lap. Even though no. 2 set the overall fastest time in Q2 it had to start from sixth place on the grid. Things fell back into place in the qualifying race. Alvaro Parente took the lead in the first corner and opened up a gap of around 10 seconds. Stef Dusseldorp charged up the field to second place after starting sixteenth on the grid before handing over to Fred Makowiecki. Once the drivers and tyres had been changed the more experienced Mako pulled away from the rookie, Demoustier. Nos 1 and 2 finished first and second harvesting a good haul of points for the team and its two driver line-ups.
It looked like a repeat result was on the cards in the opening stages of the championship event. Makowiecki made the break while Demoustier eked out a 2-second gap over the cars scrapping for third place. However, when it came to pit stop time both cars had problems rejoining. The gap opened up by Mako faded to almost nothing but Dusseldorp hit the front and took the flag 12 seconds in front of the second-placed car. Parente found himself stuck behind the two Mercedes-Benz and a BMW. He sliced past the BMW and upped the pressure on the cars from Stuttgart, but was unable to find an opening and finished just outside the podium.
“We live in cruel world in which there comes a moment where although you say it’s a sport, only the result counts,” said Philippe Dumas, the Hexis Racing team manager. “I’m very happy to have given the McLaren MP-4 12C GT3 its first international victory. Everybody’s done a great job including the guys at McLaren GT even though we’ve discovered a few little things that need improving. On the other hand, we’re so closely-knit and the feeling in the team is so strong that we’re almost in two minds about the race result. We’d like to have seen Alvaro and Greg on the podium with Stef and Fred!”
Fred Makowiecki (no. 1 McLaren, 1st): “We were criticised at the start of the season so we have to congratulate Hexis and McLaren GT whose collaboration has reaped its first rewards this weekend. But we have to be circumspect as this circuit suited us particularly well: now we’ve got to wait and see what the rest of the season holds.”
Stef Dusseldorp (no. 1 McLaren, 1st): This victory isn’t just down to Fred and me, everybody’s done the maximum to score it. We weren’t expected to be on the topmost step of the podium so early on in the season. We had a difficult test session here during the winter. In March, we were way off the pace of our rivals so you can see the progress we’ve made, in particular with the traction control and the ABS.”
Greg Demoustier (no. 2 McLaren, 4th): “I started on worn tyres that degraded quickly, but the gap to my pursuers remained the same. I’m content with the result but frustrated at having missed out on the podium by so little. Overall, it’s been a very positive weekend and the progress we’ve made since Nogaro is really spectacular!”
Alvaro Parente (no. 2 McLaren, 4th,, McLaren GT development driver): “I’d have liked to be on the podium and everybody did their best. The team was rewarded for all the efforts and all the work carried out over the winter. The improvements made to the car since Zolder have borne fruit. The McLaren GT engineers, Mark Williams and Paul Andrews, who were here this weekend, are over the moon about the result! I think the British guys have chosen the right partner to tackle this world championship.”
Mickaël Duterque (workshop chief): “We never had a moment’s relaxation during the weekend. We had to work on no.2’s gearbox on Saturday morning, and then on no.1’s fuel pump after qualifying. As the race finished late on Saturday evening, we didn’t leave the circuit until 03h30 in the morning after giving both cars a complete check! It’s crucial to have good reliability and bring both cars home. During the pit stops the tyre changes went off well although the engines didn’t fire up as quickly as we’d have liked, above all on no.1. Still, we’ve managed to win on our third attempt and that’s an achievement in itself, especially when you see where we were three months ago!”
These results put Hexis Racing in second place in the FIA GT1 Teams’ Championship and Fred Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp in the lead in the drivers’ ratings! The French team will set off to discover the Slovakia Ring for the fourth round of the FIA GT1 World Champion on 9-10 June.