Race win at GT open takes TF Sport to Le Mans with confidence

Sunday, September 13, 2020

On the eve of their most important endurance race of the year at Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing Partner team TF Sport managed to turn things about at the third round of the International GT Open Championship to win the second race of the weekend to make their way over from Austria to France on something of a high.

Having won first time out and then again on the podium in race 2 at Paul Ricard two weeks ago, the #34 AMR Vantage GT3 of Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood would again go into the first race of the weekend with a fifteen second success penalty hanging over them at their pit stop so had to push extra hard on track to make up for it.

With Yoluc having Qualified the car in P7 overall (P3 in Pro) for the 70 minute race, the Turk would again be competing against nearly half of the grid running their respective Pro driver against him but that wasn't really the issue as he didn't have to race them - he just had to keep up with them as much as possible during his stint.

Expanding his race experience by each event, Yoluc wisely backed out of becoming engaged in an ensuing 'feud' between a McLaren and Ferrari ahead - a decision that probably kept their car in the race to be honest as neither Pro ahead were looking in their mirrors!

Having just been reprimanded by Race Control for 'breaking the start formation' he soon also got his first and last official warning about track limits, at turns 1, 9 and 10 as he tried to keep in something of a close contact with the race leaders some 14 seconds ahead but with Safety Car being called just before the opening of the pit window, that closed the gaps up to nearly nothing as Yoluc pitted from P8 in the race.

Serving their 15 second penalty, Eastwood would emerge down in P10 by the time all cars had pitted. In a race and on a track that clearly suited the McLaren 720S over the Aston, the Irishman has his work cut out just to stay with those ahead. Getting involved in a battle with Joe Osborne's Optimum McLaren, limits were being pushed and sometimes exceeded as the #34 car tried to get past.

Eventually, race Control had had enough and awarded Eastwood a three second post race time penalty for his efforts before that was added to again with a further five seconds for exceeding track limits. That put paid to their first race, leaving them languishing down in P9 by the time all other post race penalties and exclusions were applied - tomorrow was another day!!

For Sundays shorter (60 minute) race, it was the turn of Eastwood to Qualify and start the car, beating the #59 Teo Martin McLaren by just three one thousandth of a second to claim his second Pole Position of the season so far.

Like race 1 on Saturday however, the McLarens were still very fast and it was only after the first corner that Chaves managed to pass Eastwood for the lead of the race but Race Control judged (correctly) that the pass was done whilst using areas outside of track limits so he had to give the place back despite having already developed something of a gap to the red AMR.

Despite the second chance, it still didn't take Chaves too long to find his way back past Eastwood going up the hill in turn 3 and then undercutting a heavily defending Aston. With that done, and in the knowledge that yesterdays race winning car would also have a success penalty to serve in pit lane, Eastwood had no choice but to let him go but at least the #34 had nearly a 10 second gap to P3 behind.

Collecting another black and white flag for track limits just ahead of their stop, Eastwood would come in from P2 overall but Yoluc would come out the whole distance from turn 1 to turn 3 ahead of the #59 McLaren and with cars in-between,

With the Vantage GT3 appearing a lot happier on track today than it did on Saturday, Yoluc just had to maintain the gaps to the cars behind and that he did, extended the gap to P2 whilst the gap between P2 and P3 closed quickly as the #59 tried to make up ground.

In the final ten minutes, contact between three cars at the final sequence of corners brought out the Safety Car to recover the broken and stranded cars leaving just a single lap sprint to the flag once the track went back to green. Keeping a cool head, Yoluc went on to secure their second overall race win of the season.

Despite that win, results from Austria drop the #34 crew down a place to 3rd overall in the Championship but only by one point as they move onto Monza at the end of September but next week, they have the 24 Hours of Le Mans to keep themselves occupied with!!

Photo credits - TF Sport / GT Open

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