There were a wide range of emotions for Bullitt Racing over the 24 Hours of Le Mans race week, as the Spanish-based squad took part in two Road to Le Mans support races that make up part of the Michelin Le Mans Cup championship.
First there was expectancy, then a range of disappointment levels throughout the first 55-minute event, until finally there was joy – tinged with a little regret – as the team continued its podium streak with a fine third position, this time at the blue riband event at Circuit de la Sarthe.
The first race was the one that got away; the one that brought disappointment. Practice and qualifying had gone perfectly, with the #99 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Stephen Pattrick and Valentin Hasse-Clot topping the time sheets on each occasion, the latter claiming the pole position for Thursday’s first race by an astonishing 1.6-seconds.
Starting from the pole position, Stephen steered clear of the inevitable first lap trouble, but lost ground in the process to begin the second tour in fourth position. Pressing on in the Aston, he pitted to hand over to Valentin on lap five, emerging from the pit lane in the same position.
There was a catch, however, with an error hitting the speed limit on pitlane entry, and that meant that Valentin would soon serve a drive-through penalty and with a 35-seconds lost in the process, the hopes of a race win were dashed. “It was silly, I’m annoyed at myself for the mistake on entering the pits,” Stephen admitted at the time. “I was doing something with the radio and then I was in the pit lane too quickly. “
With slow zones throughout the race in the first sector, Valentin was unable to extract his raw pace until the penultimate lap where he recorded the quickest GT3 lap of the event but had to be content with seventh position at the end of the 13-lap race. “I passed the [Team WRT] Audi, which was right at the front, so I believe we would have won the race by a good margin,” Valentin said of the first race.
Better was to come Saturday morning with Stephen lining up seventh on the grid for the second Road to Le Mans event. Once the race was underway, he was able to progress quickly up to fifth position, one he retained before pitting as soon as the pit window opened. Job complete, Stephen handed the Vantage over to Valentin, who exited the pits in the same position.
With a Safety Car leading the field, hopes were high that with five seconds covering the top five cars, the race victory was there for the taking given the raw pace of driver and car. As the laps ticked by this possibility dwindled until with two laps to go, the field was set free and Valentin could charge on.
He quickly dispatched the #52 Spirit of Race Ferrari, to run fourth and then made a clan pass on Fabio Babini’s Porsche to claim third. Had there been one more lap, this could have been a run to victory, but the chequered flag waved on the race weekend and Bullitt Racing secured a strong ‘consolation’ third position and Le Mans Podium position.
Having finished seventh and third, the team head to the next round at Monza third in the championship chase with 45 points secured.
Steffan Pattrick, Team Manager
“It has been a fantastic event and a real honour for our team to compete on the legendary Le Mans circuit for the first time. The first race result hurt, as that was there for the taking and we just hope that it is not too costly in the championship come Portimao. The second race was good, but again, it was one that we could have won. The team did a fantastic job in preparing the car and executed perfect races. We now look forward to Monza, where we aim to continue our podium position form for the fourth straight event.”
“Getting third is a great consolation and I am enormously proud of the team, and everyone involved. It’s a case of ‘should have’ and ‘could have’ but we must wait for the Le Mans Cup victory. For me, we are here to win, and I say that humbly; we recognise that there are other great drivers and fantastic teams, but we race to win. Of course, it’s still a good result to get third, but had the Safety Car not been out so long and with Valentin’s pace we could have taken the chequered flag first, but that’s racing.”
“We really showed that Bullitt Racing is here and that we can, and we will win races very soon. In the second race, Stephen did a great job in the opening stint to bring us closer to the leading pack and then when I came out on track, we were under Safety Car procedures, which was unfortunately for too long. Then we had a two-lap race to the end, and I was able to overtake for P3 and had we had one more lap, we would have won that race.”