Barwell Motorsport achieved what would seem to be the impossible after finishing on the podium, in arguably one of the toughest classes in the world of GT racing, after starting from the pit lane for the six-hour race at Paul Ricard last weekend. The third round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup saw the Surrey based outfit take their #78 VI Holding/Vimetco Extrusion/The Calais Wine Superstore backed Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to the South of France, where Leonid Machitski, Marco Mapelli and Phil Keen would compete in the 1000km ‘Into the Night’ race around Le Castellet. After an incredible race full of nail biting and frustrating moments, Phil Keen brought the Lamborghini Huracan home 3rd in Pro Am and 12th overall out of 57.
Despite all three drivers posting very impressive lap times in their qualifying sessions, including Keen finishing P6 overall in Q2, the #78 Huracan would have to start from the pit lane, in 56th position, for the six-hour race. The cancellation of lap times was the penalty given to the team, for having to carry out an unscheduled engine change before qualifying.
Leo took the start of round three and after pain stakingly having to watch the entire grid pass before he could leave the pit lane, the Russian AM driver was on a mission to work his way up the order. Machitski wasted no time in doing this as by the end of lap two, he had already made up eight positions and continued his impressive lap times throughout his stint, until he brought the #78 Huracan in for the first driver change, 15 places higher than he started! This was very similar to his performance last year at Paul Ricard in the Barwell BMW Z4 GT3, where he finished 2nd in the AM class, a mere one second away from winning the race.
A full course yellow procedure was implemented due to a monstrous fire from the #77 Attempto Racing Porsche, which the team tactically used to pit under and swap Machitski for Mapelli. It was not long before the young Pro driver was charging through the field and with the decision to double stint Marco, he was able to get his head down and climb up the order. During Mapelli’s stint, a second full course yellow was called after the Team Parker Bentley hit the armco, and the Barwell team called Marco in for a fuel only stop, meaning he could complete this under the lower reference time and gain a massive advantage on his rivals who did not pit. The team watched the timing screens in amazement as from 42nd position, Mapelli had made his way up to 1st in class and 7th overall, an incredible achievement by the Italian driver and team strategy. The Barwell Huracan suffered a set back around the half way mark when the left rear tyre picked up a puncture and Marco had to pit for a replacement, dropped us to 5th in class and 19th overall. But they were far from beaten yet!
Mapelli handed over to Keen for his first stint and Phil did a fantastic job to work his way back up to 2nd in class before handing back to Leo. Again, Bronze graded Machitksi completed a great stint as he used his excellent race craft to work his way around the slower cars on circuit and he even had some fantastic encounters with the higher graded Pro drivers! By holding his ground in class, Leo was able to hand the Huracan back to Keen in 3rd position. Phil then went on to make up another six positions overall and as the chequered flag dropped at midnight, Keeny crossed the line 3rd in class and 12th overall, a truly amazing achievement by the entire team.
Many thanks to our sponsors, without whom these great results would not be possible, Vimetco Extrusion, VI Holding and The Calais Wine Superstore for their support.