Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sepang 12 Hours: Podium joy for B-Quick Racing at Sepang 12 Hours

B-Quick Racing Press Release

When Henk Kiks gunned the #26 Audi R8 LMS Cup across the start-finishline at Sepang International Circuit for the final time, just a couple of minutes past midnight on Sunday morning, the eruption of joy from the entire crew on the B-Quik Racing pitwall certainly matched any other celebrations going on up and down the pitlane.

This was our first endurance race, we had faced off everything that the MMER Sepang 12 Hours could throw at us – and it really did throw everything at us – and we were still around at the finish. Bagging the second step of the podium was simply the icing on a very big cake.

The team, which was founded just five years ago and is part of Thailand’s B-Quik Co. Ltd., had so far only contested races of no longer than 40 minutes duration while this was also B-Quik Racing's first ever race outside its home country. It was also the first time our three drivers had shared a car.

And it doesn't get any tougher or more competitive in South East Asia than the MMER Sepang 12 Hours. Our pit crew is drawn from the company’s staff and together over the last few seasons they have grown into a close-knit group that aims to operate to international motorsports standards. This was the first time B-Quik Racing had undertaken pitstops, swapped drivers, refuelled or even changed discs and pads during a race and all the scheduled stops ran like clockwork.

The team's close season decision to upgrade to an Audi R8 LMS Cup for 2014 gave us the perfect platform with which to enter the highly competitive GTC class in the MMER Sepang 12 Hours – although we suffered a major setback to our pre-race preparations after the car required a brand new chassis following damage incurred during the last round of Thailand Super Series, held at Bira International Circuit in July. The new car was in fact built up in just tens days before the race.

Heading up the driving strength was team leader Henk J. Kiks, B-Quik CEO and the force behind the growth of B-Quik Racing. Two newcomers to the team, Switzerland’s Dario Garcia and Australia’s Daniel Bilski, joined him.

The former driver actually retired from racing five years ago but was tempted to return for this challenge and it really would be a challenge for Dario as, apart from the obvious ‘rustiness’, he had never been to Sepang Circuit, never driven in hot and humid conditions before or even raced a GT type car as almost all his career had been spent in single-seaters. Daniel, meanwhile, brought with him experience of Audi’s R8 LMS Cup as well as Asian racing, so his input in setup direction would be invaluable. So, all in all, we had a good mix of three competent, safe and of course quick amateur drivers to keep things steady inside the cockpit.

The race was eventful to say the least and while we demonstrated that we could consistently set the fastest pace in the GTC class for the whole 12 hours, irrespective of changing track conditions and inexperience of night driving, we were forced to constantly battle back into contention following issues. However the team rose to and overcame every challenge that this tough race threw at us.

For the 1200 Saturday midday start Daniel was in the #26 car for the first stint and he enjoyed a smooth, clean getaway to maintain our P2 on the grid throughout the first lap. By lap 5 he was impressively into the lead and the Australian then began to edge out a steady gap over our only close rival, the #777 Porsche, the two front running cars having left the main pack trailing.

However, after 50 minutes we took our first knock as Daniel was clipped on the right hand rear by a lapping GT3 car which tipped him into a spin and caused an off track moment. That necessitated an unscheduled early pitstop as the damage was checked out by the mechanics while grass and gravel was removed from the wheel well.

Henk was in for the second stint but as the Dutchman left the pits it was with a deficit of a couple of minutes due to the extended stop and that dropped the #26 car to the back of the GTC field. He then dug deep, piled on the pressure, posted the fastest laptimes amongst the top five runners and fought his was back to P1 over the next hour and a quarter before handing over to Dario. The Swiss driver continued to apply pressure as we looked to build up a cushion at the front; however a trip into the gravel for Dario just on the two and a half hour mark cost several more minutes as the 'Bumblebee' was towed out.

That put the #26 car almost three laps off the lead, although still comfortably in P2. The drivers responded superbly over the next hour and a half to claw that lap track position back and finally the black and yellow car moved into the race lead once again.

The ability of all three drivers to consistently turn in the pace setting lap times amongst the GTC field was a real platform for us to build on. With everything now running like clockwork at B-Quik Racing, the race crossed the halfway mark and the darkness enveloped Sepang while the drivers continued to post the fastest laptimes. The pace was there and everything was looking very promising.

Then suddenly we were on the backfoot again. One of the real light units failed – it’s mandatory that they’re fully operational during a night race – and the crew set about tackling the problem during a routine pitstop. The electrical issue was traced through the wiring loom and repaired, but not before it cost us 6 laps and that left the #26 car well adrift of the leader, although we again returned to the track action in P2.

The drivers dug in once again and pushed – all three on the limit through the darkness on what was now a slippery and slowing track. By the 10-hour mark we had clawed a couple of laps back but the deficit to the #777 car simply wasn’t bridgeable.

During the final hour an oil warming light came into play and while the data indicated that it was most likely a faulty sensor the team backed off the pace as the car occupying P3 was almost 10 laps adrift of us. With the pitwork running smoothly there were no further dramas and we came home as runners up, a result that went far beyond the team's pre-race ambitions – and dreams.

Henk had said before the start of the event that the focus would be all about learning, the team was raw to endurance race although our ambition is sky high. So finishing was the priority. We did that certainly, but to finish and to get the result we did was a huge reward for everyone in the team, especially as we were one of the smallest outfits in the Sepang paddock.

Now B-Quik Racing will consider entering further endurance races in the future. In the highly charged emotions of the jubilant post race atmosphere in the garage Henk commented. "I think it's the start of something new that we're going to keep on trying, I think we all liked it."

The next appointment for B-Quik Racing will be Race 5 & 6 of Thailand Super Series 2014, which will take place at the brand new Buriram United International Circuit on November 1-2. As usual Henk will be driving the #26 Audi R8 LMS Cup in Super Car Class 2-GTM.

Henk J. Kiks: “It's a really fantastic result, especially as it's our first time entering an endurance race. This is one of the toughest endurance races, probably in the world, it's not a 24 hour race for sure but a 12 hour race in Sepang in the heat is very hard work and there are such big demands on the car and the crew and the tyres and despite that we finished on the podium first time out. It's not an easy game endurance racing, there's an awful lot of work to it and of course we had a lot of preparation to do. After what happened in Thailand last month we needed a new chassis for the car, which has been rebuilt by the B-Quik boys, and once the race got going there isn't any respite, there's lots of small stuff that needs to be sorted. I'm so incredibly proud of my boys that they can do all this. It's the first time ever we have done pit stops and of course for B-Quik Racing it's a good result, for the boys it's good, so a great race for everyone. I would also say that the organisers did a great job, this is a very special race and it's been great to be part of it for the first time.”

Daniel Bilski: “It was an incredibly challenging race but I have to say a huge thank you to the entire B-Quik team, every person in the team just poured their heart and soul into this event, not just for today but for the whole week leading up. The planning, the organising, the strategy, the development, and building the car in only ten days was extraordinary and they gave us a great car for the race. Dario did a superb job and Henk drove fantastically. I'm very proud to reach the podium and for the first endurance race for B-Quik it's an extraordinary achievement for the entire

team. Very proud of the result we got. It was a very tough race but everyone handled it very well.”

Dario Garcia: “It was a little bit stressful for me at the beginning but I never stopped learning all week as everything, the car, the track, was new so the race really was a continuation of that learning. In my first stint I wasn't confident at all and I made a mistake but then I got up to the right pace, I got continuity while keeping on learning and getting into a good pace for me. It was very difficult at the beginning to stay an hour or more in the car but then I got to a proper pace and I could keep on my lap times without tiring and I definitely got to where I was looking to get which was learning about the car and finding the pace so I was very happy, I'm so happy with result. This is endurance; if you finish that's the most important thing. We lost P1 through a tiny problem but that's also endurance, that's part of it, were all happy to have got this result.”

Photo credit: B-Quik Racing