Season 2 | Round 4 | Brands Hatch
Round 4 of the GT Challenge Fall Season is underway, and Brands Hatch is the host of the final round of the United Kingdom leg of the season.
Before we start off with qualifying, let’s take a look at the Championship standings after 3 the first 3 rounds.
Banana leads the Overall standings by a full 25 points to Langaard, with Heesch trailing with a 3 point deficit.
Bowler and Bartocci are both tied for 1st place in the Silver class with 48 points, and Daniels is just 5 points behind with 43. Similarly, Williams is now tied with Cockell for the AM Championship, with both drivers having scored 43 class points.
The Team Championship sees Dapper Custom DBE Motorsports extend their points lead, with BSKIT Motorsports failing to field a car at Oulton Park.
An interesting twist to this week’s race is the scheduled start time: 9pm. The night race provides a change from the usual day time races, as well as the added challenge of making braking markers and boards more difficult to see. Time will tell how the drivers manage the night race.
It was another tricky round of qualifying, with some drivers struggling to find the opportunity to set a fast lap.
Dominiak and Kent did not have such trouble, with both drivers securing the front row for BSKIT Motorsports.
S4L Motorsport also had a strong qualifying session, with Heesch and Yang taking 3rd and 5th, sandwiching Banana between the rival McLarens.
Bartocci was in fine form, claiming pole position for his silver class, ahead of Jackson and Bowler, with the added bonus of bragging rights of a purple sector time in sector 3.
Brown, Valtonen and Vogel were all struggling to extract pace from their laps, and all qualified further down the order than they would have liked, coming in 11th, 13th and 16th respectively.
5 green lights signalled the start of the race, and it was a good start from all drivers at the front of the pack. Banana started his race on the attack, trying to find a gap past Heesch. As the drivers approached turn 4, Banana pushed up the inside of Heesch, and with a strong exit, was able to climb into 3rd position, directly behind Kent. Bowler was also on the attack early on, passing both Jackson and Bartocci in the opening corners.
It was a clean opening to the race, but Brown was still in for some bad luck, as his race start took a turn for the worst. Whilst attacking Bartocci and trying to climb into the top 10, Jackson was caught by surprise at the differential in speed between his Aston, and Brown’s Bentley. The Aston bumped the rear of Brown, sending Brown sideways into the barrier.
Heesch continued to pressure Banana from behind, and after just 6 laps, pushed too hard, finding a gravel trap on the exit of Sheene’s. The off track adventure drops Heesch down to 4th behind fellow S4L driver Yang.
On the next lap, Lipponen had dropped a couple of spots and whilst trying to move up the order, collided with the rear of Vogel. The Porsche driver spun, resulting in substantial damage to his car. Vogel was forced to return to the pits, unable to continue the race.
Early on, Bowler and Kingswell found themselves together on circuit. Bowler followed Kingswell closely for several laps, before passing as Kingwell braked late and ran deep into Turn 3. Kingswell tried to fight back, but was not able to match pace and quickly dropped off the back of Bowler.
Jackson also found himself in a heated battle, initially with Pozzoli, and quickly followed by Valtonen. Valtonen defended his position well , but was not able to hold off the charging Jackson, who forced his nose up the inside of Vatlonen’s Lamborghini through turns 1 and 2.
Lap 14 saw another retirement from the race, this time from Nippon Banzai driver Lipponen. Lipponen’s season has not been going to plan thus far, with missing races due to an injury and reliability issues at Donington. Lipponen had a reasonable start, but things went downhill when his Honda caught some grass on the exit of Hawthorn, and after heavy barrier contact, retired to the pit lane.
As the race approached the halfway mark, it was clear both BSKIT Motorsports drivers were at the top of their game, and were working well as a team to slowly run away from next rival Banana with the race lead.
Banana was the first driver of the race to dive into the pits to serve his mandatory pit stop. Hoping for a quick stop and clean air after the stop, Banana hoped to be able to jump ahead of both BSKIT Motorsports cars during the pit stop period of the race.
Banana pushed hard during the pit window, lapping quicker than before whilst other drivers sat in the pits to serve their stops.
As the pit window came to a close, Banana crossed the pit exit lane with #91 of Kent directly ahead and #47 of Dominiak close behind. The Bentley driver had not been able to get ahead of both drivers, but was able to split the BSKIT Motorsports cars.
Banana’s tyres were already up to temperature, and tried to pass around the outside of Turn 1, but Kent was able to maintain his composure to defend him off. Banana tried again into turns 2 and 3, but could not complete the move.
After 6 laps, Banana had a fast exit out of Turn 4, and was able to slipstream alongside Kent as they approached Hawthorn. Banana, on the outside line, pushed an aggressive overtake, forcing Kent into a compromised position. Both drivers refused to back out of the corner, and they went side-by-side. Unfortunately, Kent mounted the inside curb, bouncing his Porsche into the side of Bananas’ Bentley.
The resulting contact pitched Kent into a spin, and with Dominiak still close behind, Dominiak was unable to avoid the spinning car, and crashed into the back of his teammate. Banana was able to hold his car stable, and took the race lead.
Both BSKIT Motorsports cars recovered quickly without losing any positions, but now had to assess the damage to their cars. For both drivers, their pace did not seem impacted and both stayed in the race to fight for the lead once again.
As the fight was in full swing at the front of the grid, Bowler's race was flipped on its head. After a strong start and first stint, Bowler found himself acquainted with the barrier, and rejoined the track ahead of Heesch.
Heesch was pushing hard, but Bowler, even whilst nursing his damaged car, was able to defend well. Both drivers raced close together and side-by-side, but it was Heesch who came out on top, overtaking Bowler as he made a mistake, running deep into a turn and getting caught out by the grass on the outside of the circuit. Bowler decided the damage was too much to continue, and retired his car with 10 laps to go.
As the race winded down, Dominiak had hunted down Banana, and was able to pass with ease, to retake the race lead for BSKIT Motorsport.
Meanwhile, Langaard and Yang fought over 4th position. Both drivers were clean and respectful, racing in close proximity to each other and lapped traffic. Langaard was successful in his battling as he overpowered Yang on lap 35, climbing into the 4th spot. Kent had shown a drop in his lap times since the contact with the Dapper Customs driver, but his pace from the first half of the race was enough to keep him from further danger from Langaard.
The checkered flag was flown, and Dominiak was the first driver to cross the line, taking the race win for BSKIT Motorsport. Banana followed in 2nd, with Kent rounding out the podium.
Bartocci took the race win in the Silver Championship ahead of Jackson and Kingswell in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. A fine showing from S4L Motorsports brought both of their cars home in 5th and 6th, collecting additional points for the Team Championship.
After the race, I was lucky to catch up with Silver Class winner Bartocci:
Banana: Bartocci! I wanted to congratulate you on your class win here at Brands Hatch. Today's win means you're now leading the silver championship. What are your hopes for the upcoming races?
Bartocci: Thank you. The race was really tense because the car felt a bit unsafe on the fast corners so I couldn't push as much as I would have wanted and ended up being under pressure from Kingswell for the whole second stint. Luckily, I managed to keep it on the black stuff. As they say: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. I hope to find a more comfortable setup for the next race.
Banana: Our next race takes us to Zandvoort, a track we've not raced before here at Pineapple Racing Club. Any predictions for the race?
Bartocci: Zandvoort is a tricky track and there are several corners with walls very close to the ideal line, so making a prediction is really hard. Everything could change very quickly from a great race to a disaster for anybody and with how close the first few races have been between drivers, I think it’ll be hard for drivers to recover. Qualifying will be crucial because the track is narrow and tricky, so overtaking will be pretty hard, hopefully it will not be boring for the spectators though.
Banana: Thank you, Bartocci, please enjoy your celebrations.
Post race, I was also able to sit down with the Team Manager of S4L Motorsports. Let’s see what he had to say:
Banana: Heesch, it appears the season is progressing well for S4L Motorsports. How is it managing a team whilst also being a frontrunner in the races?
Heesch: So far it's been a lot of fun. The extra component to the season is helping make every position feel even more vital. I feel the addition of the third class in our league has helped that also, but the team championship gives one much more of a reason to prioritize staying ahead of those in Silver and Am. For me I find the mixture of running my race but having an eye on the overall race picture to be very enjoyable. It makes each battle on track feel like it affects our team more as each battle changes the outcome for our team, regardless if we're involved in it or not.
Banana: Both yourself and Yang seemed to be really equally matched in today's race, will we see some tight battling, or are some team orders going to intervene?
Heesch: It was great to have Bryan back near the front of the grid again. Switching from the Bentley to the Mclaren is no easy feat as the differences between the two cars are night and day. We were very pleased that he has continued to progress in his comfort with the car and are looking forward to more great results this season. The goal in any race is a 1-2 and one thing our team is very good at is working towards that goal with no expectations of who will be the victor. S4L Motorsports is proud of it's racing heritage and is vehemently opposed to team orders. Our drivers are and will remain free to race each other cleanly no matter what. Though we are also very proud of the cooperation within our team. The need for team orders just isn't there for our team. Both drivers are happy to help one another whenever the situation arises and true success for us comes not from beating one another, though we both secretly love doing so, but really it's about a great result for both cars. That is the ultimate goal and either one of us will be overjoyed when the other wins their first race of this season.
Join us next week as we head to the Netherlands for a 1 hour sprint race at Zandvoort.