Nicholas Mee Racing: Double Spa Victories in Aston Martin GT4 Challenge

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nicholas Mee Racing’s Karsten le Blanc and Dan de Zille scored a triumphant double victory in rounds 5 and 6 of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4 Challenge held at Belgium’s famous Spa Francorchamps circuit at the weekend, thus regaining their lead in this year’s series mid-way through the season.

The nine Aston Martin GT4 Challenge entries at Spa shared the grid with British GT Championship, Dutch GT4 Championship and FIA GT4 European Cup contenders for the two, one-hour races, while NMR’s de Zille had an especially busy weekend as he was also competing in the Formula Ford European Cup.

Friday morning’s practice consisted of two one-hour practice sessions in which circuit rookie de Zille and le Blanc ran through car set-up and circuit familiarisation procedures. In the afternoon’s 30-minute qualifying session the first 15 minutes would be taken by Driver 1 who’d set the qualifying time for Saturday’s Race 1, while Driver 2 would set the qualifying time for Race 2 in the second half of the session. It was decided that de Zille would set the first qualifying lap and, although still learning the circuit, he managed to post the second fastest time behind Vantage Racing’s Alan Bonner. In the second session, le Blanc posted an initial lap good enough for third on the grid before the session was ended prematurely by an accident involving the Vantage Racing car that the crew would work all night to repair for the following day’s racing.

Having hurried from the Formula Ford parc fermé after his second Formula Ford race of the weekend, de Zille started race 1 from second on the grid. During his fast and consistent stint de Zille caught and passed Vantage Racing’s Alan Bonner for first place. A safety car incident then prompted a number of teams, NMR included, to come in for the compulsory pit stop a little earlier than planned, during which de Zille handed over to le Blanc. During this time the Aston Martin Racing entry driven my AMR’s MD John Gaw and Phil Dryburgh managed to leap-frog NMR for the lead. However, le Blanc drove with the bit between his teeth and, with another Challenge victory in his sights, he caught and passed the AMR car to bring the NMR’s Aston Martin home safely for another victory, three seconds ahead of another AML-entered car driven by ex Evo journalist Jethro Bovingdon and Sport Auto magazine’s Anja Wassertheurer in second place.

Effectively starting race 2 from second on the grid due to Kemp and Hall’s Stratton Motor Company car being unable to start because of engine issues, le Blanc battled hard with AML’s Jethro Bovingdon during the first stint. With around 35 minutes remaining, Le Blanc handed over to de Zille for the last of his five-race weekend! NMR’s Team Manager Giles Dawson calculated that the finish would be close as AMR’s Gaw was on a mission and obviously determined to reel-in de Zille. With NMR now in first after the pitstops, Dawson instructed de Zille to keep pushing hard, and this he did to take the chequered flag by just one second for NMR’s second win of the weekend.

Following race 2 a delighted Karsten le Blanc said,”Wow, what a productive two days at my favourite circuit; we had good pace in practice and qualifying, an impeccable car and some really close racing in both races. To come out on top in both is fantastic and better than I had dared hope for! I thoroughly enjoy the partnership with Dan and am very happy about the efforts of the whole NMR team. I’m really looking forward to our next outing at Oulton Park on 6th August."

Team Principal Nicholas Mee said, “Winning feels good, but winning twice in a day is even better! My thanks and congratulations go not just to the drivers Karsten and Dan, who obviously did a fantastic job, but to the whole team whose skill and hard work really paid dividends this weekend. We can now all enjoy the break before the next round, and will return to the fray with an even greater determination to succeed”.

Nicholas Mee Racing is now back on top of this year’s AM GT4 Challenge leaderboard with three firsts, a third and a fourth from the five races completed thus far. After Spa Le Blanc has 41 points, while de Zille – who didn’t compete in the first round at Silverstone – has 35. He’s followed by Bonner and Black with 32 points, Poole, Abra and Kemp all on 23, Mantello with 19 and Hall with 18.
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