A job well done for TF Sports guests in GT Open

Sunday, June 20, 2021

It was an overall job well done for both the TF Sport team with drivers Michael Dinan and Robbie Foley as the team marked their return to the GT Open Series at Spa this weekend and the drivers marked their first competitive race in Europe and their first racing experience of the Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GT3 to boot.

Having first sampled what AMR could offer them beyond the AMR Vantage GT4 in which the American paring won the GT4 America Series last year a Portimao last week, it was straight down to business for all as they got to grips with their #97 Vantage GT4 around the iconic Belgian circuit.

With good weather initially upon their side around the (sadly again crowd less circuit), it was to be Dinan who set their Q1 Qualifying time on Saturday to place their car P4 overall on the grid and P3 in their elective Pro Class for the later 70-minute race.

Unfortunately for all, an early Safety Car on lap two for a GT Open Cup car in the barrier at Eau rouge lost them some time before going back to green with 55 minutes remaining. Having lost a couple of places at the start, Dinan was using what knowledge of the circuit he had so far gained to stop himself losing more track position just as a further Safety Car period was called for a more serious incident involving one of the Optimum McLaren’s.

With that driver thankfully be confirmed as incurring a back injury but otherwise OK considering what might have been, it was back to racing with little over half an hour remaining. The pit window had already been put back to accommodate the caution period but that left only another lap for Dinan before he ultimately pitted from P7.

Emerging from pit lane in what was P7 overall and P2 in Pro, Foley immediately got down to battle fellow countryman Brendan Iribe and the other Optimum McLaren for position on track. More experienced than Iribe, it didn’t take him too long to pass to eventually move up to P2 overall by the end of the pit window.

With the leading Porsche way out in front, there was little chance of the #97 TF Sport car could doing anything about that, so the Americans had to ‘settle’ for a P2 finish in the inaugural race at Spa and in an AMR GT3.

Torrential thunderstorms overnight in Belgium had washed all of the laid rubber away making for a very green and damp track during this morning’s Q2 session for Foley, ahead of this afternoon’s hour-long affair.

Qualifying and starting the car from P3 on the grid, Foley tried as hard as he might to pass the Mercedes and Audi ahead of him, and despite going nearly three wide at times had to back off slightly and take a degree of caution to the situation ahead although the visual spectacle made for some very exciting racing.

At Quarter distance, TF Sport’s team manager was summoned to Race Control for their car’s persistent abuse of track limits but fortunately no penalty came from that as Foley could do no more than hold P3 on track.

Pitting just after the halfway mark, seconds were lost as the crew had to push the car back into its bay as the second placed Mercedes was already into its spot immediately before them. Exiting P3 in the race but with three Pro drivers now aboard the cars ahead, there was not a lot that Dinan could do to remedy the situation.

All was looking good for another podium finish as a rapid deflation of the left rear tyre saw the #97 lose both speed and track position as he limped it back to the pits – which luckily was only three corners away!!

Returning to the track tenth overall and fourth in class – that would be how their Spa experience would end – not quite the fairy-tale double podium as a non-puncture would have permitted but a sound race none the less.

Both Dinan and Foley are due back to compete in the final round of the Series with the team at Barcelona at the end of October after which, (hopefully) we may hear of their race plans for the 2022 season and beyond!!

Photo credits – GT Open / Team

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