GT Open - todays wins and losses

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The opening races in both the GT Open Series and its supporting GT Open Cup Series for Le Castellet in southern France made for some excellent racing in the GT3 side of things but sadly for those competing within the smaller GT4 Series, today also showed that some had some definite room for improvement.

Having earlier qualified his TF Sport Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3 on pole position, Charlie Eastwood showed almost light work of the talented field around him as he made a quick 'get away' from the rolling start for todays seventy minute race as those who made chase clattered and banged into one another in the opening corners.

By the end of the opening lap, Eastwood had secured a gap to the two chasing Pro-Am Optimum McLarens by nearly 1.6 seconds - a gap that would steadily grow as the laps countered by. With the pit window opening just before the half hour mark, Eastwood would always be staying in the car as long as the pit stop window would allow before he handed the car over to birthday boy Salih Yoluc.

With thirty minutes of the race remaining and leaving just seconds before the closure of pit plane, Eastwood finally pitted from a ten second lead to finally make way for Yoluc.

As as multi-class Pro, Pro-Am and Am class Series, the pit stops for some placed their better, more abled or professional driver within the car and maintaining that race lead that Eastwood had created would be vital for their race prospects.

Doing better than maintaining the gap, Yoluc actually increased the gap to over fourteen second to the chasing cars as they soon become embroiled in the own battles for position. Baring any major malfunction of their own or a Safety Car intervention, the race became theirs for the taking as the clock finally counted down and Yoluc took their first win of the season in the Series by a margin of over twenty seconds.

Tomorrow sees them do it all over again for Sundays shorter race but this time its will be Yoluc Qualifying and starting the car with the added caveat of a longer minimum pit stop time for the efforts today.

In the earlier supporting GT Open Cup race meanwhile, things turned out to be not all smiles for the two Aston Martin Racing teams as both GT4 crews fell victim to early technical or third party damage issues that ruined their races.

Having to endure similar high air and track temperatures as the GT3 field, the #77 Team Virage Vantage of AMR Drivers Academy driver Robert Hefler had Qualified on the third row for todays 55 minute race whilst Rodrigue Gillion Qualified his #19 PROsport Rcaing prepared Vantage in P9 out of the eleven listed starters.

Drama was never far away unfortunately as the #99 Mercedes AMG stopped suddenly on the formation lap, only to rejoin the pack in P4 at the very last moment before the race went green. Similar to the GT3 race, contact within the opening sequence of corners claimed two early scalps as two Porsche hit each other, rejoined (eventually) but had already effectively put each other out of the race.

For a glimpsing second, Gillion had overtaken Hefler for position in the melee but things soon 'went south' for the Belgium contingent as they suddenly lost nearly twenty seconds on the opening lap and were forced to pit. That sequence of pitting - repairs - back onto the track lasted three of four times before the car was ultimately retired at the halfway mark.

Recovering well from his hesitant start was young Hungarian Hefler who was now pushing ups hard onto the rear of the top four before an unquantifiable move by the #67 Porsche at the final corner turned the #77 car around with heavy rear end damage. Fortunately able to recover and rejoin, there was intermittent speed left within the car as Hefler took seconds out per lap to the next car infront before he ultimately pitted just before half way.

During the stop, the team was seen tending to the damage corner of the car and that led to another delay in co-driver Philippe Valenza exiting pit lane for his first race miles of race 1.

Whilst they were never going to threaten the leaders for position, the #77 car was still on target of bettering its first round result of round 1 in Hungary but alas, even that was not to be as a front puncture half way around the lap lead to yet more delaying and a despondent retirement in pit lane upon their arrival with only four minutes of the race remaining.

For Team Virage, race 1 could have been so much more for them had it not been for such a rash move from the Porsche - an act that only lead to a drive through penalty after all. The race result however does mean that the #77 crew collect P3 overall in Pro-Am despite them not taking the chequered flag.

Again, its a full rest overnight as teams all get ready to Qualify and then race the second and final race of the meeting tomorrow. lets just hope its a better one this time!!

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

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