Battling through the long night to the Pro-Am podium at Spa

Battling through the long night to the Pro-Am podium at Spa



The #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 finished a gruelling 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa in third place in the Pro-Am class and 20th position overall, securing a much-deserved podium finish at the toughest edition yet of the Belgian classic.

Only 32 of the 56 cars that took the start made it to the chequered flag, highlighting the effects of plummeting temperatures, over 12 hours of total darkness, topped off by heavy rain on Sunday morning.

Although the #188 crew returned with silverware, the #159 Aston Martin fell victim to the night. Contact for Valentin Hasse-Clot damaged the Vantage’s wiring loom and despite the team making repairs to return the car to the track it was ultimately forced to retire.


When Maxime Martin started the race in the #188 Vantage, he was starting his 13th consecutive 24 Hours of Spa. The Aston Martin factory driver made rapid progress, moving up from 42nd place overall to 27th in just 40 minutes, taking the lead in the Pro-Am class. Cycling through Jonny Adam, Alex West and Chris Goodwin, the #188 rarely left the Top 3 throughout the race and shouldered everything that was thrown at it.

A challenge for the Pro-Am win fell away when a false puncture alarm brought the car in for an unnecessary extra pit stop and with all the challenges of the weather and repeated full course yellow and safety car periods, it was a relief when Alexander West crossed the line to take the podium finish.


“That was a difficult race for everyone and the fact that so many cars didn’t finish is no surprise,” said Adam. “We’re happy to finish on the podium. Even though it’s a 24-hour race you need to have a completely clean run to finish first. The win got away from us with that extra pit stop but I think we can all feel proud to have made it to the flag as those were some of the trickiest conditions I’ve ever raced in. Kudos to my teammates for some great driving and everyone at Garage 59 for all their hard work throughout the week.”

The sister #159 Aston Martin of Andrew Watson, Valentin Hasse-Clot, James Pull and Roman De Angelis started the race strongly in the hands of Hasse-Clot and moved up to third in the Silver class as the race progressed. Their fate was sealed in the eighth hour when an uncharacteristic mistake from Hasse-Clot saw the #159 Vantage make contact with another car.


He managed to get the car back to the team for repairs and re-joined the race, nine laps down on the leaders, but ultimately the car had to be retired less than two hours later due to damage from the original accident. It was a disappointing end for the Silver class squad, as James Pull explains: 

“It was a tough race for us and really unfortunate that it was all over before the half way mark,” said Pull. “We were running third and we had just been a little unlucky, losing a lap under the safety car, but the thing with Spa is that anything can happen. We still had a long, long way to go but unfortunately Spa is brutal and it wasn’t our race this time. I’m proud of the guys for the pace we showed; it’s just unfortunate it had to end the way it did.”


The GT World Challenge Europe has one more round in 2020. This will take place at Paul Ricard on Sunday 15 November.

Source material - Garage 59
Sunday, October 25, 2020 | Read more...
Garage 59 earn themselves a Class Podium at Spa 24

Garage 59 earn themselves a Class Podium at Spa 24

 


Heartfelt congratulations to the Garage 59 Aston Martin Racing team for coming through all of what the 2020 Total Spa 24 Hours could throw at them this week to come away with a worthy Pro-Am Class podium for the #188 AMR Vantage GT3 for their efforts.

In a year that will never be forgotten for all the wrong reasons, the actual race proved itself to one of the more exciting ones, full of incident, constantly changing weather conditions but fortunately one that had no repeat of the mass pile ups (especially on race restarts) that blighted previous years.


Whilst the Pro-Am side of the garage that featured full season GT World Challenge Europe drivers Alex West, Chris Goodwin, Jonny Adam as well as a rather useful 4th man in Belgium AMR Factory driver Maxime Martin, they will leave the circuit with wide smiles of their faces having scored both a Class third position at the end of the race but also enough points throughout the race to go into the final race of the season at Paul Ricard, France in joint lead with the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari.

The final 1000kms of Paul Ricard will then decide just who will raise the Series Championship prize in the early evening of Sunday 15th November.


Whilst the #188 finally succeeded at Spa, the sister #159 Silver Cup entry of Andrew Watson, Valentin Hasse-Clot, James Pull and 4th man Roman de Angelis would unfortunately get no further than the early hours of Sunday morning. Having suffered a unseen collision with an Am car during the night (an incident that Race Control would ultimate apportion blame onto the Aston Martin for) what has been described as ‘technical issues’ came back to haunt the #159 once it returned to the track after its initial repairs and despite the best of efforts from the team, the #159 would be retired just before the halfway mark.


Despite running towards the top of the Silver Cup grid and scoring some vital championship points at the six hour mark, their untimely retirement from the event has dropped both Watson and Hasse-Clot down to P3 in the Silver Cup Championship – still only seventeen points back but considering the calibre and quality of those ahead, Paul Ricard would need to be their best performance to date as well as having a large serving of fortune to go their way, so in GT3 racing terms – it’s not over yet!!!


For team co-owner Alex West, the Spa 24 was an event that had until now been cruel to them and his desire going into the week was to simple - complete the event without major incident. For him and fellow team owner Chris Goodwin, it will probably be the case of needing new race suits for France as both endured significant incident in the rain that arrived during the early hours of Sunday morning and continued (sometime very heavily) until the end of the race some 5-6 hours later. For Goodwin at least, that would be seen by all in the rain soaked dawn of Sunday and would involve a spin for him coming out of Eau-Rouge and up into Raidillon, in front of a chasing pack that included the then leading Silver Cup Lamborghini. Fortunately for the blue and while Aston, he was able to recompose himself, correct his trajectory and continue into the dense spray along the Kemmel Straight whilst two other cars (including the Barwell Lamborghini) were sadly eliminated from the race with non-repairable accident damage. 


Whilst the event itself was very different to previous years by not being at its usual calendar date in July and sadly without any fans in attendance, the whole spectacle was not lost and in some ways the change in date (with the change in seasonal conditions that that presents) in our opinion at least only served to enhance the showcase event. It can rain very hard at Spa in July at the end of the day!!

The biggest questions for Paul Ricard and the Garage 59 team will be driver line ups with the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup finale sadly lashing with the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain as that sadly takes away both Jonny Adam in the #188 and Andrew Watson in the #159 cars with their TF Sport and Gulf Racing GTE commitments in the desert.


The #159 could quite easily run with just Valentin Hasse-Clot and James Pull behind the wheel just like VHC and Watson did at the opening round of the season at Imola. For the #188 Pro-Am car, they will need another Pro driver unless they go for something bold and brave like skipping the Scotsman’s part of Qualifying, starting from the back and hope that he gets back from Bahrain in time!! Who knows but there is always something far simpler, like a replacement driver!!

Photo credits – Spa 24 / Garage 59
Sunday, October 25, 2020 | Read more...
Winning streak returns for AGS Events Racing at penultimate round of GT4 European Series (Updated)

Winning streak returns for AGS Events Racing at penultimate round of GT4 European Series (Updated)

 


Having just endured their ‘worst’ non-podium securing result to date this season at the last round of the FFSA GT4 Series last weekend, French AGS Events Racing Team moved onto Spa Francorchamps this weekend for the penultimate round of the GT4 European Series with their two Silver Cup and Am Class title leading Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4’s.

Again, running in support of the GT World Challenge Europe Series at their delayed Total 24 Hours of Spa, the team would again have drivers Gilles Vannelet and Valentin Hasse-Clot run double driving duties as each swapped between their GT3 and GT4 cars. More importantly, both of these drivers and their respective co-drivers in Nicolas Gomar and Theo Nouet was that each had Championship positions to secure/improve upon before the Series moves onto its finale down at the Circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France in two weeks-time.

Fridays opening round was conducted under some of the most atrocious track conditions that the Ardennes could throw at the 7km circuit with the race starting from behind the Safety Car, but at least the pole setting #27 AMR car of Nouet had the clearest of views of them all with Gomar not too far behind in P5.

Two laps – twelve minutes later and the grid was eventually released but with standing water on parts of the track and spray hanging in the air along the tree, visibility and grip was always going to be of issue but surprisingly enough, there were few moments of inter car contact. By the end of their otherwise short period of race time, both Nouet and Gomar had cemented their positions on track or in class to pit from the lead.

By the time the lead cars re-emerged from pit lane, the rain had at least all but stopped but conditions were still treacherous as Hasse-Clot started extending his cars overall race lead by the tune of about five seconds every five minutes. Vannelet meanwhile was given some Pro-Am cars a race for their money and despite his own Am grading, was comfortable circulating to the end in P8 overall but more importantly first in class! Ahead of him, Hasse-Clot collected the #27 cars second overall race win of the season so far with each AGS Racing Aston crew further extending their Championship lead in the process.

Saturday morning’s second race at least was to start on a wet but drying track as Hasse-Clot starting the #27 from P3 and Vannelet starting the #89 car from P5 with some cars even electing to start upon slicks!!

No Safety Car start this time around, but both Astons appeared to be sluggish at the start and found themselves swamped going into turn one and had to battle not to lose any further track position by the end of the Kemmel Straight.

Even with the Pro-Am cars ahead continuing their battles ahead, the #27 car appeared unable to keep up with them but as with any motor race, it is more about being at the right place at the right time for Hasse-Clot as successive opportunist moves soon found him elevating himself from P4 to P2 whilst Vannelet was running P6 overall – again P1 in Am.

Both running long into the pit window again, any advances gained on track was soon lost to the #27 crew as it was awarded a one second stop-go penalty for running a too short a minimum pit stop time and that dropped them back from another overall podium position to a battle for a Silver Cup Class podium within the final ten minutes that Nouet had available to him.

As the brightness quickly faded and skies darkened once again, Nouet was able to pick off another car to climb back up to P4 overall – P3 in class at the chequered flag whilst Gomar secured the #89’s second class win of the weekend to further bolster their AM Class Championship claim. At the time of writing, official confirmation of post race technical inspections were still being awaited so that the Championship standings so far could be confirmed,

The sixth and final round of the GT4 European Series will be at Paul Ricard in two weeks time.

UPDATE

With Saturdays race now officially ratified by the Series, the results from this penultimate round of the season have the following effect. Nothing is secured just yet!!!

AGS Events Racing continue to lead the Overall Team's Championship table by 65 Pts

Vannelet/Gomar continue to lead Am Drivers Championship by 35 Pts

Hasse-Clot/Nouet continue to lead Silver Cup Championship by 24 Pts


Photo credits – GT4 European Series

Saturday, October 24, 2020 | Read more...
Garage 59 well placed at for the start of the 2020 Spa 24

Garage 59 well placed at for the start of the 2020 Spa 24


Everything is now set for tomorrows start of the 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa after sole Aston Martin Racing Partner team, Garage 59 completed their Qualifying runs in the rain of last night with their two AMR Vantage GT3’s.

With this year’s events being firstly delayed but also (and very sadly) being run from behind closed doors, even from a TV screen you can sense that this year’s race has taken on a whole new dimension despite the best of efforts from all to make this year’s event extra ‘accessible’ for the viewing public at home.


With track action for the GT3 event having started on Thursday with Free Practice and Pre-Qualifying before quickly diving into the events individual Qualifying sessions, the teams Pro-Am and Silver Cup cars ended a very wet Thursday each Qualifying P5 in class for Saturday’s green flag.

With the circuit at its wettest in the earlier sessions, it was Alex West (aboard the #188 Pro-Am) and Roman de Angelis (aboard the #159 Silver Cup) cars who had to endure the worst that the 7km circuit could offer but conditions steadily improved as Chris Goodwin / Andrew Watson, Jonny Adam / James Pull and Maxime Martin / Valentin Hasse-Clot respectively all completed their required laps in order for their cars to be placed on Saturdays grid.


Their times equated to the #159 Qualifying P29 and the #188 P42 overall out of the 56 entries but both handily placed within their respective classes in which both cars are also well placed to challenge for should events over the weekend go in their favour ready for the final round of the season in the south of France in three weeks time.

Last night’s compulsory Night Qualifying session (despite the requirement in that session for each driver to set a further two competitive laps in the dark having already Qualified in the dark) proved to be a bit of ‘fun’ towards the end with the #188 car finishing the session P4 overall as the Pro drivers got to hit the track with slicks for the first meaningful time.


With both cars outside of the Top 20 Shoot Out, that has given the team some additional time to make any adjustments necessary before the start of the race on Saturday, with rain still a distinct possibility and probability over the course of the weekend.

All being well, the start of the race is scheduled to begin at 13:30hrs local.


Good luck to the both of them.

Photo credits - GTWCE
Friday, October 23, 2020 | Read more...
Aston Martin Autosport BRDC winner finally gets his prize

Aston Martin Autosport BRDC winner finally gets his prize



British racing driver Johnathan Hoggard made a big impression on his first test in an Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Formula 1 car on Tuesday (20 October) – part of his prize for winning the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award.

The 19-year-old completed 21 laps of Silverstone’s legendary Grand Prix circuit in an Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB8, similar to the car the team used to win the FIA Formula 1 constructors’ and drivers’ world championships with Sebastian Vettel in 2012.


After completing a couple of installation laps on a damp circuit in the morning, the team waited until the track had dried out in the afternoon to give the 2019 BRDC British F3 Championship runner-up a series of three timed runs to get the most out of his experience in the 800bhp V8 3-0-litre specification F1 car.

“It was amazing,” said Hoggard, who is the first driver to win the Award since Aston Martin Lagonda became the title partner in 2019. “Feeling the car’s power and full downforce unleashed on Silverstone’s grand prix circuit was an unforgettable experience and it’s left me wanting more! 

“I tried to block out a lot of the emotion and I focused on the apexes and the braking zones. In some ways it actually felt a lot like a normal test day in F3, but you are going a lot faster and you have a massive smile on your face while you are doing it. When you start karting, F1 is your dream, but you never know whether you’ll get the chance to drive one of these cars, so to get the opportunity especially with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing is amazing.”


Hoggard won the test, along with a cash prize of £200,000, a test in an FIA World Endurance Championship Aston Martin Vantage GTE, full British Racing Drivers’ Club membership and an Arai helmet, after beating three pre-selected rivals in a two-day assessment at Silverstone last year in various machinery including an Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing race engineer Simon Rennie, who ran the test, said that the team was impressed by Hoggard’s approach as well as the ability he had displayed during his relatively brief time in the car.

“The day has gone really well and Johnathan impressed us. I had expected him to, based on his performance in last year’s assessment where he seemed to hit the ground running and improved steadily,” said Rennie. “He did the same thing today. He was calm, measured and sensible. This was a big step up from what he is used to, especially with the lack of running he’s had this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and he wasn’t fazed at all. There was a lot of pressure on him and it was a big opportunity to drive the car. He made the most of the time he had available and handled it very well.”


David King, Aston Martin Vice President Chief Special Operations Officer and President Aston Martin Racing, added: “This Award means a lot to Aston Martin and it’s a strong signal of our commitment to the development of British motor racing talent. It’s a proud moment for us to be able to play such a role in helping Johnathan have the opportunity to test a Formula 1 car. It’s also really great to see some of the significant players in British motorsport, such as Aston Martin, Autosport, Silverstone, the BRDC and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing coming together in a collaboration of goodwill to create this chance for a young driver to experience Silverstone in a Formula 1 car for the first time.”

Source material - AMR
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Read more...
Rounding off this weekend's AMR runners and riders

Rounding off this weekend's AMR runners and riders



Rounding out this weekend's Aston Martin Racing Partner and Customer team prospects sees the return of the #9 D’Station Racing AMR to the sixth round of the Japanese Super GT Series from Suzuka for the indicated driver line up of Tomonobu Fujii and Kei Cozzolino.

With Cozzolino having stepped into the green liveried AMR Vantage GT3 at the start of the much delayed Series after it became apparent that AMR WEC Factory driver Nicki Thiim would be permitted to enter and exit the country at will because of their national immigration restrictions, the domiciled Italian has quickly become the stronger driver of the pair and was much missed by the team last time out at Fuji when he was replaced with Takuro Shinohara because he was still serving his two week period of self-isolation after his return to the country from Le Mans.


Despite these ongoing logistical problems, the team still sit mid table within their allotted GT300 class – still a much higher position that where they found themselves in last season in the same car.


Down under, we have the second round of New Zealand’s North Island Endurance Series from Pukekohe and from where we should find the new South Island Champions, the #52 Heart of Racing AMR Vantage GT3 of Darren Kelly and Alex Riberas.


Without having seen any official entry list just yet, the #52 car has already competed in the Series' first round from Hampton Downs earlier in September where they secured a P3 overall finish at the end of that three-hour race.

With the sixth round of the German Nordschleife Langstrechen Serie now cancelled due to COVID-19 again and the China GT Championship a non-starter for the year, that leaves us with just the final round of the GT Cup Championship from Donington Park.


Again taking the declared entry list with something of a pinch of salt after previous no shows at the last round of the Championship at Brands Hatch, we should again see two Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT4’s – the older 2016 specification one from Whitebridge Motorsport for Chris Murphy and the newer 2019 model from Newbridge Motorsport for drivers Matt Topham and Alex Toth-Jones.

That team was certainly at Donington Park earlier in the week when they were doing charity hot laps around the circuit at a recent Supercar Club meeting.

Photo credits - D'Station Racing / GT Cup / HoRT


Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Read more...
Finally - the Total 24 Hours of Spa begins!!

Finally - the Total 24 Hours of Spa begins!!

 


Three months later than usual and still battling against the effects of the global pandemic sees the Total 24 Hours of Spa finally get the track this week as part of the SRO’s somewhat shortened Speed week.

Joining the GT3 cars from the GT World Challenge Europe and Intercontinental GT Challenge Series that will make up the fifty six car entry for this years event will again be the GT4 European Series as each Series reaches their penultimate round of the season in Belgium after their fragmented start to the season because of the virus.


Garage 59 remains the sole Aston Martin Racing contingent this year with one AMR Vantage GT3 entered into both Pro-Am and Silver Cup classes. After the last round of the Endurance Cup series from the Nürburgring at the beginning of September, #199 Pro-Am car of Alex West, Chris Goodwin and Jonny Adam presently rest in third place within the Driver’s Championship whilst the #159 Silver Cup car of Andrew Watson and Valentin Hasse-clot each top that table with third man James Pull slightly further back and all alone in P3 after he wasn’t available to compete with the team at the opening round at Imola in July.

To bolster the team’s efforts in Spa, each car will be re-joined by a driver who served with them way back in late January 2020 at the opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge at Bathurst, Australia with AMR WEC Factory driver and local man Maxime Martin racing with the #188 Pro-Am crew whilst IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship Heart of Racing AMR Vantage GTD racer Roman De Angelis re-joins Watson aboard the #159 car.


What will be monumentally different this year will be the fact that the event will this year be held from behind closed doors – no public trip down to the town centre for the annual ‘meet and greet’ and no party like atmosphere from within the public areas around the circuit.

The most immediate issue that teams will have to face will be the lower track temperatures, increased hours of darkness and of course the weather – something that is particularly unique at the forest surrounded racetrack in the Ardennes. Rain is forecasted for the week and we all know that when it rains at Spa – it rains!!!


The GT4 European Series (whilst they have yet to confirm their entry list) are scheduled to be first out on track tomorrow (Tuesday) for the first of three Private Testing sessions for the GT runners before a non-track day on Wednesday before Free Practice, Qualifying and night practice on Thursday. Both AGS Events Racing Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4’s are expected to be at Spa this week as each car aim to progress their Am and Silver Cup Class Championship hopes with Hasse-Clot again being on double duty between his GT3 and GT4 commitments!

Photo credits – GTWCE / GT4 European / Garage 59 / AGS Events


Monday, October 19, 2020 | Read more...
AGS Events Racing lose Championship ground at Grand Prix D'Albi

AGS Events Racing lose Championship ground at Grand Prix D'Albi

 


French team AGS Events Racing lost ground in the Pro-Am and Am Class Championship stakes after the penultimate round of the FFSA GT4 Series from Albi in south-west of the country at the weekend.

This time running with just their three full season entries, neither their #89 Pro-Am crew of Nicolas Gomar and Mike Parisy nor their #161 Am Class crew of Didier Dumaine and Christophe Carriere managed to continue their season long pathway of achievement in securing at least one class podium during the weekends two races.


Competing at a circuit that ran along the perimeter of the local airport, the tight and twist sections clearly favoured the lighter, more nimble chassis with the Alpine being the car of choice leaving neither AGS Events AMR the opportunity to challenge beyond that of the circuit’s long straights.

These results do not however exclude either car from any Championship aspirations but frankly, they do depend quite heavily upon the misfortune of others at the final round of the season at Ledenon over the 7thand 8th November. The overall Am Drivers Championship is however, already out of reach.


Also competing at Albi was of course the #69 Pro-Am entry of Gilles Vannelet and AMR Academy driver Akhil Rabindra. Although being the lead AGS team car in race 1 in P14 overall (P7 in class), that was sadly not be repeated in Sunday’s race where they finished P19 overall (P11 in class). For some reason, 2020 FFSA GT4 just hasn’t gelled for these drivers despite their combined experiences.

Photo credits - FFSA
Monday, October 19, 2020 | Read more...
Heart of Racing's bitter pill at Petit Le Mans after an earlier boost down under

Heart of Racing's bitter pill at Petit Le Mans after an earlier boost down under

 


Competing on extreme sides of the world at the weekend, the greater Heart of Racing Team faced up to both sides of the motor racing coin with both joy of another overall podium and Championship win at the final round of the New Zealand South Island Endurance Series but with a lonely, accident induced DNF of the latest round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship with their sister American car.

Having already secured both a win and a second placed finish so far this season, drivers Darren Kelly and Alex Riberas secured another P2 finish on Saturday aboard their #52 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3 at the Levels Raceway near Timaru to secure the South Island Endurance Series itself. The team now move back north to finish off what they have already started within the North Island Endurance Series next week.


Both North and South Island Endurance Series meetings have been completed by the team in aid of the New Zealand Starship Foundation.

Back over at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, USA this weekend, the #23 AMR Vantage GT3 of Roman De Angelis, Ian James and a returning Darren Turner were back for the latest round of the IMSA Weathertech Championship for the annual 10 hours of Petit Le Mans.


Having started at the back of the grid of thirty-one cars, it looked like it was to be a long hard slog for nothing but even by the end of James’ opening stint, progress for the #23 car through the GTD pack was impressive as the cars recent Balance of Performance change had made it into a race car and not just another participant.

Under the clear blue skies of Road Atlanta, progress remained positive as the #23 forged its way into well within the top ten in class by the halfway point of the race and as the sun began to set beyond the tree line of the circuit. Then, in the dead of the night around the unlit circuit, De Angelis was to make inadvertent and unavoidable wheel to wheel contact with another GTD car.


Initial pitting for immediate repairs, the car did re-join the race but immediately pitted again from where it was to disappear behind ‘the wall’ and sadly not return. It was later confirmed that the unseen damage within the body of the car was just too great to repair safely in the time remaining for their efforts to be remain viable for a positive result. Heavy heads within the team were obvious as all their effort and recent Championship form had come to nothing.

With no time to dwell over what might have been, the team move onto the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in two weeks-time for the penultimate round of the 2020 season.

Photo credits – IMSA / HoRT

Sunday, October 18, 2020 | Read more...
Podium finish apiece for each of the three Astons at GT open from Spa

Podium finish apiece for each of the three Astons at GT open from Spa



Sometimes dreams do come true in motor racing as first having to cancel their initial British GT Championship plans for 2020 even before they had begun back in March saw Oman Racing return to the racetrack this weekend for the first time this year at the penultimate round of the International GT Open Series from Spa Francorchamps.

Having flown into Belgium from home back in Oman, Ahmad Al Harthy faced the stark reality of late autumn in Northern Europe as well it being his first race of the year to contend with as he and co-driver Tom Canning looked to get in some decent test and race mileage in the Series before their scheduled Asian Le Mans Series commitments at the turn of the year. With neither driver having competed within any officially timed session anywhere since Media Day at Snetterton in mid-March, the Pro-Am pairing had nothing to prove but certainly had everything to gain.


Team mates Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood also had everything to gain as the #34 TF Sport crew looked to reduce their overall Championship deficit in time for the season finale in Spain at the end of the month yet for all, the very cold air temperatures of the Ardennes would be a challenge.

Drama is never usually far away in GT Open and for Canning, that came in the earlier Free Practice 2 session after two significant accidents on track led for only a handful of meaning laps around the circuit before Qualifying – not that that mattered much to the British GT GT4 Champion as he set the #97 car up on the front row just 0.1second off Pole in his very first GT3 event!!


With Yoluc starting P7 and with a 10 second success penalty looming at their pit stop, race one would always be a tough fight for the #34 car whilst the #97 car had a clean sheet and only the lack of track time this year standing in their way. Canning would stay in the car until the end of the pit window whilst Yoluc would do the opposite of that in order to give Eastwood as much opportunity on track as possible.

By the end of the pit stops, Eastwood would still find himself battling down in P7 overall (P4 in Pro) as a direct result of their extra 10 seconds in pit land whilst Al Harthy would come out P5 overall (P3 in class) thanks to Canning’s opening salvo against some very worthy and experienced Professional drivers.


As the race reached its concluding phase, Al Harthy was very much on the pace with a ‘sniff of further success’ leading him to take P3 overall going into the Bus Stop Chicane for the penultimate time. By the end of that lap Al Harthy and Canning had secured a debut overall podium in P3 and the Pro-Am race win for their efforts. Eastwood would finish the #34 not too far behind in P5 overall (P4 in class).


Sunday’s shorter race would be conducted in even fresher temperatures but that wouldn’t stop the pole sitting Ferrari from breaking the circuits all time GT3 lap record with Eastwood just 0.034 of second behind!!

This time around it would be a role reversal as the #34 crew now raced without any success penalties whilst the #97 would face the consequences of their earlier success in Race 1 with their first additional 10 second pit stop penalty.


Again, it would be hard graft for the Irishman aboard the #34 car as the Championship leading #59 McLaren got the jump on him at the start to drop back to P3 overall as the race and the leading two cars progressed. Al Harthy would have to deal with the antics of seventeen cars into La Source for the first time, dropping a position of his own at the start but able to maintain that until his stop. 

As the #34 pitted from third with the top two cars just immediately ahead as they entered pit lane, a 10 second penalty for the lead car allowed Yoluc to make the pass up to P2 overall from within the pits and despite some late pressure from a post-race penalised Bentley was able to bring his #34 car home in second to maintain their run of podium finishes in the Series. 


Unable to repeat their success of Saturday, Canning would bring the #97 car home P10 overall (P6 in class) but both can walk away from Spa with their heads held high as the crew now look at other series for some more last minute track action before their ALMS commitments in January 2021.

Joining both TF Sport AMR Vantage GT3’s was the PROsport Racing AMR Vantage GT4 of Rodrique Gillion and Nico Verdonck. Having dipped their toes into the Series previously at Paul Ricard, this was a local race for the Belgium crew but with Verdonck on double duty at Zolder with the DTM Trophy, Gillion would have to face race 1 all by himself.


Despite mechanical issues, the Gentleman driver finished race one, albeit the last of the runners but still enough to claim a P2 finish in GT4 Pro-Am. Sundays race would see Verdonck dominate the GT4 class during the earlier stages in the teams replacement AMR Vantage GT4 before he had to helicopter out and back to Zolder for his race duties over there. With the lead gifted to him, Gillion would take another podium – P3 overall in GT4 and again P2 in Pro-Am.


These results leave Yoluc and Eastwood twenty points down in the overall Championship stakes as the Series moves to its finale in Barcelona in two week’s time.

Photo credits – GT Open / TF Sport
Sunday, October 18, 2020 | Read more...