Rabindra and Gunn unfortunate to miss out on Podium at VIR

Monday, August 26, 2019

Anybody who has not tuned in to any recent round of the IMSA sanctioned Michelin Pilot Challenge Series really is missing out on a spectacle of GT4 motor racing after another exciting round at Virginia International Raceway on Saturday.

Filling in their part of the thirty seven car entry around the lush, undulating parkland circuit were two Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4's competing under the name of Florida based Automatic Racing with the help of recently appointed AMR North America agents CSJ Motorsport and with the presence of one AMR factory driver Ross Gunn who was competing in IMSA for the first time.

Gunn was brought into the latest round of the Series to help AMR Driver Academy student Akhil Rabindra who was already taking the IMSA scene by storm after a sensational debut last time out at Road America where only misfortune for his then co driver Kris Wilson failed to get the #09 crew a chance at the podium.

Like Road America, Mother Nature was again going to have a hand in the proceedings effectively washing out any chance of the Michelin Pilot Challenge being able to set a Qualifying time on Friday so it was left to their current championship position to determine their starting position for Saturdays two hour race. For the Rabindra/Gunn combo, that meant that they would be starting from the rear of the GS class whilst team mates in the #97 Automatic car (Ramin Abdolvahabi and Tom Long) would be starting from P14.

Starting on slicks on a damp track, the start had opposing situations for both AMR's as Abdolvahabi's #97 car would get involved in some first corner antics that would take him back to the rear of the field whilst Rabindra would make early gains to lift his #09 car into the top 10 by the time of the first Full Course Yellow just ten minutes into the race.

Three cars off, two impacting heavily into one another on the outside of the final corner would lead to a long delay to racing but it also helped the field out as rain began to fall - fall quite heavily onto the remaining field all still shod with slick rubber. A wise choice from Race Control at least allowed all time to pit (if they wanted) to fit wet weather tyres ahead of the restart which happened just over twenty minutes later. That pit stop however showed Automatics achilles heal of only having one set of crew available as the team had to stack both cars in the pit lane and that dropped Rabindra back down to P20.

Despite getting 'preference' at the stop for wets, the trials and tribulations for the #97 car worsened as they were further pinged for spinning the rear wheels whilst the car was on the jacks and that earned them yet another visit through pit lane for their troubles. Rabindra meanwhile was on another charge through the pack to re-elevate himself back up as high as P5 by the end of the first hour of racing.

Blotting his copybook slightly, Rabindra was to have a little 'off' during the final laps of his stint before he handed the car over to his AMR Driver Academy Coach and co-driver Gunn from P7 with just forty five minutes remaining. An almost immediate charge from Gunn soon saw purple sectors light up on the timing screen as he claimed both fastest lap and GT4 lap record at VIR.

Another FCY (for debris) allowed Gunn to close the gap ready for the restart but he was unable to make effective use of the cars obvious superior speed to those ahead to actually drop three places once the track went green again. An unseen off and a resulting visit to pit lane to clear the front grills wasn't enough to stop Gunn putting in some faster laps still as he carved his way back through the field to claim P7 at the chequered flag. A post race time penalty for a car ahead would also lift the #09 car to P6 overall - a great finish for a pairing who had only shared a car for the first time during Free Practice. For the #97 Invisible Glass liveried car, VIR was one to forget as Tom Long brought the car home a distant P29.

The next round of the Series is at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca in just under two weeks time - will will wait to see just who appears in a Aston Martin there!

Photo credits - IMSA /Automatic / Laguna Photography

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