Thomas Neubauer has praised AKKA ASP and his co-driver Nico Bastian for enabling him to score an outright race win on his first GT3 appearance last weekend at Brands Hatch.
The 19-year-old Frenchman held off Maro Engel, one of the most experienced drivers in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe field, for his entire stint in the first of Sunday’s races.
Neubauer said the success was down to the AKKA ASP crew and reigning Blancpain GT Silver Cup champion Bastian, who made it possible to get his GT3 career off to an unexpectedly good start.
“To be honest, I did not expect to start as well with this success from the beginning,” he told Endurance-Info. “I have the chance to ride for AKKA ASP, which puts confidence in its drivers.
“For my debut in GT, I am very proud to wear Mercedes-AMG colors in this brand new series. I already love this championship which is a very high level.
“There are many big names here and the environment is very professional. I could not fall into a better team than AKKA ASP, which is made better by having the best teammate.
“We do not compete against each other, but with each other. We complete each other well and despite our difference in size, we use the same seat, which is an advantage in sprint races.
“The whole team, as well as Nico, did a remarkable job.”
Neubauer comes to Blancpain GT after two difficult seasons in single-seaters, primarily in Formula Renault competition with Tech 1 Racing.
His only other experience in GT cars came with four Ferrari Challenge Europe starts earlier this year, in which he scored two podium finishes.
“The single-seater to GT switch was not too complicated because I’m coming out of two bad seasons,” he explained.
“Single-seaters was a good school, but I have always been attracted to GTs. I quickly realized that Formula 1 was not for me. Driving in GT racing gives me the opportunity to be spotted by a manufacturer.
“The Mercedes-AMG GT3 remains an imposing car, but easy enough to handle. GT3s are really great cars.
“I had not driven the car for two months, [because I’m not doing] the Endurance championship. For me, this first race weekend was mostly here to take our bearings.
“I did not have the money to do both championships. I think that the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe is good to be noticed, but I hope to compete in both series in 2020.”
AKKA ASP team principal Jerome Policand admitted he didn’t expect Neubauer would be able to keep defending from Engel, who went on to win the second race for Black Falcon, for the whole stint.
“Like everyone else, we thought that Thomas would survive half of his stint because to resist Maro Engel when you’re starting in GT3 is not easy,” he told Endurance-Info.
“Thomas was very calm on the radio and he did the job perfectly. He is coming out of two complicated seasons in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.
“I’m not surprised at Thomas’s performance level. I am rather surprised by his strength. As soon as we put him in a GT, I saw that he was fast.
“Of course, we are delighted to have won this first race of the year, which is [even better at] Brands Hatch because the circuit is not the easiest for someone who is learning GT cars and the track.”
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report.