Extraordinary racing at start of GT4 America at Road America

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The opening salvo's into this weekends fourth round of the GT4 America Series from Road America has already produced some incredible sights and sounds as the seven Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT4's from the Flying Lizard, Rearden Racing, BSport Racing And Rennsport One teams got back to business on Thursday with some private testing before the timed sessions of yesterday.

Going from the sunshine and the warmth of Thursday into the cooler and certainly wetter sessions of Friday even meant that some of the Qualifying had to be abandoned by the race organisers leaving the starting grid for the first Sprint race of yesterday being determined by the early Free Practice times.

Riding high on commitment and confidence after their near whitewashing with the race results at the last round at Sonoma a couple of weeks ago, the two Rearden cars of Paul Terry (#59), Jeff Burton (#191) and the highest placed AMR runner in the Championship, Michael Dinan in his now yellow accented #210 car looked 'racey' from the off at the start of Fridays first 50 minute Sprint race.

Terry found himself starting from P2 on the grid and amongst the Pro cars whilst Dinan was uncharacteristically down in P12 (Free Practice times remember) with Burton just behind him in P13.

With visibility being an obvious issue, the race started behind the Safety Car so that the drivers could pick out the standing water on track as the race then got off to a 'controlled' start by all after being waved off. During the opening two race laps, Dinan piled in the speed into the soaking wet circuit, full of confidence as he elevated himself from P12 to P4 - taking Terry for position in the process.

Just before the halfway mark, the Sin R1 car spun itself off on the exit of a corner and into (fortunately) an extensive tyre wall meaning that a Full Course Caution then Safety Car was needed for its extraction. With the Am class drivers now watching where each was going to catch and maintain their speed, Terry was learning from watching Dinan ahead whilst Burton was doing the same as he had risen up to P8 overall.

On the restart, Burton was a little too eager on the exit of turn 1 and spun off dropping himself down to P12 as Dinan initially let the top three Pro class cars go and race his own Class battle with Terry before circumstance and the errors of others had lifted the #210 car up to P2 overall.

With ten minutes remaining, Burton put in couple of fastest laps in the race as he looked to improve upon his then P8 position after taking confidence in passing two cars in two corners earlier but with just five minutes remaining, the #191 ran out of track (literally). Having passed one McLaren, he tried it with another but that driver appeared unsighted to Burton's position on track - the two cars touched and both became passengers into two very expensive looking race accidents.

As a result of that incident the race would ultimately finish under caution with Dinan eventually finishing P3 overall and P1 in Am Class with the #59 Paul Terry car finishing just behind in P4 overall and P2 in Class for another AMR 1-2 on the podium.

For the #191 car - the damage was apparently significant and the team will have their work cut out to repair it in time for any of the weekends remaining Sprint races.

Next out for the GT4's was the opening round of the longer, one hour race with driver change Sprint X Series with four AMR Vantage's destined to race within it - although that wasn't quite the case.

A 'technical issue' for Jeff Burtons second car meant that he and Vesko Kosarov were absent from the grid so that left Dinan/Michael Foley starting from P2, the #15 BSport Racing car of Bryan Putt/Kenton Koch P10 and a revitalised #33 Rennsport One car of Matt Dalton/Pat Gallagher in P17 - 22 cars from the original 29 cars that 'entered' the event!. One such car that would be missing from the event following an earlier incident would be the Panoz that Roman de Angelis (Heart of Racing Vantage GTD driver) although his team mate Ian James would still be running in his Panoz GT4.

At least the rain had stopped and the track dried ready for the start of the race as everyone strived to survive the opening corners of the tight and undulating circuit.

The race appeared to be settling down nicely into its own little battles as the #21 Flying Lizard car of Dinan suddenly tumbled down the timing screen from their then P3 position. Circuit cameras eventually picked them out on the grass going into the kink with what looked like no power to the wheel and that incident brought out the Safety Car as the corner workers looked to quickly retrieve it back to a place of safety. The team would later confirm that track debris had been lifted upon by the car infant of Dinan and that had hit the emergency kill switch for the engine, leaving Dinan with no power and no method of resetting it himself!!

Ten minutes later the track went back to green as the AMR Am starting driver looked to capitalise on any track position before they pitted and handed over to their respective Pro driver. The best that Putt and Dalton could do however was to retain their starting position relative to the field astray handed over to Kenton Koch and Pat Gallagher respectively.

By the time the available pit stop window was at an end, the decent in laps of their Am's and the out laps of their Pro's had lifted the #15 car up to P7 and the #33 up to P14 but the body language of each AMR car on track said that neither would be settling for these positions with still 20 minutes of racing ahead of them.

Making the most of their new V8 power plant at the front Gallagher was on a mission to avenge the nightmare that they had at Sonoma where an earlier accident in testing went on to affect the whole racing meeting with two DNF's as well as not even making the start of race 3 that weekend.

AMR Drivers Academy driver Kenton Koch also had the race carrot dangling in front of him as he had an overall race podium beaconing. Ath the chequered flag, the #15 BSport Racing car finished P3 overall and P2 in Pro-Am whilst the #33 Rennsport One car literally snatched P10 overall at the flag but more importantly for them - claiming P3 in Pro-Am as well.

Great opening race and we couldn't be happier for either of them - but tomorrow is always another day!

Photo credits - Flying Lizards / GT4 America

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