Season 2 | Pre-Season | Spa
Welcome back friends, and welcome to Belgium! Home to our second of four weekends of pre-season testing.
The passing week has brought new driver and team news to our attention.
Kicking the week off strong was a big announcement from Season 1 driver Drew Goswick. Let’s take a look:
New partnership for FG Motorsport
FG Motorsport L.L.C., based out of Houston, TX, USA, is proud to announce a new partnership with Audi Sport for the upcoming Pineapple Racing Club GT Challenge, powered by Dapper Customs.
After a 4th place overall finish at Mount Panorama in Bathurst, the team decided to part ways with Aston Martin and begin a new partnership with Audi Sport going forward. “Aston Martin’s support last season was professional and beneficial” stated Sporting Director Drew Goswick. “However, we as a team felt it was necessary to end our relationship with the British manufacturer to further develop the team.”
A single entry in the season set to begin at Silverstone in less than a month’s time, FG Motorsport has plans to enter its brand new Audi R8 LMS Evo in a few of the upcoming preseason tests, beginning this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. “Unfortunately we won’t be able to attend all of the upcoming tests. We’ve been lucky enough to secure a new factory back home so most efforts will be focused on moving the equipment to the new facility, but the PRC and Spa have a special relationship and we wouldn’t miss it for the world. Not only is it a tremendous track, but it also hosted the inaugural race, as forgettable as it was for us.”
FG Motorsport is hoping to not have a repeat of the inaugural PRC 2.4hrs of Spa-Francorchamps, which ended prematurely due to a DNF only 10 minutes into the race. Goswick is positive that this weekend will be a different result. “That’s definitely a difficult race to forget,” he said, “but we have improved in the cockpit as well as on the pit wall so I’m confident that this weekend will be a different result.”
No announcement has yet been made on the new livery for the upcoming season and Goswick explained that the #4 Audi will be sporting a testing livery for the preseason races, although a livery reveal should be expected in the coming weeks.
Another news story hit my desk late this week, this time announcing the alliance of two Season 1 teams.
“Despite a tough first season fraught with mechanical problems, Rhumra Roulee, Owner of 'Balamb Racing Team' is excited to confirm their entry for the second season of the GT World Challenge powered by Dapper Customs. The new season comes with some major changes, starting with a factory change. 'Balamb Racing Team' is now partnered with Nissan and will be racing their latest Nissan GTR GT3.
After a strong, albeit spotty season, 'nIRVCORE Racing' has renewed their support contract with Honda for another season. "Changing manufacturers after having such a strong season seems not in our best interest. I believe with a bit more refinement from the engineers and more practice from myself, we've still got more to give," nIRVCORE team owner Lipponen reports.
'Balamb Racing Team' and 'nIRVCORE Racing' are pleased to report a partnership agreement has been initiated with support from the Japanese Government, in efforts to promote Japanese GT cars across the globe. The Honda/Nissan combination will be racing in the GT World Challenge powered by Dapper Customs under a new racing team name: 'Nippon Banzai' to formalize their partnership despite keeping their private sponsors.”
As free practice began and drivers gradually hit the circuit, immediately an absence was noted. After reaching out to FG Motorsports Headquarters, Director Drew Goswick issued the following statement:
“It seems like our bad luck here in Belgium continues. Overnight the mechanics and garage staff were preparing the car when we inexplicably lost power to the car. We were hoping that we would be able to get to the bottom of the issue before the race but unfortunately that wasn't the case. We'll be moving into the new factory next weekend so the whole team is laser-focused on a solid Monza result before the season truly gets started.”
We’re disappointed to not see Goswick, or FG Motorsport’s new motor on track, but eagerly await their appearance in the final pre-season session at Monza in 2 weeks’ time.
Throughout free practice and qualifying, Heesch displayed fantastic pace in his McLaren, managing to put himself in pole position, ahead of Banana, who took a trip down memory lane with a (real) Bentley.
Another good qualifying showing came from Jackson, who is getting comfortable in his new Aston Martin, as he out-qualified Bartocci, one of his main rivals through Season 1.
As the drivers lined up for the race start, Banana was able to muscle his way around the outside of Heesch into Eau Rouge to take the race start immediately. His race quickly went downhill, however, as due to threat from Heesch and Lipponen, Banana’s Bentley was prone to oversteer in high speed turns, resulting in a spin at the top of Radillon after just a couple of laps, promoting Heesch back into the race lead, ahead of Lipponen and Jackson.
A couple laps later, Banana lost control of his Bentley once again, this time through Blanchimont, pitching his Bentley into the wall at very high speed. A lack of available spare parts provided by Bentley forced Banana to retire from the race.
At the front of the pack, Jackson was able to match pace with Lipponen, shadowing the Honda for the entirety of the first stint. As the pit window opened, Lipponen pitted for fresh rubber and Jackson followed his rival into the pits. The Honda engineers were able to service Lipponen and send him back out ahead of Jackson, increasing the lead he’d manage to hold thus far into the race.
As other drivers hit the pits for their mandatory tyre change, Cockell, testing out his new Aston Martin, stayed out longer and momentarily led the race. As Cockell took his stop in the final minute of the pit window, Heesch once again retook his race lead to cruise home to his first PRC victory.
As the race entered its final 20 minutes, Roulee and Lipponen quickly found their race turned upside down. Lipponen was successfully holding 2nd place from Jackson when he upset the rear balance of his car as he turned into Radillion, spinning his Honda into the run-off area. Lippoinen dropped to 4th, with Chmura also gaining from Lipponens’ misfortune.
Likewise, Roulee had been slowly reeling in Cockell, and it looked as though a battle was on the horizon, but poor luck also struck Godzilla, as Roulee lost rearward stability under heavy braking for Double Gouche. The incident allowed Cockell to sail off to secure 7th position overall.
Another heated battle in the closing stages came from Winegarden, in his recently acquired Audi, and Bartocci’s new Ferrari. Initially, Winegarden was running ahead of Bartocci, but dropped back following a mistake. As the race approached the final lap, Winegarden had caught right up behind Bartocci.
The white flag warned Winegarden that if he wanted to overtake Bartocci, he had to do it within this lap. Winegarden, hungry for a 5th position finish, pushed too hard into Eau Rouge, which upset the balance of his Audi, spinning him into the runoff area and hard into the wall. Bartocci went on to finish the race in 5th position, whilst Winegarden limped around the rest of the circuit, just holding off Cockell.
As the checkered flag was waved, Heesch was the first to cross the line, after dominating the competition in both qualifying and the race.
Next across the finish line was Jackson, closely followed by Chmura, as they drag raced out of the final chicane toward the finish line. These two drivers had fought hard for most of the race, and their battle concluded with Jackson just 0.2 seconds ahead of Chmura.
Lipponen was next to take the checkered flag, in 4th position, with Bartocci claiming 5th position. Winegarden dropped to 6th after his crash, and Cockell finished his race in 7th. Roulee and Ishibara rounded out the grid of finishers.
Thank you once again for joining us in Belgium. We now take a few days rest before traveling to Germany for our 3rd week of preseason, as Nürburgring hosts our weekend.