The Spa 24 Hours beckons for Emil Frey Racing and its pair of Jaguar G3s, which are set to take on the Blancpain GT Series’ best teams in one of the world’s toughest races. And despite having no factory backing and two cars developed in-house, driver Marco Seefried feels the Swiss team can throw a cat among the pigeons in this year’s edition of the race.
Seefried, who joined the team this year, feels that the car suits the Spa-Francorchamps circuit and with its developments this season, is capable of finishing inside the top 10 overall. It’s not a new car – in fact, it first raced back in 2012, but has come on strong since and in the last two years in particular has shown front-running pace.
“The car feels very balanced, in aero terms,” he told DSC, comparing it to the other GT3 cars he’s driven in recent years, including the Mercedes-AMG GT3, Ferrari 488 and BMW M6 GT3. “It’s close to the M6, which is one of the strongest in the current crop of GT3s, aero-wise. And the Audi too, which is great through fast corners.
“Spa suits our car because of the high-speed corners like Eau Rouge, Stavelot and Blanchimont, so over the 24 hours I think a good result is possible.
“Where we lack performance is mechanical grip in slow corners and under braking because it’s so heavy. It’s still something we’re trying to improve, because you can’t dive-bomb someone in that car, due to its weight.”
Seefried admits it’s not the easiest car to drive over long distances, but the team has put a lot of effort into testing this year and as recently as last month ran an endurance test to prepare for Spa.
“I have a big respect for what they do as a private team, competing against manufacturer-developed GT cars in the most competitive GT class in the world,” Seefried says. “In the WEC, there are eight cars, IMSA has around nine, while Emil Frey is in Blancpain, which has 60 cars. If you can get top 10 results in that, you know you’re the best.
“We did an endurance test in Portimao after the Nürburgring 24 Hours. It wasn’t quite like a 30-hour test that manufacturers do, but we did a 14-hour test, over half the distance for Spa. We did it with one car and I admire how well it went. There were no big issues, which is a good indicator that we’re in good shape for Spa.
As drivers we have to deal with really high temperatures inside the car, because the pipes of the exhaust are down each side
“It’s a really physical car, though. As drivers we have to deal with really high temperatures inside, because the pipes of the exhaust are down each side, into the side panels, which creates heat. They’ve isolated it, but it still makes the cockpit really hot. We improved it in Portimao, but it’s still a challenge.
“Luckily, Spa isn’t known for its heat, but I do remember racing there when the temperatures were high. To be in there for a double stint, you have to be really fit, because it can affect your concentration.”
On joining the Swiss team, Seefried was immediately impressed with its efforts behind the scenes, ensuring its GT3 cars are built and maintained to the highest standards from its headquarters in Safenwil, Switzerland.
It’s not realistic to expect a win, but I think if we do everything right, then we should be able to get a top 10
“How the Jaguars are built is so impressive: they create their own moulds, parts, carbon-fibre bits, and it’s all good quality. The engine is done by Ilmor in the UK and they don’t try and save money in components, they try to ensure it’s of the best quality.
“If you don’t have a good budget, people underestimate you. And that’s what people do with Emil Frey, they underestimate us.”
A key part of winning a big race like Spa, though, is having strength in numbers and a car that’s serviceable. This year Emil Frey hopes it has ticked both boxes.
It’ll enter two cars for the second year running, one which features the line-up of Seefried, Jonathan Hirschi and Christian Klien, which the team hopes will be the difference between finishing the race and finishing high up the order.
Seefried is also complimentary about the mechanics working in the team, who can service the cars very efficiently under pressure.
“We have things we can repair quickly, for example in Monza when I couldn’t avoid the spinning Lamborghini on the main straight at the start, I ripped off the left-front corner of the car, which meant the splitter was gone. The splitter is a complex part, which takes a long time to change, but they did it quite quickly and got us back out in the race. Emil Frey’s mechanics are really impressive in that sense.
“So far in comparison with other teams, we’re not having big issues when it comes to tyres, which could be a big advantage for such a long race.
“We had two punctures in Monza, but that was due to the contact, which ripped out an inner wheelarch. After that, sharp debris inside the arch rubbed tyres later in the race. So providing there are no incidents at Spa, it won’t be a problem.
“The Jaguar G3 is not a car that struggles over long stints with degradation and we don’t fear punctures.
“It’s not realistic to expect a win, but I think if we do everything right, then we should be able to get a top 10 – and that means something to us in a race as important as the 24 Hours at Spa.”
Images courtesy of Emil Frey Racing