The Hilmer Motorsport team arrived in Spain with three rookie drivers for its first ever GP3 event. Russian Ivan Taranov retired on the final lap of race one but was classified 22nd, and finished the tricky race two in 20th. Canadian Nelson Mason finished 15th in race one but retired on lap three in race two. Dutch lady Beitske Visser finished both races in her first time in a GP3 car having not tested at all during the winter, taking 19th in race one and 15th in race two.
A gearbox issue affected Taranov during qualifying that restricted him to only five laps and saw him qualify 25th. He would also suffer a drive-through penalty in race two through no fault of his own. His mechanic was working on his car for too long before the start meaning a trip through the pits for the young Russian.
”It was my first race weekend in GP3 Series and I had to learn a lot,” said Taranov. “Together with the engineers was made some progress over the weekend in terms of the set-up of the car. With the data that my team-mates and I gathered we could improve the cars and be quicker. I have also worked on my driving and was able to get closer to my more experienced team-mates.
“In the races I was a bit unlucky, but if we continue to develop as we do now, in the next weekend we should have better results. Everything is new for me in this championship, and I work with my team-mates and engineers to get used to everything quicker. We work together well and everyone in the team helps me a lot. I am also really grateful to my mechanics that have done a great job during the weekend.”
Canadian Mason was a last minute signing for the team but did test with Hilmer pre-season. He along with Taranov have been confirmed for the whole season. He qualified 20th on Saturday, but was given a three-place grid-drop penalty for not having his tyre valve caps fitted properly during free practice that meant he started 23rd. He would climb to 17th in race one, but was forced to retire in race two when hit by another driver.
”I would really like to thank the team and my crew for this weekend,” said Mason. “We were really struck by bad luck: a tyre failure early in practice and a tough qualifying where I didn’t maximize the tyres. We had a strong first race on Saturday, passing our way up six spots to 17th, but our hard luck struck us again in the second race on Sunday.
“I know we will continue to get stronger and I cannot wait for Austria. I can’t thank my family, my sponsors and Hilmer Motorsport enough for their support!”
For Visser, it was her first time in a GP3 car, and she got the best result of the weekend for the team. She qualified 24th in her first qualifying session, and then took a 19th place finish in race one before her solid race in the damp race two to finish 15th. For the time being Visser was only scheduled to race in Spain, but her performance might open the door for further opportunities in 2014, especially as the GP3 Series does not clash with her Formula Renault 3.5 Series commitments.
“It was not an easy weekend, both for the team and me,” said Visser. “The team was new and also I never drove the car before, but during the weekend we all made a lot of progression. I think in the end we had a good result this weekend given the fact that it was our first event in GP3. The qualifying didn’t go very good because I got traffic in the last sector, which put me on 24th position.
“In the first race my start was not very good and I lost some places, but during the race I could recover and finished in 19th. The second race was very difficult because we were with slick tyres on a wet track. But I managed to do well and came up to 15th position. I am satisfied with the progress we made this weekend. I want to thank everyone at Hilmer Motorsport and my sponsors for giving me the chance to do this race weekend in Barcelona.”
After taking over the entry late, Team Principal Franz Hilmer was satisfied about how the weekend went, and praised the efforts of everyone involved.
“We knew that it would be difficult to compete in our first GP3 race with three rookies,” said Hilmer. “We only had about seven weeks to prepare for the season and all things considered we are satisfied with the outcome. There are some things we have to improve as a team but also the drivers have to progress.
“We were very pleased to have Beitske Visser as the first female race driver at Hilmer Motorsport and we were impressed by her performance. She did her first laps in a GP3 car in practice on Friday and she was in front of her team-mates. Also in the races she had a good pace and was able to keep up with her competitors, to fight with them for positions and to overtake them.
“Unfortunately, Nelson Mason was involved in a collision on Sunday and couldn’t finish the race. He was on a good run at that time and maybe he could have finished in the Top 8. We will now keep on working hard and use the break before the next event in Austria to keep on improving ourselves.”