Team Russia By Barwell scores first podium in Paul Ricard 6-Hour thriller
23 June 2015
The Team Russia By Barwell squad came oh-so-close to its first win at Paul Ricard on Saturday, in the Blancpain Endurance Series 6-Hour/1000kms 'race into the night'. There was just 0.6 seconds between the Am Cup winning Ferrari and our BMW Z4 at the chequered flag, after an epic fight for victory that had lasted for most of the race. A fantastic second place for drivers Leo Machitski and Timur Sardarov was still rich reward after great performances from them, and an excellent race strategy from the Barwell Motorsport engineers plus super-slick pit work from the pit stop tyre and fuel crew.
Leo pulled off his customary tigering opening stint, where he overtook in excess of 15 cars in all classes, and moved the Team Russia By Barwell Z4 up into 2nd in the Am Cup. Timur then took over the reins and consolidated this position, fending off the advances of the third-placed Ferrari of Pons/Barthez. We then took advantage of a Safety Car period to bring Timur into the pits for a full ref-fuel and tyre change, where he handed back to Leo. Machitski then became embroiled in a three-way fight for the lead, with the two pace-setting cars of the Am Cup championship, the Ferrari of Mancini/Birzhin/Mastronardi and the Ojjeh/Grotz BMW Z4. Around the two-hour mark he moved ahead of the Ferrari to take the class lead, and the pattern was set for the remainder of the race.
Timur did a terrific job in his second stint against the fastest driver in the Ferrari, who as expected re-took the lead but wasn't able to pull away significantly. At the same time he soaked up the pressure from the Boutsen Ginion racing BMW behind, coping extremely well with the 'traffic' caused by having 60 cars racing on the same track! Unfortunately we were dealt a cruel blow towards the end of Timur's stint, when the Safety Car came out again just as the overall race leader had passed him. This allowed the leading Ferrari to escape and gain almost one complete lap on us before the field was released again.
By the time Leo got back in the car for his final double-stint over the last 2 hours of the race, the gap to the leading Ferrari was still well over half a lap, and it looked like our focus was more going to be on consolidating second ahead of the rival Z4. Machitski, however, had other ideas...! With an hour left he had got the gap down to under a minute, and was now closing in on the Ferrari at an average of two seconds per lap. This gave the whole team a hugely exciting final hour as we watched Leo relentlessly hunt down his 'prey'! The Ferrari squad soon realised the threat and their driver tried to respond by upping his pace, but Leo then upped his pace and as he entered the final lap of the race the gap was just under three seconds...but our Z4 had a very fired up Russian behind the wheel! The cars entered the final corner just yards apart, but the Ferrari won the drag race to the finish line and held on to win by the slightest of margins. We just needed two more corners...!
Mark Lemmer, Team Principal: "It was a great all-round team performance from our Team Russia By Barwell drivers and crew. We were in the hunt for the lead for most of the 1,000kms! It was a starring drive by Leo, with Timur now really starting to realise his potential with a very strong drive as well."