Another Aston Martin podium finish after a great GT4 European race from Hockenheim

Saturday, September 02, 2023


The GT4 European Series has certainly laid on a thorough entertaining round to their penultimate round of the season form the Hockenheim circuit in Germany.

Blighted by heavy rain earlier in the meeting during private testing, todays double Qualifying session and race one were at least able to be conducted under near clear blue skies and sunshine as forty-four cars battled for track position around the fast 4.5km circuit.

The meeting hadn’t exactly started well for one Aston Martin Racing team as the #48 GPA Racing Vantage GT4 of Emil Heyerdahl then at the wheel, suffered any race drivers worst fear in brake failure that saw his and co-drivers Bailey Voisin’s car smash hard into the tyre wall. Fortunately for them, the damage was repairable ahead of todays track events though they did get caught up again in someone else’s accident towards the end of today’s first race.

Being some of the fastest during the earlier wet sessions also saw the #74 Racing Spirit of Leman AMR of Victor Weyrich and Matteo Villagomez take top AMR honour in Qualifying, positioning their red, white and blue car in P4 overall with the #5 Virage Racing car of Jamie Day and Ruben Del Sarte just behind in P5. The remaining six Aston Martins then found themselves bunched within the midfield – always a dangerous place to be with so many like powered cars once the lights go green.

With the dominating BMW M4 GT4 also having (eventually) a negative BoP adjustment going into the round, that gave hope to many of the remaining OEM runners although some of that hope was dashed when the BMW then go some of that power disadvantage restored in between Qualifying and the cars going to the grid.

A good start from the #5 Virage car of Day saw him pass Weyrich quickly for position as the pack hurtled its way around the circuit for the first time – surprisingly without incident for at least the first couple of laps! With the pack still bunched together, an opportunist move from the AMR of Voisin saw the #48 car move up two places in one go, passing the #26 Racing Spirit of Leman car of Akhil Rabindra who then went on to get nerfed of the circuit to lose even more positions without really doing anything wrong.

Ten minutes in, and despite the cars now being spread out a little bit more the action really started as first, Weyrich’s car had obvious damage to its splitter and undertray that would begin to affect the handling of the car and the only obvious way for them was backwards from their then P5 position as it would soon start losing over 1.5 seconds per lap to its peers.

Julien Briche was battling had again for position within his #24 JSB Competition car whilst Kevin Jimenez was doing what he could do to maintain his P3 in Am class race position in his #72 GPA Racing car. The #19 Racing One AMR of Andrea Bachman had gained a few places from its starting position of P36 overall to run P32, Rabindra was down to P32, and Lorenz Stegmann was simple keeping out of trouble down in P42 in his Team Racing Spirit Vantage.

A lucky moment for Voisin just ahead of the pit window saw a Porsche behind miss their braking point to narrowly miss tagging the rear of the Englishman’s car, but he survived that near miss to then pit for the handover like most of the eight Aston Martin Racing powered crews did at the first availability.

Pit stops all complete and whilst Del Sarte was continuing the battle for the tail of the podium positions that Day had started, Villagomez (now aboard the #74 RSLM car) sadly continued the teams slide down the order as despite yards of duct tape being applied to the splitter during the stop, that didn’t change the handling characteristics of their car.

Twenty minutes to go and the first caution came as two cars battling within the top six touched for both to spin off, leaving one in the gravel and another soon confirmed broken within pit lane. Going to a Safety Car restart, that also allowed the field to bunch ahead of the 12-minute dash to the flag.

Florent Grizaud (#72), Heyerdahl (#48) and Jessica Bachman (#19) were all running close together as the race entered its final minutes. Whilst Del Sarte up ahead had ran wide, through a gravel trap to undo all of their earlier hard work to drop to P7, the race would come to a premature end with a red flag being called just four minutes from the end with a reported multiple car incident.

With emergency and circuit vehicles entering the track to reach the scene, fears of injury were quickly raised by fortunately, they were quickly dismissed through Race Control who confirmed that all had been accounted for and all were OK.

That was more than could be said for some of the cars involved however, as later replays showed the #48 GPA Racing narrowly avoiding damage just behind the #72 sister car of Grizaud whilst the #19 car of Bachman was not so lucky as it sustained heavy front-end damage. 

Whilst race one ended with just a P3 Am Class podium finish for the #72 GPA Racing crew, we wait to see just how that late incident affects the entry for tomorrow’s final race.

Photo credits - Series
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