Last winter, Felipe Fernández Laser left Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus to move to Frikadelli Racing. Joining Lance David Arnold on the team’s ‘full-Pro’ Porsche 991 GT3R, the German finally return to the top step of the podium in last weekend’s VLN3.
Felipe Fernández Laser knows the taste of champagne, but it’s been a long time since he celebrated victory at the Nürburgring. 2015 was the year when he won his first and up to last weekend only VLN race. That win with Walkenhorst Motorsport three years ago caught the attention of James Glickenhaus, who brought Laser into the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus fold as they embarked on a new adventure with the SCG003c. But haunted by gremlins, the private-built machine never converted speed and potential into gold.
“The last 3 years it was sometimes quite tough,” says Laser.
“The program I was in with Glickenhaus was special. Quite often we were at the front, then suddenly we had issues. It always left me with a heavy heart. As a racing driver you need some successful races, otherwise you fall into somewhat of a hole.”
With Frikadelli Racing he got exactly that. Himself a professional drivers’ coach for Porsche, Laser joined Klaus Abbelen’s Porsche squad to add more wins to his sole victory.
“It’s always Klaus’ decision, at the end of last year he asked me to join, and I think it was the right choice to go with Frikadelli. It wasn’t easy to skip the offer from James Glickenhaus because he always brings a lot of passion, but I could develop as a driver and this was the right time.”
The 60. ADAC ACAS H&R-Cup didn’t start out as planned, however, as an early hot lap turned out to be the team’s only on-track act on Saturday morning.
“We were pushing quite hard in the qualification and I had a small accident. I had to park the car at Breidscheid, the lowest part of the track, and the guys had to come and get me. We all stripped the car of damaged parts and brought it back to the garage. A few seconds before the pitlane closed we got it out and onto the grid. This was a very good sign.”
Despite an awkward steering position and carbon panels that betrayed the use of spare parts, Arnold went on his way to lay down a race pace that brought him at striking distance of the top 3. Running at the front opened up the possibility of attacking the race leading Wochenspiegel Team Monschau Ferrari 488 GT3 for the win.
“In the second stint—my stint—we had a problem where the wheel arch was touching the tyre. We had to decide if we’d stop earlier, which would cost at least 20 or 23 seconds. Near the end when I was in my last stint, I saw the distance was 23 seconds, so our pace was quite equal.
“I did quite a good lap and I got close. Georg [Weiss in the Wochenspiegel Team Monschau Ferrari 488 GT3] was very kind and let me overtake easily. But then, it’s never quite easy because you know you need to keep rolling smoothly—and 8 minutes per lap is quite long.
“I told myself, ‘be smooth, relax’. There was some ‘action’ that I didn’t see in the previous races—I think there were a lot of new participants, some beginners, in this race—so it’s always a bit of a gamble. You need to stay on the safe side and after the small issue in the qualification, it was a big one for my heart. I had goosebumps when I crossed the start-finish line because this is very nice for the team.
“To get P1 feels really special. I’m very happy for the team, because in the 24-hour race we had quite a pace but then just had bad luck. This win is very important for the spirit in the team, and for Klaus and Sabine [Schmitz] as well, I think that is the most important.”
When the season got underway three months ago, Frikadelli Racing was still searching, struggling to find the right balance. Outfitted on new Dunlop tyres, the speed slowly emerged.
“We had to sort out a lot of things; it’s our first year with Dunlop. I think this is the first season Dunlop are working together with Porsche—the first time since six or seven years when there also was a relationship—and now we’re the first team competing with Dunlop. It was absolutely the right decision of Frikadelli.
“You have to sort out different things: tyre-wise, braking-wise, suspension-wise—it’s all different. Now we are quite close to be a very professional team. They worked very hard over the winter and did a brilliant job.”
His second VLN victory scored, Laser is eager to put himself to the real test when the works teams return.
“There were just 13 teams in the GT3 class today, but the pace was high. The Ferraris are very strong and so is the rest. I’m looking forward to the big guys, the factory teams, coming back, and then we’ll play this game again and we’ll see what happens. Our pace was good and that’s important.”