GT Open concludes with AMR podiums in both GT3 and GT4

Sunday, August 23, 2020

After the joyous scenes of TF Sport's opening race win of their 2020 International GT Open account yesterday from the Circuit Paul Ricard in Southern France, it was back to business for drivers Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood this morning as they needed to do it all over again today.

This time it was the turn of the other driver to Qualify the cars and in TF Sports case that was Yoluc's turn, and he didn't do too bad this morning entering a time just a few hundredths off the time entered by Eastwood to claim pole position yesterday.

That left the #34 car starting from the second row in P4 for todays sixty minute race but the team did have an additional 15 second of success time added to their minimum pit stop time to add into their equation.

With air and track temperatures again having risen to nearly 30 and 50 degrees C respectively, it would be another difficult stint behind the wheel for each of the fourteen runners. Pushing hard from the green light, Yoluc was lucky to be ahead of the expected panel bashing within the midfield that blighted race 1 and again upset the race plans of two other cars again going into race 2.

Giving himself a lap of heavy defending to get into a rhythm, Yoluc soon began to develop something of a gap to the chasing pack although he had no choice but to let the professional drivers ahead to race away. Driving an AMR Vantage GT3 well suited and balanced for the characteristics of the Paul Ricard circuit, it took all the experience and tenacity of a former Le Mans winner to pass the young Turk just ahead of his compulsory stop at the halfway mark as he came into pit lane now in P4.

Another smooth stop from the crew in pit lane (elongated only by the 15 second penalty) would see Eastwood emerge into P5 once everyone had completed their stops but with two Pro-Am cars immediately ahead, it wasn't long until Eastwood had eased the #34 car into P3.

The gap to P2 however was already over twenty seconds and with Pro drivers aboard each car ahead it was unlikely that even Eastwood could narrow that gap and it became just a spectacle of staying on track for the duo to claim their second podium finish of the weekend.

These results have elevated the #34 crew up into P2 overall in the Championship stakes - just two points behind the leaders as the teams now look towards the journey overt to the Red Bull Ring in Austria for the next round in two weeks time.

This time racing after the GT3 runners was the GT open Cup for the GT4 classes and like their bigger cousins, they too had to Qualify their cars for their second race of the weekend.

Having had a torrid experience in race 1 where neither AMR Vantage GT4 actually finished the race on track although the #77 Team Virage AMR was award P3 in Pro-Am after the race, both them and PROSport Arcing were hoping for something better in Race 2.

Nico Verdonck did the 'business' in Qualifying sticking his orange and white liveried #19 car onto the front row in P2 for todays 55 minute race whilst Philippe Valenza had to make do with his P5 start from the field of now just ten runners.

The more experienced Verdonck made light work of the start - quickly establishing a gap to the pack as the expected squabbles and bashes in the midfield came about soon enough whilst Valenza had to make up some quick places in the opening sequence of corners to remain in his starting position.

Having finally found his rhythm, Valenza was battling with the #10 Audi ahead but with the Porsche close behind before he finally made his way past the Audi into the Mistral Straight chicane to move up to P4 overall.

With both AMR drivers leaving their compulsory stop until the very last minute possible, the #77 Virage car would leave pit lane way before the PROsport car despite the #19 car entering six seconds ahead of them.

Clearly the was something amiss in the midst of Verdonck's co-driver Rodrigue Gillion as he tumbled down the timing screen from the off to where they would ultimately finish P7 overall despite having lead the race for the first half.

For AMR Academy Driver Robert Hefler now in the car however, he would exit pit lane second overall with a gap behind that he needed to protect and defend if they were to have any chance of podium success in this race.

Despite the gaps to the leader doubling in the later laps, Hefler had done was was required of him to bring the #77 car home in P2 overall and in the Pro-Am class to add to their spoils of yesterday.

With these youngsters getting more track time together, we are sure that they will be racing up front as a matter of course as long as driving standards do improve, especially with those at the tail end of the pack. These guys do not make the trip to Austria and will reconvene at Monza at the end of September - time for some testing then!!

Photo credits - GT Open / GT Open Cup / Andrew Lofthouse

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