Accident and incident for the AMR runners at Blancpain GT (UPDATED)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

This afternoon saw the conclusion of another bizarrely dramatic and entertaining round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup from Silverstone.

With the five Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3 runners taking a podium apiece in both the Pro-Am and Am classes first time out at a rain swept Monza, the three Pro class cars were obviously looking to open their podium accounts for round 2 at Silverstone.

In the first Free Practice session of the meeting on Saturday morning, a rather jumbled order of hierarchy was soon established with the #97 Oman Racing with TF Sport entry of Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc heading the AMR timing board with a P3 finish. In the later ninety minute Pre Qualifying race, normal service was resumed when the #76 R-Motorsport car of Nicki Thiim,  Jake Dennis and Marvin Kirchhofer showed a piece of their ultimate pace to finish P5 ahead of their sister #62 car of Maxime Martin, Matt Parry and Mathieu Vaxivierre in P11.

In the general topsy-turvy world of SRO GT3 racing, everything was setting itself up nicely for another epic three hour race on Sunday - but then things started to go a little bit 'off piste' for some of the Aston runners.

Three drivers - three Qualifying sessions means that each driver sets their own time in the permitted track window with the combination of the three determining their aggregated position on the starting grid. For the #59 Garage 59 Pro car entry of Come Ledogar, Andrew Watson and Jonny Adam, repeated red flags in Q1 meant that their car (amongst others) was unable to enter any time so would automatically be starting out of position towards the rear of the grid.

That all meant that again the #97 Oman Racing car would head the AMR runners at the start of Sundays race in P19 (1st in class), followed by the #76 in P29, #188 P31 (P4 in class), #62 in P35 and finally the #59 starting in P42. That was not where all the incident ended either as R-Motorsports driver Marvin Kirchhofer was taken ill at the circuit immediately after Qualifying - ailments from which he would later be declared unfit to race with and team mate Maxime Martin being allowed to deputise in the #76 car as well as his own driving duties in the #62 car.

Drama continued into the opening lap of the race as a spinning Audi at Maggots caused a cascade effect through the majority of the pack that lead to at least four other cars making heavy contact with other - one of them being the #59 Garage 59 car of Come Ledogar that would see an immediate end to his race with extensive front end damage. Fortunately, all drivers involved were uninjured but nearly thirty minutes were lost to the resulting clear up along the Hanger Straight.

More racing time was soon lost to a beached Ferrari in the gravel trap at Luffield which required the employment of the Full Course Yellow and latter Safety Car procedures. Nicki Thiim was flying in the #76 car having just taken over from Dennis and used the processional start of the Safety Car to his advantage gaining three positions in just two laps. Drama was soon to literally hit the #97 Oman car however, as a pit lane exiting Lamborghini appeared to side slam into Salih Yoluc (who was on his own racing line at the time of impact) and to spear off onto the grass to impact heavily into the armco barrier. Another FCY and Safety Car period but importantly an uninjured driver.

As the race went green again just ahead of the second hour, Yoluc had climbed his way back into a Pro-Am podium position in P3 and Thiim up to P5 overall.

With less than an hour remaining, Martin took control of the #76 car for the first time in place of the unwell Kirchhofer and for a time was enjoying a battle with the #19 Lamborghini and the #4 Mercedes AMG. Unseen by the camera, the #76 hit technical issues out on track that would cause its track position to plummet before Martin arrived back in pit lane with about thirty minutes remaining and into eventually retirement.

With the final minutes of the race ticking by without further incident, it was again the two Pro-Am and Am class runners that would stand tall and take the silverware for the Aston Martin Racing runners as the #97 Oman Racing and #188 Garage 59 car of Alex West, Chris Goodwin and Chris Harris each secured consecutive P3 class podium finishes of the season.

The next race of the season will be the 1000kms 'into the night race' from Paul Ricard in early June.

UPDATE - We understand that as a result of a post race penalty applied to the Pro Am winning Mercedes AMG, the #97 Oman Racing Vantage GT3 has been promoted to P2 in class and now lies second overall in the Championship

Photo credits - R-Motorsport / Oman Racing / Garage 59 / Blancpain GT

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