Round 6: Nürburgring 3/27/2021
Saturday 27th March 2021 Round 6 of GT Challenge 2021 Season, presented by Pineapple Racing Club, powered by Dapper Customs.
Round 6 took place over 2.4hrs at Nurburgring, Germany. Drivers had been religiously performing rain dances trying desperately to convince the Rain Gods to keep the skies clear for the race. Unfortunately, as the race grew nearer, the precipitation chances only increased.
Recapping the current season standings, Dominiak leads the championship, with Lipponen 11 points behind, and Banana trailing by a further 13 points. Cruijsen leads the AM championship, with Chmura close behind, and D. Reynolds rounding out the podium.
Drivers prepared for qualifying with the rain dancing showing some signs of effectiveness. A warm, dry track brought Dominiak to the pole position, with Banana breathing down his neck. Valtonen had another good showing in qualifying to snatch the final podium position from Lipponen. Bartocci stole the AM pole with Chmura and Winegarden claiming second and third.
5 green lights illuminated the grid, and all 18 cars thundered towards Turn 1. Despite a couple of small bumps in the mid-pack, everyone made it through the first sector unharmed.
Attention was drawn to Valtonen, after his impressive qualifying pace. Unfortunately, a small slide through 'Schumacher S' turned tragic, as he met the wall at 100kph. Aero damage was sustained, but Valtonen toughed it out, eventually pitting for repairs and a change of tyres 15 laps later.
At the front of the pack, Dominiak put the hammer down and pulled out a gap on 2nd place Banana, as Banana pushed his Porsche to the limit to create some breathing space from Lipponen. As the first laps settled down, Banana had created his safe space, whilst Langaard found himself in a tight battle with Brown that lasted for several laps before an incident finally separated them on track.
Langaard spent the remainder of the race chasing down Brown, which was unsuccessful; however, it did result in a 22-lap battle with Bentley driver Yang. In the closing laps of the race, Yang was able to capitalise on an altercation between Langaard and Del Campo, to pinch 4th position from the Norwegian.
As the timer ticked down, attention was once again turned toward driver Valtonen, who, in a true rise from the back of the pack, was able to pick his way back through the field to a brilliant 6th position after falling to 18th from an early pit for repairs.
After leading the race for 70 of 74 laps, Dominiak crossed the finish line to claim his full 25 points. Banana followed in 2nd for 18 points, and Brown rounded up the podium, collecting much needed points after taking a 10 point penalty to switch his car. Dominiak extends his championship lead, and Banana leaps over Lipponen to reclaim 2nd position overall.
The AM win was taken by D. Reynolds, who, after exiting the pits for his final tyre change, hunted down Chmura. From 14 seconds behind, Reynolds pulled consistent laps and closed the gap, before eventually making his move into Warsteiner-Kurve. From there, he ran away for the win. Even a tackle from a backmarker on the penultimate lap could not hold him away from this deserved victory.
Drivers returned to Parc Ferme, with some drivers being hauled directly to the stewards. I was able to catch up with some available drivers.
Banana: Valtonen, you were able to bring your car to a great qualifying position once again. How were you feeling going into the race?
Valtonen: I felt like I had a lot more to offer and could've maybe had a pole with a clean lap, but in the end couldn't keep it together. Despite that it was a good position to start a long race. Here it's consistency that counts so I was feeling pretty confident.
Banana: Lap 1 did not go as well as you'd have hoped, I imagine. Can you talk us through what was going through your mind?
Valtonen: Lap 1 was pretty typical for me; Lipponen got past and I thought: Oh no, I need to get my position back, lost my cool and pushed too hard.
Banana: That's a real shame. But you still managed a great drive today. You climbed from 18th to 6th over 2 hours. How exactly did you manage that?
Valtonen: Getting back from the back of the grid wasn't easy. After the first lap crash it took some time to regain my confidence, but once I found a rhythm, I decided I'd pit early to avoid traffic and fix the damage I had. After that it was just about running consistent laps and hoping for the best.
Banana: It was an unfortunate situation but you made the most of it and kept it entertaining for our viewers. Thank you Valtonen.
Banana: Reynolds, for most of the season so far, you've taken podium positions for AM class. It's the first time taking that number 1 spot. How does it feel?
Reynolds: It felt good especially because I was coming off two bad races.
Banana: You chased down Chmura during your final stint, and were racing close behind for a few laps, as time was running out. Was there ever any doubt you'd be able to get past?
Reynolds: I was a bit worried given how hard it can be to pass in these cars, especially on the Nurburgring, but I was pretty sure the McLaren struggled with tire wear so I was hopeful that [Chmura] would make a mistake. I just tried to stay close enough to take advantage if there was one.
Banana: It was a fantastic race from your perspective, and the points haul brings you just 1 point behind Chmura going into Barcelona. Here's to hoping you can challenge for the lead once again.
Banana: Brown, Congratulations on securing a new drive for the remainder of the season. What made you leave BMW mid-season?
Brown: I've not had the best start to the season with BMW mainly due to friction with how to set up the car. There was a mutual understanding that we weren't getting the best out of each other and it was time to part ways.
Banana: A very diplomatic response, but seems to have been the right one based on your result here. Well done on a good finish and hope to see it continue through future rounds.
We're now at the halfway mark of the season. Dominiak is dominating the season with a 31 point lead over 2nd place, having won 4 of 6 rounds so far. Yang, Brown and Valtonen are close in the standings, and it will be interesting to watch their battle develop as the season progresses.
In the AM class, it's much tighter through the top 3, just 9 points separating 1st to 3rd. Winegarden and Bartocci are also drivers to watch out for and could still challenge the AM front runners if their luck changes through the second half.
Round 7 takes place in Barcelona in just under 1 weeks time, with preliminary weather reports indicating more rain on the horizon. However, this round has proved anything can happen with the weather, so it's best to prepare for all eventualities.