31
Dec
2015

Fredrik Lestrup reviewing the DTC Procar championship winning year

Matthias Zobel

Foro: Matthias Zobel

2015, what a year!

I´ve been racing professionally since 2005 and I have had plenty of success, winning the Swedish GT championship twice, winning my class in several endurance races at Nürburgring, Dubai, Barcelona, Mugello, finished top three in MINI Challenge Germany, fulfilled my dream racing V8 Supercars in Australia but the Championship victory in the DTC ADAC Procar 2015 must be the biggest highlight of my career.

DTC ADAC Procar is a German touringcar championship and to win such a championship means a lot to me.

The championship has previously been won by big names like Franz Engstler, Claudia Hürtgen and Vincent Rademecker. To add my name to that list is quite special and to win a national championship status series is not a bad thing.  I am a German champion in racing 2015!

Before the season, my team Besaplast Motorsport by David Dombek Motorsport had a big task in front of themselves building three cars almost from scratch for me, Franjo Kovac and Kai Jordan. The cars were finished just in time for the first race after many weeks of building and preparation. Amazingly the cars were winners straight out of the box!

Foto: Christian Lindner

Foto: Christian Lindner

David Dombek – my team manager and responsible for building three fantastic cars this year!

Race 1 and 2, Oschersleben 25-27 april 2015

The season started off at one of my favourite tracks, Oschersleben. Ive had plenty of success there before in both MINI Challenge and ADAC GT Masters and it is a track I really enjoy.

We had not driven a single lap with the new car before the first practice session, but the preparations by the team really paid off and we were immediately quick. Being on a track I love of course helped.

We were quickest in the free practice and made some adjustments on the car to fix some issues with oversteer in the fast corners.  The car felt really good and it was a lot of fun driving it in the first real session of the year, and be able to start working on the set up right away, not always the case with a brand new car that has not been driven a single meter before the start of the season.

Foto Mathias Zobel

Foto Mathias Zobel

After the practice sessions we had high hopes for the first qualifying, and my engineer Thorsten Isselbächer had done some really good changes to the car. I went 1,8 seconds faster than we managed in practice and took pole for the first race.  A good reward for the hard working Dombek Motorsport team.

The first race of the championship didn’t really go to plan initially.  With a rolling start and no practixe at all doing it in the new car I ended up using the wrong gear and lost momentum. Heiko Hammel seized the moment and overtook me. I managed to stay right behind him and on the second lap I took a chance when he went took a defensive line on the back straight, I  launched an attack on the outside and it worked and I had the better line for the next corner. After that I could focus on my own race and pulled away to take our first victory in DTC ADAC Procar for our new car!

Foto:Christian Lindner

Foto:Christian Lindner

Celebrating the first win of the year

Sunday continued in the same fashion as Saturday with another pole and another race win and this time I had learnt my lesson and made a good start.

This was a perfect start to the year and we left Oschersleben with two race wins and the championship lead.

Race 3 and 4, Zolder 5-7 june 2015

After the perfect weekend at Oschersleben we  had high hopes for Zolder, a track where I´ve never been at before so this was going to be a challenge.

We knew Heiko Hammel was pushing for a victory and he had experience from the track and came to Zolder with an updated car since Oschersleben.

My teammate Kai Jordan was also eager to have success after a disastrous weekend at Oschersleben where his car broke down in the first race and forced him to sit out the Sunday race.

Zolder proved to be a really tight weekend. In the first qualifying my team mate Kai Jordan and I had a tough fight between. On the last lap I managed set a time faster than Kai, but only with 0.032 seconds. We were a whole 0.9 seconds in front of Heiko Hammel though but we knew he would be faster in the race than in qualifying.

The first race was tough, I made a good start and could keep my lead but was chased close by Jordan and Hammel. Every lap was like a qualifying lap. I could start to pull away in the last few laps when Jordan and Hammel started fighting with each other. In the end I finished 6.5 seconds in front of Jordan who crossed the line just ahead of Hammel.

My third stright victory and with Jordan now second in front of Hammel I pulled away in the championship points.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

First time at Zolder and winning 

For the second qualifying on Sunday me and my engineer once again tried some setup changes which helped me improve my qualifying time with 0.7 seconds from the Saturday. Jordan and Hammel also improved but Jordan was 0.9 seconds behind me on second place.

The race turned out to be more eventful than I hoped for. I made a good start and compared to race one I could relatively easy pull away from the challenging Jordan and Hammel.

But with a few laps to go I lost fourth gear coming onto the main straight. Zolder is a track where we use fourth gear on several places around the track so this was tricky. I had to jump from third to fifth on the straights which didn’t help the speed at all but with Jordan and Hammel now a fair way back I could managed the gap and finish first but in the end my gap to second fell from 15 seconds to just 4. Two more laps and I would have lost the lead. If there is something called luck well then that’s just what I had.

Race 5 and 6, Lausitzring, 3-5 july 2015

Zolder was a challenge with tight racing and some mechanical issues. At Lausitzring the car faced a big challenge.

When we arrived at Lausitzring it was high European summer with temperatures up to almost 40 degrees. Our cars has a 1,6 litre turbo engine and we take out almost 300 hp from the small engine and heat is always an issue so this was going to be tricky.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

I have raced at  Lausitzring before and after some small adjustments to the setup of the car we had confidence to fight for victories.But it would not be easy.

We struggled a lot with overheating engines in qualifying on all three cars in the team. Due to the regulations we are not allowed to change anything on the aerodynamics or cooling to help the car so we had to drive with what we had.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

Preparing for the hottest race of the season 

I could take my fifth pole of the year but just 0.175 seconds in front of Milenko Vukovich and his Renault Clio.

The first race was a mess. I made a good start, could pull away but made a mistake at the end of the first race and was passed by Kai Jordan. I could barely follow him because behind him I had almost no cooling and I had to keep a distance so the engine would not overheat. Despite that the engine was running to hot and after a few laps I had to pull aside and just coast for a while to cool it down. Vukovic passed me and when my temperature was ok to drive again I had Hammel directly behind me.

Just a few laps from the end Jordan overheated his engine and retired with a failed engine.  This left me second lbehind Vukovic vut Vukovic also had heating problems and had to slow down so suddenly I was back in the lead and crossed the line in first position.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

The heat was a big factor in this race and with cars tuned this hard everyone was having problems.

For Sunday the team had to change Kai Jordans engine to our only spare so we hoped my engine would still be in one piece after the hard race on Saturday.

Unfortunately it wasn’t and I only managed the out lap for qualifying before my engine failed completely. It turned out it was more damaged after the race on Saturday than we expected and so I had to sit out the rest of qualifying and the second race. It was not fun to be on the side lines and watch the opposition grab points. But despite sitting out the race I was still in the championship lead but only with a few points.

Race 7-8, Salzburg Ring, 24-26 july 2015

With a new engine in the car we were now ready to fight for victories again and the team had done a stellar job to build new engines for both me and Kai Jordan.

Salzburg Ring is another track I really like and it has one of the fastest and toughest corners in Europe – turn 9 where we enter in fifth gear well above 200km/h.

We found a good setup on the car and I could take our sixth pole position for race one, a whole 0.6 seconds in front of Heiko Hammel.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

In the first race I could pull away and take my sixth win out of seven races so far.

The second qualifying proved to be much more difficult. Milenko Vukovic had found good speed in his Renault and was faster than me with just a few minutes left of qualifying. I had used my last set of new tyres and had to go out on a used set so I knew I had to take some risks to steal pole away from him.  I improved my laptime mainly in the fast turn 9 where you don’t want to take too much risk but risk will give you a reward and it did this time. I ended up 0.175 faster than Vukovic.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

The race was one of the best races I have ever done.

I made a good start but was chased by Vukovic and after a few laps he managed to overtake me on the long back straight running up to turn 9. Then we had the best touring car fight I have ever had. We changed position several times, ran side by side for several corners and I ended up out braking him for turn one going out on our last lap. Unfortunately I got a puncture a few corners later and had to limp the car to the finish line. I ended up fourth in the race and grabbed valuable points but after such a great fight for win and taking the lead on the final lap I was disappointed not winning this one.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

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Foto: Christian Lindner

After the race I was called to the stewards and was handed a 1000 Euro fine for not stopping at the marshal points when I had the puncture. A stupid penalty, with a puncture on the final lap you still drive to the finish line and finish the race but in Austria that was apparently means a fine.

Despite all this I got some good points and could actually increase the lead in the championship.

Race 9-10, Nürburgring, 14-16 august 2015

Nürburgring is a track Where I´ve raced a lot at in MINI Challenge, GT Masters, VLN and 24h Nurburgring. But I have not really been that good in the sprint races on the GT track when it has been wet. With the forecast predicting three days of rain I had a chance to make amends for that.

We made some adjustments on the car preparing it for a race weekend in the rain and my engineer Thorsten managed to make the car perfect.

I was fastest on the free practice with 1.8 seconds and went on to take my eight pole position of the year.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

The first race was relaxed and with the speed we had I could just cruise the car to victory and grab my seventh victory of the year. A great job by the team and my engineer made us very strong this weekend and we looked forward to repeat the success on Sunday.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

On Sunday I grabbed another pole and just like Saturday I could cruise away in the lead with fastest lap time every lap.

But on the last lap I had a technical problem and my car went in to fail safe mode cutting almost all power. I tried to reset the ECU but stopping and cutting off the power did not solve the problem and I had to focus on just getting the car to the finish.

I couldn’t drive faster than 30 km/h and it felt like I was standing still. Luckily I had built up a big gap to my competitors but they were coming really fast from behind. The gap was big enough to only let two cars through and despite all this I managed to finish third in the race.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

I was really disappointed that a technical glitch on the last lap would ruin my chance of another victory.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

So it shows that no matter how big your lead you can never relax until you cross the finish line. Still, we left Nürburgring with a win and a third place.

Race 11-12, Sachsenring, 28-30 august 2015

Sachsenring is another one of my favourite tracks, I´ve won races there in MINI Challenge and was one of the fastest cars in GT Masters in 2012 so I was eager to go there after the disappointing second race at Nürburgring.

I had a very comfortable lead in the championship and had a chance to secure the Championship victory if this weekend.

It started out according to plan with pole position for both races. Taking a pole position gives you one point for the championship and I was now closer to achieving our championship goal.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

Relaxing with Reinhard Nehls before the race 

I led the first race from start to finish. All that was left now was a win in the second race and I would be ADAC Procar Champion.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

And so I did! I once again led the race from start to finish and crossed the line as the new Champion!

To win the championship with two weekends to go was very special and I was so proud of my team preparing and building a perfect car.

It felt very special to be German champion with a double victory and I was happy as ever.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

Race 13-14, Zandvoort, 18-20 september 2015

With the title in the bag we were still hungry for more victories and Zandvoort is another track I really enjoy racing at.

We were fast but Heikko Hammel  was a tough competitor this weekend. In qualifying I also had some problems and had to abandon the qualifying after just a few laps. The time I had set was still good enough for second place on the grid for race one.

 

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Foto: Christian Lindner

I made a good start and could pass Hammel on the run down to the first corner. After that I managed to pull away and won the race, my eleventh race win of the year.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

The qualifying for the second race was tight. I managed to take my twelfth pole for the year but just 0.068 seconds in front of Hammel.

Hammel had really upped his game and after a good start I was chased by Hammel the whole race. He was never more than 2,5 seconds behind me but I managed to keep my cool, focus and win the race.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

Race 15-16, Spa 2-4 october 2015

Spa turned out to be the toughest race track for us. We had already won the championship but was still doing everything we could to take more victories and Spa is a legendary track where I’ve never raced at before so I really wanted to win here.

But this time we were struggling with the car. It was really nervous in the fast corners, and Spa has a lot of fast corners! We were also lacking some  top speed on the straights and had some issues with the turbo that forced us to replace the turbo during the weekend.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

In qualifying one I only managed second place behind Heiko Hammel but we knew that with the long straights, the tow you get in the draft would help us be in the fight with Hammel.

Hammel took the start but I took another line for the first corner when he was defending and I managed to overtake him down to Eau Rouge. I kept the lead for a few laps until I made a mistake, had a big over steering moment and Hammel could slip through. After that we changed positions a few times, even exchanged some paint but just a few laps from the end Hammel got problems with his car and I could cruise to victory!

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Foto: Christian Lindner

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Foto: Christian Lindner

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Foto: Christian Lindner

Another great fight but it would have been nice to fight all the way to the end.

Qualifying for the second race was a disaster. I had almost no turbo pressure and could not get a lap time out of the car. I ended up third on the grid for race two.

We had to change the turbo for the race and hoped that would solve the problem.

Unfortunately the last race of the season as an even bigger disaster. On the outlap I had some electrical problems and the car kept cutting off. I tried to restart the car, resetting the ECU but the same problem kept occurring.

I ended up taking the start but after two laps of trying to make the car run cleanly I had to abandon the race.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

Not the best way to end the season, but overall we had to be very happy with what we had achieved.

Winning the championship with two race weekends to go, taking 12 victories from 16 races, 12 pole positions from 16 qualifying sessions and all of this with a newly built car without any testing before the season.

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Foto: Christian Lindner

I have to thank my team, Besaplast Motorsport by David Dombek Motorsport, for the amazing work before and during the season.  This is their victory, without them nothing of this would have been possible.

I also want to thank our sponsors, Besaplast, Licht & Harmonie, LiteBlox, Lightweight, VMAX, Ritzel Autohaus, Pulino Lackierung,

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Fredrik Lestrup

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