The Asia-based Eurasia Motorsport team is proud to have hit all of its targets on its maiden European Le Mans Series (ELMS) outing, finishing fifth in the 4 Hours of Silverstone (10-11 April).
Spring had sprung in Northamptonshire as the first of two ELMS free practice sessions began on Friday (10 April) morning and the Eurasia crew had a spring in their step following a trouble-free and entirely positive run.
Nick De Bruijn from The Netherlands completed the majority of laps, with mainland Chinese driver Kevin Pu Jun Jin notching up five tours, all with the view of acclimatising to the unfamiliar 5.9km Silverstone Circuit.
A 1m53.185s was sufficient for eighth on the timesheets at the conclusion of FP1 and Eurasia Motorsport was wholly satisfied with its drivers’ speed and the reliability of its ORECA 03R Nissan LMP2, having concerned itself with race preparation while others chased single-lap pace for qualifying.
There was a sense that the team was on the front foot going into 90-minute FP2 session and de Bruijn and Pu Jun Jin used their seat time to learn the intricacies of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit and refine the setup of Eurasia’s striking ORECA prototype.
It was another straightforward session for the Asia-based operation, traffic proving troublesome for the drivers and intermittent pit-to-car radio issues a minor irritation, but never hampering progress.
Sadly, Saturday’s (11 April) weather was typically British and, while the sun shone for the start of ELMS qualifying, track conditions contrasted what the drivers had experienced the previous day.
As a result, the 20-minute LMP qualifying session was a complete voyage of discovery for both de Bruijn and Pu Jun Jin, but two committed flying laps each resulted in a best time of 1m56.216s, putting Eurasia sixth on the grid.
It was up to de Bruijn to start the ELMS 4 Hours of Silverstone on Saturday afternoon and the Dutchman benefited from early contact involving two of Eurasia’s LMP2 rivals as the ELMS field surged through Abbey for the first time, safely navigating his way through the chaos to hold fourth overall as the race was neutralised behind the Safety Car.
The four-hour contest was soon back under green-flag conditions and, while de Bruijn was initially strong and consistent, the Dutchman’s pace was compromised when contact with a lapped BMW resulted in front-left damage.
Impaired aerodynamics caused de Bruijn to fall behind Michael Lyons and Oswald Negri Junior, having done his utmost to fend off the latter in a fiercely-fought, sometimes physical battle.
However, a smooth ‘splash and dash’ followed and de Bruijn ran his own race in seventh while trying to stretch his fuel window during the second phase of his two-hour stint, before passing the reins to Chinese co-driver Kevin Pu Jun Jin.
The order shifted as strategies played out and Pu Jun Jin made use of a Safety Car intervention by boxing for fuel and bodywork repairs at the end of lap 76.He was faultless during his spell behind the wheel and this preceded a final 45-minute flourish for de Bruijn, who eventually took the chequered flag in a highly respectable fifth position.
“Finishing in the top five was the team’s target and I’m very pleased to achieve that,” said de Bruijn. “We did really well at the beginning of the race, but I was then struck while lapping a BMW and the contact damaged the car’s aerodynamics. That compromised our pace and we lost a lot of time, but, while that was unfortunate, we stuck it out, fuel conservation went well and we kept on our original strategy. I was able to take it easy in the final stint and Eurasia Motorsport gave us a very solid car on its European Le Mans Series debut. We will continue chasing top-five finishes and hopefully snatch a podium or two.”
Pu Jun Jin said: “I’m happy with fifth position and I hope we can keep improving and reducing the gap to the leaders. We have a lot of work to do, but there were some collisions and Nick (de Bruijn) and I were unable to keep pace as a result. My stint was quite straightforward and I think my lap times were very good and consistent. I feel I did a good job and I have to compliment Eurasia Motorsport on its efforts.”
Eurasia Motorsport Team Principal, Mark Goddard, concluded: “We hit every target this weekend; we wanted to qualify in the top six and, most of all, finish the race. We certainly haven’t disgraced ourselves on our maiden race in Europe and I think both Nick (de Bruijn) and Kevin (Pu Jun Jin) drove very well to overcome the handling issues caused by the damaged bodywork. This is another step on the ladder to the top after preparatory campaigns in the Asian Le Mans Series and I’m very happy. There are always ‘first-night nerves’ when you enter a new series and it should be onwards and upwards from here.”