Honda could've been "big challenger" without red flag
Honda's sole factory NSX GT3 Evo could've been a "big challenger" for Spa 24 Hours victory without the lengthy red flag period in the morning hours, believes Bertrand Baguette.
The Japanese manufacturer secured a strong sixth-place finish in the rain-hit Belgian classic, as Baguette and his teammates Renger van der Zande and Mario Farnbacher recovered from qualifying a lowly 33rd to score vital Intercontinental GT Challenge points.
Worsening rain meant the race was halted for almost six hours in the morning, and Baguette believes the stoppage came at the wrong time for Honda, as the NSX was showing excellent pace in the wet conditions that could have allowed it to climb even higher.
"I’m thrilled with the result, when you look at where we started," commented Baguette. "Thirty-third to sixth is a very good performance in such a tough endurance race.
"When the track was dry, there were lots of fast cars, but when it got damp or wet, the NSX GT3 Evo just came alive. We had so much speed and if we hadn’t had the long red flag, I think we could really have been a big challenger.
"All three of us drivers were clean on the track and the strategy was very good. We suffered from some pretty bad understeer because of the damage we took early on when I was hit [by the #762 R-Motorsport Aston Martin at La Source], but I don’t think it made a huge difference.”
IMSA regular Van der Zande managed to get the #30 NSX up to fifth in the closing stages, albeit losing a lap in two last-minute safety car periods, but lost out to the ROWE Racing Porsche of Mathieu Jaminet in an entertaining last-lap scrap.
"When I got in the car for the last stint, the team told me, ‘just go for it’, so I did," recalled the Dutchman of the closing stages. "It was flat-out all the way to the finish.
"It was pretty hot work because we lost the air conditioning and the drinks bottle function for the last five hours, but you just run on adrenaline and as I saw the positions come down from 12, 11, 10, nine, it just motivated me more.
"The strategy was spot-on and the support from the team and my co-drivers has been fantastic. We all deserve this result for the big effort since qualifying.”
Alessandro Mariani, boss of the JAS Motorsport team that ran the Honda, said he was delighted with the NSX's performance in its second Spa appearance, following on from a low-key 2018 debut in which it contested the Pro-am class.
“I’m incredibly happy for everybody involved in this project," said Mariani. "We came here last year with a pro-am line-up and gained experience. This year we came with a fully pro line-up with a target to finish strongly, and we’ve done just that.
"We tried a very clever strategy, which was ruined a bit by the red flag because those six hours was our time to really make up ground. But everyone did a great job."
#30 Honda Team Motul Honda Acura NSX GT3 2019: Mario Farnbacher, Bertrand Baguette, Renger van der Zande
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
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