A richly deserved podium for Massive in Austria

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The dropping of the chequered flag at the end of the 4hour race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria at the weekend must have come as welcomed relief for the Massive Motorsport team who, up until then were the only team not to have any points on the European Le Mans Series board from the two previous events.

Having already had a massive race ending crash in Silverstone at the start of the 2015 season and then technical issues arising from another significant off during Free Practice at the next race in Imola, the team would have arrived at the circuit with a revised race plan of simply restoring driver confidence and running to the own strengths regardless of what their GTC opposition was doing.

With two 90 minute free practice sessions available to the teams over the course of Saturday simple track time for all three drivers would be the objective with the two pro drivers, Caspar Elgaard and Kristian Poulsen setting and balancing the car for their Am driver and team money man Simon Moller. Although the #68 car finished bottom in GTC in FP1 early indicators proved that the car had balance and good pace compared to their rivals at a circuit they had not visited before.

Their testing setup and approach was further vindicated at the end of Free Practice two when a small but significant half a second reduction in lap time placed the Danes up to P3 in GTC just behind two of the AF Corse Ferrari's.

As with the European Le Man Series, qualifying is always held on the morning of the race and under a fastest car time round the circuit basis but with the circuit having had a sizeable thunder storm the night before the track for the 20minute qualifying would be green and unpredictable.

Elgaard would be the first GT driver out of pit lane at the start of his session and his lap time of 1:33:329 would ultimately be the teams fastest and thus used as their qualifying time, albeit that would mean a grid start down in P28 by the time a grid penalty had been imposed on an AF Corse GTE car further up the leader board.

Under crystal clear skies and an air temperature of 27degrees the 29 cars would be lead up the steep hill leading to turn 1 under the single green flag lap ready for the start of the 4 hour race. Cum the start of the race and with the prototypes quickly scurrying away the GT's were soon left to develop their own battles per class before two Safety Car periods within the first hour reminded all as to the fragility of their cars.

Incredibly, the #68 car with Elgaard at the wheel would soon find itself running first in class on merit as those around them started having 'issues' and he would hold that lead of just under a second until their first pit stop at the top of the first hour. That stop would also be the start of a double stint for Elgaard.

With more, although thankfully short Safety Car periods being generated from incidents and accidents the resultant bunching of the cars back together proved advantageous for Massive Motorsport especially for when Simon Moller got into the V12 Vantage just before the top of the second hour as was still able to keep the cars that he was pursuing in check during his 1hour drive time.
By the end of the second and third hours of the race together with the driver change from Moller to Poulsen the #68 had dropped down but was comfortably maintaining third in GTC. Was this strong running simply down to the recent change in BoP minimum weight for this race?

With Poulsen now at the wheel and comfortably keeping the red and white car out of harms way and out of other peoples races two further and quick successive Safety Cars within the final hour would place the #68 directly on the tail of the TDS Racing BMW Z4 in a dice to the end for second overall in class. GTC class leaders and eventual winners were over 2 laps in front and therefore uncatchable.

With the front running cars already having crossed the finishing line the cameras from the live TV stream soon panned onto the battle for the remaining GTC podium position between the TDS BMW and the Aston Martin. Despite some great pressure with some very gentlemanly driving from the Dane, Poulsen would ultimately be unable to find a way past the BMW on this relatively narrow circuit but he would at least take a class podium finish just 0.187 seconds behind the BMW.

At last a finish to be proud after having put in so much effort for no reward up until now and a result that was richly deserved too.

Next race is at Le Castellet over the 5-6th September before the season finale at Estoril in mid October.

Photo credits - Massive Motorsport / ELMS

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