Phil Quaife’s first-ever visit to German circuit Oschersleben didn’t bring him much fortune as the Kent-born racing driver and Apex Motorsport suffered a luckless weekend in the FIA GT3 European Championship.
The BRDC Rising Star, who missed the last round of the series at Monza due to a clashing Porsche Carrera Cup GB commitment, returned to the Apex line up to race one of their Jaguar XKRs alongside Stuart Hall. Unfortunately technical problems early in the weekend limited the pairs’ running in practice and left the duo playing catch up, with just a 24th place race 2-finish to show for their troubles.
Having lost the entire first practice session with a driveshaft problem and much of the second with a fuel-feed issue, Quaife did a sterling job in qualifying to line up 16th on the 41-car grid. A fine start propelled him to 10th in the opening stages where he found himself embroiled in a four-car scrap for seventh. Unfortunately, disaster struck on lap 11 when the Tonbridge-based racer hit some oil at the fast Triple left hander and spun into the gravel and retirement.
“We lost so much time in practice that I was still learning the track during qualifying,” Phil said. “Nevertheless 16th wasn’t bad and I made a good start to fight in the top ten. Unfortunately there were a few incidents ahead which resulted in some liquid being spilled on the track, but there were no red and yellow flags waving, so I didn’t slow down. When I hit the oil I was just a passenger.”
Team mate Hall qualified 26th for race 2, just a few tenths of Quaife’s earlier qualifying time. A good start moved the Jaguar through the field and the pair looked set to challenge for a top-ten finish when the Safety Car was called just as Hall pitted to hand to Quaife.
Sadly, as Phil emerged from the pits, the red light came on at the end of the pit lane as the Safety Car appeared at the top of the start/finish straight, meaning his Jaguar was trapped and lost a lap as the pack cruised by.
It was a stroke of bitter luck for the team and although Quaife posted a string of quick consistent lap times during the remainder of the race, he could only recover to finish 24th.
“It was a tough break on what was a tough weekend for us,” reflected Quaife. “Stuart and I didn’t know the circuit and, despite all the team’s hard work, we were always playing catch up due to the amount of time we lost in practice.
“But Oschersleben was never going to be easy for us as the Jaguar XKR is better suited to fast flowing circuits. But now we’ll have a test before the next race and hopefully have much more success at Brno in September.”