Phil Quaife helped CRS Racing celebrate their final Le Mans Series appearance in fairytale fashion thanks to a hard-fought first GTE-Am podium finish at Sunday’s season finale in Estoril.
The Kent racer’s second position alongside regular team-mates Adam Christodoulou and Klaas Hummel at the former Portuguese Grand Prix venue was the result of impeccable team work behind the wheel of their Ferrari 430 throughout the six-hour race.
Good fortune has seldom shone on the #82 crew this season with a number of issues preventing the trio from already amassing a significant trophy haul. Free practice suggested this weekend might see the end of that luckless streak however as the car proved fast and consistent straight out of the box, allowing Phil to unleash a stellar lap qualifying to line up third in class.
Sunday’s race saw Hummel produce an excellent opening stint before handing the car to Phil whose pace was such that he could enjoy a fierce battle with the newer Pro class GT entries. With the team opting to single stint its drivers, Christodoulou got his chance just an hour and 15 minutes later before Phil was once more back behind the wheel.
It was during the next hour or so that Quaife really demonstrated his prowess in a GT car by first hunting down, then hounding and finally pressuring the AF Corse Ferrari into a mistake. Although unable to catch the leading Porsche, which proved better suited to Estoril’s tight stop/start nature, his imperious drive did lay the foundations for Christodoulou’s subsequent run to the chequered flag.
Phil and the team were understandably thrilled to score their first rostrum of the season before CRS Racing withdraw from frontline competition to concentrate on the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 development programme in 2012.
Phil Quaife: “It’s been such a fantastic weekend and to score a podium at the final race is just reward for the team’s strong but at times luckless season. The car’s base set-up was good from the start and reacted positively to any changes we made in practice. The consistency of our race pace then allowed us to really attack and eventually come home second. It’s such an amazing feeling to be on the podium, especially before the team disbands.
“Overall, this season hasn’t been quite what I was expecting or hoping for. We should have been in the championship fight from the word go but it didn’t work out like that. There were a few chances to score podiums that for one reason or another we weren’t able to take. Luck hasn’t been with us in 2011 but at least this is a great way to end the season. Finally, I’d like to thank Adam and Klaas for their fantastic efforts, as well as everyone at CRS Racing who have worked tirelessly over the past two years.”
Although Phil’s 2011 Le Mans Series campaign came to an end on Sunday, he will be amongst familiar faces at Silverstone on October 8/9 when he contests the Blancpain Endurance Series finale at the wheel of the squad’s McLaren MP4-12C GT3.