Eurasia Motorsport takes a lot of positive feelings away from the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring, having led and shown top-four form in the race with Nick de Bruijn and Kevin Pu Jun Jin (11-12 July).
De Bruijn and his Chinese teammate were satisfied to be within 1.3s of the first-placed JOTA Sport entry in free practice at the picturesque Austrian circuit and believed there was more to come if the all-Asian Eurasia Motorsport crew managed to counter turn-in understeer with an alteration to the front aerodynamics.
Happily, the setup changes had a positive effect on the handling and Eurasia Motorsport sat in third on the timing screens for most of FP2 with a best time of 1m25.146s, only to be pipped by those conducting qualifying simulations in the final throes of the session.
As a result, hopes and expectations were high heading into qualifying on Sunday (12 July) morning, but traffic, yellow flag conditions and red-flag stoppages played against the team and it could only muster the ninth fastest time before the clock ticked down to zero.
De Bruijn was elected to take the start of the ELMS 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring later that day and he ran a mature and considered opening stint to move from ninth to fifth overall as his LMP2 rivals faltered.
The understeer that hampered free practice had been completely dialled out for the race and that was evident by Eurasia’s speed and consistency during de Bruijn’s opening stint, which was cut short when a Safety Car intervention spurred the clever team strategists to carry out a reactive driver-change.
Quick thinking from the Eurasia pit wall propelled the team to the top of the leaderboard and Pu Jun Jin’s pace and racecraft was strong as he managed a steadily decreasing margin over the JOTA Sport machine of Simon Dolan as the race entered the second hour.
The top two in LMP2 were soon running nose-to-tail and Pu Jun Jin from mainland China obeyed orders to simply keep to the racing line, successfully negotiating lapped traffic to keep his rival at bay for almost an hour.
“You’re driving the race of your life,” exclaimed Eurasia over the pit-to-car radio, delighted with their driver’s performance. The lead was finally relinquished when an error was made into the final turn, just prior to a scheduled fuel stop, but Eurasia was satisfied to be rooted in third position en route to the next driver-change on lap 88.
A pair of stop-go penalties for improving under yellow flag conditions and a pit lane speed infringement and three Safety Car interventions proved costly for Eurasia, as it lost two laps on the LMP2 leaders and was relegated to eighth overall, where it remained to the finish.
Nevertheless, Eurasia Motorsport and its drivers leave the Red Bull Ring knowing progress has been made and that eight position isn’t a true reflection of the team’s speed and ability.
Both de Bruijn and Pu Jun Jin performed remarkably well throughout the four-hour contest, the strategy and pit stops were sublime and only untimely Safety Car interventions and penalties stood between the Asian team and a fourth place result.
Pu Jun Jin said: “I agree that I drove the race of my life and I felt I did a good job at the beginning of my stint, as I was able to keep up the pace, make my way through traffic and I was very focused while pushing hard. My physical fitness was a problem during the final 20 laps, as I didn’t have the strength and endurance to support the speed, so this is one area I will have to improve. This is my first time here at the Red Bull Ring and I think I did well to familiarise with the track, although I still have problems with Turns 5 and 6. I feel positive about my progress generally and I believe Eurasia Motorsport can be within the top four – we keep improving and a fourth place was possible today, so I’m a little disappointed, but I move on to Circuit Paul Ricard with confidence.”
Eurasia Motorsport Team Principal, Mark Goddard, added: “We were very unlucky with penalties and ill-timed Safety Car deployments and it’s a shame the race result doesn’t reflect the team’s true potential and the progress we have made. It has actually been quite a positive day; we led the race for some time, the pace was there, the pit stops were very quick and this still feels like a step forward. Kevin (Pu Jun Jin) has definitely progressed, as his lap times and the way he dealt with traffic was remarkable, keeping the eventual race winner behind him for a long time. We’re getting better with each event and we look forward to Circuit Paul Ricard, where we won’t have the disadvantage of our drivers having to learn an unfamiliar circuit. Eighth position is a disappointing result, but we take positive feelings from the whole event.”