Season 2 | Pre-Season | Monza

Welcome back to Italy and welcome to our final preseason event; a 2.4hr endurance event at Monza.

The last 3 preseason season events have shown us exactly the type of close, competitive racing we can expect as the official season kicks off in just 2 weeks time.

The final preseason event is a special one; a 2.4 hour race that truely challenges the focus and consistency of all drivers on the circuit, as well as preparing them for longer endurance racing that the club also participates in.

As always, let’s kick off with the latest news to be announced.

Firstly, another statement was issued by S4L Motorsports:

S4L Motorsports commits to renewing its partnership with McLaren fielding two cars for the Dapper Customs GT Challenge's second season.

"We are pleased to announce that S4L will retain our partnership with McLaren," states the team's press release. "McLaren's support and dedication to GT racing made them the obvious choice for us moving forward. We couldn't ask for a better partnership with a manufacturer and this new deal gives us the freedom to expand our operations fully."

Several times the team had been linked to talks with Ferrari and Porsche, but it appears neither team wanted to interfere given the contract issues stemming from the potential breach of contract for new driver Bryan Yang's switch from Bentley. The British manufacturer was unhappy that Yang left the team with a year left on his contract. However, sources close to the matter have shared that an agreement was reached between McLaren and Bentley that allowed for a smooth transition after all. No confirmation on the terms of that agreement has been shared. 

Today's news settles a month's long dispute between the two parties and lifts the threat of legal action against either team. Leaving just the team's upcoming livery reveal to be settled before the first race of the season. No doubt S4L Motorsports will be relieved to be able to focus purely on the racing ahead for this upcoming season.

McLaren appears to be investing heavily in the Fall Season of the GT Challenge, as Bryan Yang is confirmed to be the 7th McLaren in the field this season. 

Last minute changes to partnerships was the name of the game this week, as VK Motorsports also issued a short statement this week:

VK Motorsports is finally in a position to confirm its final line up for the upcoming season” said Team Director and Driver Bram Vogel.

“A partnership agreement with BMW, Lamborghini and VK Motorsports could not be finalised, and as such we were forced to explore alternate manufactures that were open to our circumstances” Vogel continued.

“Porsche reached out to us as soon as word hit their Stuttgart Home of Operations, and immediately their proposal package was extremely inviting. The relevant papers were drawn together and the process was as simple as it’s ever been.”

We are extremely honoured to Welcome Porsche to the VK Motorsport family as a partnered supplier for Team Director Bram Vogel. VK Motorsport are also pleased to announce Lamborghini has been extremely patient and supportive, and is continuing to sponsor Kalle Valtonen with his Huracan GT3 Evo.

“It’s been a busy couple of weeks for VK Motorsport but we’re confident with the line up we’ve achieved, and are excited to get underway at Round 1 very soon.”

Following the dissolution of the partnership with VK Motorsports and BMW, that means there are currently no drivers sporting a BMW badge this season.  Maybe things would be a different story if we finally got our hands on the latest M4 GT3?

In other news, Dapper Customs DBE Motorsports have showcased their new liveries at Monza and provided us with this promo shot below.

Livery Reveal

As qualifying began, drivers hit the track and as always, Banana was the first car out.. Banana was quick to set a lap, but Brown promptly beat him as Ishibara leapfrogged Goswick early in the session.

As the session drew to a close, Banana had chained together a strong lap to take the preliminary pole from Brown and a clean lap from Goswick jumped him ahead of Ishibara. As Valtonen completed his final lap, his green delta was enough to push Banana off the top spot, beating Brown in the process. The gap between 1st and 2nd position was just .009 of a second.

Brown was able to secure 3rd position from Goswick as he put his purple Bentley just behind his fellow pink Bentley driver. Ishibara held off Vogel in his new Porsche, ahead of Williams.

Following the conclusion of qualifying, each driver was hoping to avoid another rain race, as we saw at Nurburgring. Thankfully, the weather stayed consistent. For this 2.4hr race, a day into night transition would be expected as the race started at 7pm and would continue into the dark. Drivers would have to adapt their driving to the reduced visibility, as the darkness made it harder to see braking zones and apexes until much later.

As the drivers rounded the final turn on the formation lap, they were eager to get underway. Valtonen led the group to the line, but slowed just before the green lights signaled the start of the race. This allowed Banana to be alongside immediately and overtake before the first turn.

race start

Brown was forced to defend at turn 1, as Goswick made a nice start and pushed around the outside of Turn 1 to take 3rd position. Not happy with being relegated to 4th, however, Brown slipstreamed Goswick’s Audi through Curva Grande and put his bigger Bentley on the inside line into the 2nd chicane. Goswick braked too late and was forced to take a shortcut over the curb to rejoin the circuit.

turn 1

Meanwhile, Vogel also made a good start and was alongside with Ishibara as they approached the 2nd chicane. Ishibara also braked too late, and was forced to cut across the curb to rejoin. In doing so, Ishibara overtook Goswick whilst off track, and was forced to hand the position back. The confusion as the drivers settled into the correct position allowed Vogel to sneak through into 6th position.

cutting the turn

Goswick quickly recovered from his off-track adventure, overtaking Vogel into Turn 1 as they crossed onto the second lap.

Up front, Valtonen was hot on the heels of Banana, as both drivers focused on fast, clean laps in an attempt to outrun one another, and the rest of the field.

close racing

20 minutes into the first stint and Valtonen had closed up on Banana as they drag raced  alongside toward Turn 1. Both drivers needed to brake late if they wanted to come out in the race lead. Banana braked deep, and took to the escape road, weaving through the slalom to avoid receiving penalties. Valtonen also braked too deep, and was forced to cut the apex of Turn 2, and also had to slow to avoid a penalty. Banana rejoined the circuit just ahead of Valtonen again.

off track

As Valtonen battled against Banana, another heated battle took place on track. Ishibara had caught up to the back of Vogel and was filling the mirrors of the car ahead. The drivers swapped positions a few times over the course of the first stint, but Ishibara eventually came out on top as Vogel made a mistake at Turn 1.

close racing

Goswick was the first driver to take to pit road for a change of boots and a refill to his fuel tank. Goswick had pit-limiter-related trouble, and as a result disobeyed the 31mph speed limit in the pitlane, collecting a Stop/Go30 penalty with his new tyres.

Banana was next to pull into the pits and knew it had to be a fast stop, as Valtonen was still just 1.5 seconds behind. Good speed into the pit entry and good stopping position minimised the time loss as Banana rejoined the circuit for another stint. Valtonen pitted just a lap or two later and his stop was not as quick, as he struggled to restart his engine. He rejoined the circuit, but the gap to the race leader had extended to 8 seconds.

Shortly after the first round of pit stops, McLaren driver Williams returned to the pit garage and retired from the race. It’s unclear as to why he retired from the session, but we hope to see him back on the grid at Silverstone.

As the race continued, drivers found themselves more spread across the track, and the sun had finally set. Drivers would need to keep their focus as they raced into the dark night.

Goswick and Brown made the same error, and caught the attention of the in-game stewards. Both drivers had entered Turn 1 with too much speed, and bailed down the escape road. However, they did not slow down enough, and gained an advantage by skipping turns 1 and 2. Both drivers were slapped on the wrist with a drive through penalty.

Everyone settled in as drivers served their final pit stop without incident. As the clock ticked down to 0:00:000, Goswick had caught up to Vogel, and a tight battle ensued for the remainder of the race. They swapped positions, but neither driver would run away from the other. The battle appeared as though Goswick would finish ahead of Vogel, but pulled into the pits with just 1 lap remaining. 

close racing

Goswick’s strategist had under-fueled his Audi. Due to this error, he was forced to attempt to save fuel for several laps but despite this, he fell just one lap short of the race finish. As a result, Goswick was forced back into the pit lane once again but did not have enough fuel to reach his pit crew, as he rolled to a stop just metres away from his engineers.

crossing the finish line first

Banana was the first to cross the finish line ahead of Valtonen. Brown brought his Bentley home to 3rd position ahead of Ishibara in 4th. Vogel finished in 5th after Goswick’s fuel woes. Luckily, this is preseason and it’s best to make these mistakes before they affect a championship battle.

As well as this weekend being the final race of preseason, it was also the second to last day of the Season Qualification that had been running for a number of past weeks.

This session was available to drivers at all times to run as many laps as they wished and their fastest overall lap would be recorded for the classification of drivers.

This season sees a change in classes from Season 1.  Where Season 1 featured a Silver and AM class, Season 2 will include a Pro class along with Silver and AM.  

The track selected for the Fall Season qualifying of the GT Challenge was Barcelona. The session has now ended and the classification results will be published soon, albeit with the times of each driver remaining unpublished.

Classes will be announced prior to the start of the season, but the times recorded are extremely competitive between the drivers. This is going to be incredibly competitive between the three classes.

Thank you to everyone that attended the Preseason events and to those that make these recaps possible.

Next race brings us back to the United Kingdom as we hit Silverstone for a 1-hour sprint race to kick start the season off the right way.