That was after two safety car interventions bunched the field in the closing 30 minutes, reducing a gap of more than 20 seconds between the leading two cars down to just five, although Tandy had been 43s adrift with an hour left on the clock.
But Tandy said he felt the caution periods actually harmed his chances, as they created dense traffic to clear, while mitigating the advantage he appeared to enjoy in the drizzly conditions that defined the closing stages of a stop-start race.
“I got in for the last three hours, and I knew the situation,” reflected Tandy. “I was hoping for either rain or mixed conditions, because in the dry you can’t catch one minute 30 seconds, whereas in the wet there’s a chance to do something.
“It was drizzling, and you can go five or eight seconds quicker or slower lap-to-lap. So I thought there was a chance – I thought if on the radio [Estre] was told I was closing by four seconds a lap, it puts a bit of pressure on them. This was the plan.
“But when the penultimate full-course yellow came out, and then the safety car, and I saw the line of traffic, I knew we were done. Most of them were Pro cars, and there were 10 in the queue, so at this point the race was over. It ended the race.”
Asked if he felt he could have caught and passed Estre without the safety car periods, Tandy replied: “I’m sure Kevin was managing the gap and managing his risk level accordingly. But you never know what could have happened.
“By pushing and keeping heat in the tyres, you can gain 10 seconds a lap. When conditions are like that you never give up, because anything can happen. This was my mentality.”
#998 ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Frédéric Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Tandy however conceded that the GPX Porsche gained the upper hand with the timing of its mandatory five-minute technical pitstop during the night-time hours.
Estre reacted to Ferrari driver Alessandro Pier Guidi’s crash at Blanchimont with around 14 hours to run by pitting the GPX car and completing the stop under a full-course yellow.
“We dropped time during the night that we could never get back once the race went green again,” said Tandy. “I had no idea about that, I thought we were good for the win.
“I thought we were fighting the #1 [Audi] and the #4 [Mercedes], not the #20 [Porsche].”
New GPX team earns plaudits
Dubai-based team GPX secured victory in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup blue-riband event in only its fourth outing in the championship, its deal to run Porsche factory drivers Estre, Christensen and Lietz having only come together in mid-June.
Estre paid tribute to the team helmed by Pierre-Brice Mena, himself a former GT3 driver and now a regular in historic Formula 1 racing, for overcoming its more illustrious rivals.
“For sure the team did great,” said Estre. “It’s their fourth race with a Porsche in Blancpain, they are new, also for us to come a bit last-minute with a new engineer, a new data engineer and three new drivers, a new race for them. It felt really good.
“I think they can be very proud of what they achieved competing against ROWE, which won this race [in 2016 with BMW], and Black Falcon [which finished third]. They did an awesome job.”
#20 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Richard Lietz