Palmer first past the post on Blancpain Endurance Series debutApril 12, 2015
Andrew Palmer’s remarkable start to 2015 continued at Monza on Sunday after finishing first on the road in the opening round of this year’s Blancpain Endurance Series (April 11/12).
However, results remain provisional following the decision by stewards of the meeting to exclude Palmer’s #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for an alleged refuelling restrictor irregularity. GRT Grasser Racing Team has appealed the verdict and is awaiting further clarification.
Nevertheless, it was still an impressive championship debut for the 20-year-old Californian who, alongside co-drivers Fabio Babini and Jeroen Mul, helped the car finish a full 37 seconds clear of its nearest rival first time out in the pan-European sportscar series.
The Lamborghini lined up third on the grid in the hands of Babini, who made light work of getting past Rinat Salikov’s Ferrari 458 Italia for second place before assuming first when Pierre Kaffer came in for his initial pit-stop.
After a relatively long stint from the experienced GT racer, Palmer jumped aboard with a comfortable lead over the #98 McLaren, which was still to pit.
With a near-60-strong entry starting the race, the Spyder Active Athlete demonstrated much maturity through the busy traffic as other cars and classes battled further down the field.
And following a successful exercise in race management from the lead throughout the important middle stint, the Pomona College, CA, student handed over to Mul at the end of lap 60.
Although a Safety Car period threatened the trio’s lead, Mul brought the car home comfortably clear of Rinaldi Racing’s #333 Ferrari to complete what might still be a fairy tale start to Lamborghini’s first-ever factory sportscar programme.
Indeed, the team was somewhat taken aback by the commanding margin after a late Balance of Performance tweak forced them to increase the Huracán GT3’s ride height by one centimetre, which completely altered its balance.
“In terms of pure performance, it was a fantastic result for Lamborghini in Italy, almost like a movie script,” enthused Palmer. “Obviously the result is still pending but, regardless of the outcome, the entire team can be very proud.
“The guys in the team pretty much pulled an all-nighter to get the car ready, especially after the changes to the ride height – it almost felt like a new car! But their hard work really paid off and I had full confidence in the Huracán GT3.
“I was excited ahead of my stint, got myself into the zone, had a flawless pit-stop and then just had to wait in the garage!”
Victory at Monza would make it three wins from as many starts in 2015, albeit racing very different machinery, after also claiming PC class honours at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Daytona 24 Hours.
“I was naturally a little nervous coming off the back of two wins at big events,” admitted the young American. “You really don’t expect another one! But it’s clear we had the pace to win and I hope we can keep the momentum going at Silverstone.”
Round two of the Blancpain Endurance Series takes place on May 23/24 at Silverstone in Great Britain.