More excitement in GT4 European Series - not always of the right sort though......

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Some more gruelling and sometimes painful and expensive races at the penultimate round of the GT4 European Series from Zandvoort were the outcome of their endeavours as just Academy Motorsport and Street Art Racing represented the Aston Martin Racing brand this weekend.

With PROsport Performance deciding to sit out the round in order to bring their AMR Vantage GT4 machinery back up to its expected tip-top condition and Generation AMR SuperRacing already looking ahead to challenges new for 2020, things fell to the two Silver Cup, one Pro-Am and one Am class runners from the British and Belgium teams to hold the flag.

Track and weather conditions at the Dutch coastal circuit were in stark contrast to the heat of Misano with both Free Practice sessions and Qualifying being ran on a cold/wet surface made slipperier with sand and gravel being taken onto the track surface by cars leaving/rejoining the track.

On Saturday, air temperature was struggling to break the 20deg C mark for the start of Race 1 where the #07 Street Art Racing car of Julian Darras was the highest of the four AMR's in P12, the #61 Academy of Tom Wood not far behind in P15 followed by its sister #62 car of Will Moore P19 and Clement Seyler bring up the rear in an uncharacteristic P28.

The first lap around the extremely tight and twisty was with its expected amount of rubbing as the pack slowly established it sequence of order around the racing line with no car really improving or losing out on the their starting position.

Things very quickly however, went wrong for the #61 Walero sponsored car of Wood as some side to side contact with a Mercedes snapped the steering linkage on that side of his Vantage GT4 causing him to become beached in the following gravel trap sending him into early retirement. The performances of the other three AMR's seemed 'sluggish' compared to that of the leading X-Bows, BMW's and Audi leaving little for any of the remaining AMR cars to improve with what they had available to them at the time.

After the pitstop window had cycled through, a change of driver did appear to rejuvenate the trio of AMR's as Julian Darras and Matt Cowley both improved their positions from P14 and P22 to P11 and P12 respectively before an unfortunate spin for Darras towards the end would sent his white car tumbling to P18 at the chequered flag though. Despite all of this, that result would still be a top 10 finish in the Silver Cup for both Moore and Cowley and another P3 podium for Seyler/Bachmann in the Am class.

Race two on Sunday followed must the same route as the first meteorologically - periods of rain followed by sunshine with at least a blustery on shore breeze to help the drying process.

Again the Qualifying process had been sorted amongst the wet/dry track conditions of Saturday with the #07 Street Art Racing car again taking the lead AMR role with Darras starting from P3. Cowley's #62 Academy was P11 whilst Fiona James would see her first racing action of the weekend from P24 in her Pro-Am entry whilst Pascal Bachmann brought up the rear for the AMR runners in P26.

Even before many of the cars had even crossed the start line to take the start of the race, disaster struck the mid pack of the grid as an over excited Mercedes driver violently changed the course of his GT4 from one side of the grid to the other. The trouble was that his lack of 'vision' meant for an obvious collision with the car to his right which in turn collected four other cars as carnage was sent spewing across the track.

With the race immediately red flagged, a total of six former pristine GT4 cars lay battered and bruised with structural components of their cars having been ripped off in the multiple contacts with each other and the barrier. Fortunately, nobody was injured although (when interviewed just after) Fiona James looked obviously shaken by the experience.

Once the debris had been cleared, the grid would be reformed to start (this time) behind the Safety Car for a two lap formation before again being let loose with 59 minutes still remaining on the clock.

Cowley made the most of the restart picking off a couple of quick places to move himself up to P8 whilst Vandenbalck in the #07 car was also looking racey as he hassled for P2. The trouble for Cowley was that he was adjudged to have been in contravention of the Safety Car procedure and that earned him a drive through all but destroying his early promises.

Just before the pit stop window, Darras had found his second wind and was again attacking those in front to recover himself back to his original starting position of P3 before he and the sister #17 car both pitted just two laps after Bachmann had already had to pit for a puncture. Cowley would elect to stay out as long as possible hoping the emptier track would allow him to make up for some time lost.

Then to round things off, the now released #07 car with Jamie Vandenbalck now aboard would be penalised for an unsafe release in the pits and would get a drive through of his own.

At the chequered flag, all three Vantages would finish not too far apart from each other in P15 (#07), P18 (#62) and P19 (#17) but those positions did at least equate to another set of top 10 positions within the Silver Cup for both Street Art Racing and Academy and for the Am #17 entry, this time they actually failed to make it to the podium!

The series now moves onto the Nurburgring in Germany for the final round of the 2019 season. The damage has already been down to those AMR runners in both Silver Cup and Pro-Am but at least Street Art Racing still lead in the Am class and that championship is theirs to lose.

Hopefully we will also see the return of Prosport Performance at their home event at the end of August.

Photo credits - GT4 European Series

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