Difficult round for AMR runners at GT4 European Series at Paul Ricard

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Running again this weekend in support of the Blancpain GT Series was the GT4 European Series for their third round of the season after dramatic and sometimes traumatic events for the seven Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4 runners at previous rounds at both Monza and Silverstone.

Whilst all the runners and riders this weekend remained the same, the only alteration was the fact the Generation AMR SuperRacing had finally got their new 2019 specification Vantage GT4 from the Prodrive factory allowing both Matt George and James Holder to compete in their beloved Pro-Am class with their #44 car.

Having had something of a mixed start to their European campaign was Matt Nichol-Jones' Academy Motorsport team who's last event at Brands Hatch earlier this month had ranged from two DNF's for Silver pairing Will Moore and Matt Cowley to two podiums for Pro-Am racers Tom Wood and Fiona James. The only crew to have determined a path of something like normal being the #17 Street Art Racing duo of Pascal Bachmann and Clement Seyler who had visited the Am Class podium at each race so far this season although at Paul Ricard more Am entries would be included and that path would be surely more difficult.

Paul Ricard would indeed continue to be something of a problem for Academy as the #61 Wood/James car would be blighted with fuel pick up issues that would see that car not Qualify for either race and would therefore start (under special dispensation) both one hour races from the back of the grid.

Not letting running in a new race car slow him down, Matt George was obviously thoroughly enjoying his new Vantage claiming pole for race 1 in the process from the more established BMW M4 runners with the #18 PROsport Performance car of Florian Thoma in P5.

Incident, as always is never far away with over forty two cars seeking out the same sections of tarmac and that was unfortunately the case for the #62 Academy car of Matt Cowley after his P10 start and opportunistic moves on the opening laps were thwarted by avoidable contact from a McLaren that would later enforce another untimely retirement for the young gun.  Further issues affected the #19 PROsport Performance car of Jeremy Sarhy that would see first a drive through penalty for missing the chicane and improving before left rear damage forced their later retirement before the half way point of the race.

Whilst George was still maintaining P4 overall, Tom Wood was having another belter in his #61 Academy car having made his way up from plumb last to P12 before an unseen error on track drops him back down three places before the stop.

With more Am racers at the Paul Ricard round, Bachmann left his younger inexperienced driver Seyler a fair bit to do in their Am class Street At Racing car having pitted 7th in the class of 8 cars. Despite the young mans lack of racing experience excel he shall towards the end of the hour to maintain their podium record.

Like the #76 R-Motorsport car in the main Blancpain GT event, James Holder would also lose out to a Pro-Am class podium after his #44 car was nudged into a spin going onto the long Mistral Straight - despite protestations from the team no sanction would be taken against the offender and a dream start was lost to them and their new Vantage GT4.

The #18 PROsport car of Thoma and Akhil Rabindra would be the highest placed AMR runner in Race 1 with the #7 Street Art Racing car of Jamie Vandenbalck and Julien Darras just behind. A later post race penalty would however drop the #18 car down for the #7 car to claim P4.

Whilst Holder and James would claim P7 and P10 in Pro-Am it was again the #17 car of Bachmann and Seyler who lifted the silverware with another P3 in the Am class.

Race 2 on Sunday continued a similar path for the seven AMR runners with this time both PROsport cars being the highest of the bunch on the grid with P5 and P12 for the #18 and #19 cars respectively with the second driver in race 1 now taking the start.

Again it was turmoil at the start with Rabindra dropping to P10 on the opening lap in his #18 car but at least both Academy cars had made progress through the pack before a Full Course Yellow slowed the momentum after two cars contacted at the final corner in the opening minutes.

With ten minutes lost to that it left little time for the runners to make too much more impression. Will Moore has risen to P13 by the time of the stop and Seyler pitted from the Am Class lead.

Taking up the mantel their co drivers had left them with, Florian Thoma and Matt Cowley were again on missions of recovery but whilst the Swiss would eventually claw back P5 overall by the time of the flag technical issues inherited by the Brit would eventually make his #62 car succumb to its injures and stop on track with just 7 minutes remaining.

Kudos again goes to the #61 Academy car of Wood and James who, after starting from the final slot on the grid again, raced through to finish P16 overall and P5 in class. Another magnificent result for them.

The Series will now return to Italy and Misano for round four at the end of June.

Photo credits - GT4 European

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