Season 2 | Round 8 | Imola
Welcome back to Pineapple Racing Club. You rejoin us as we head over to Italy as we visit Imola for a 1-hour race for Round 8 of the GT Challenge Fall Season.
Let’s get right into the action!
All the drivers hit the track for a 20 minute qualifying session. Dominiak was the only driver able to break the 1:40s, claiming pole position for himself, less than 1 tenth of a second ahead of championship rival Banana. Heesch parked his car in 3rd position, for the third time this season.
Jackson had a great qualifying as he was able to secure his Silver Class pole, in just 4th position overall.
Kent qualified a little lower than he would have hoped in 5th position, with the added pressure of having Brown alongside in his Dapper Customs Bentley.
Gomez finished the session in 11th place on the grid, less than 1 tenth of a second behind Pozzoli in 10th position, taking the pole position for AM Class ahead of Cockell.
Dominiak led most of the grid around on the formation lap, whilst team mate Kent remained stationary in his grid position. As the pack approached turn 2, Kent’s car was pushed back to the pit garage, where he was forced to start the race from the end of the pit lane.
5 Green lights signalled the start of the race, and Dominiak led into turns 1 and 2 with Banana close behind. An unfortunate start procedure error awarded Langaard with a drive-through penalty, kicking his race off to a poor start.
Langaard’s race quickly went from bad to worse, however, as he was involved in a big collision at turn 7; Kingswell missed his braking marker, and rallied through the grass toward the apex of turn 7, spearing the side of Langaard’s Ferrari, also making contact with Pozzoli and Cockell.
Pozzoli and Cockell were able to continue racing with only minor damage, but the damage to the cars for Langaard and Kingswell was more severe. Kingswell retired on Lap 2, after the damage to his car caused another visit to the gravel traps whilst Langaard was pushed to the back of the grid as he served his penalty.
Jackson had a very chaotic race start, having started from the second row. It was a slow initial getaway from the line for Jackson, which left him under attack from Brown on his right side and Langaard on his left. As Jackson braked for turn 2, he was able to fend off both drivers to hold his position. Through the next series of corners, Jackson braked too late and ran deep into Virante Villeneuve and was slow through the second apex. This gave Langaard an opportunity around the outside, but Jackson ran up to the outer apex, forcing Langaard into the gravel, dropping him further down the order.
Jackson’s exit was slow, allowing Brown to once again make an attacking move on the outside into the hairpin of turn 7. Brown remained alongside as they raced up the hill to turn 8. Both drivers touched as they slammed on the brakes, and Jackson lost out to Brown, but was quickly given the position back. Still in 4th position, Jackson led a train of cars into Acqua Minerale. Once again, he braked late, and ran deep, compromising his exit on the straight to the chicane. Brown, Bowler, and Bartocci all sailed past the slower Aston Martin.
Jackson ran a clean line through the chicane and gots a faster exit on Bartocci, pulling alongside as they headed down the hill to turn 14. Jackson backed out of the move, slotting back in behind Bartocci as they turned into the apex. Bartocci carried excess speed and ran into the gravel trap with Jackson following, closing the opportunity to regain a position. Jackson ended the first lap having dropped 3 positions, now running in 7th position. A difficult start to the race, but no doubt wanting to find a rhythm to push forward again.
Up front, Dominiak quickly found his groove and put a small cushion between himself and Banana. But by lap 6, Banana had begun to close the gap and apply pressure to the race leader. As both cars approached Acqua Minerale, Banana lost rear end grip as he braked hard, rotating the car onto the grass, narrowly avoiding sliding into Dominiak, losing the ground he had just worked hard to make up.
As the race reached Lap 8, an ongoing battle between Brown and Bowler continued. Bowler had been glued to the rear end of Brown since the start of the race and a mistake from Brown into the chicane allowed Bowler to make a move and climb into 4th position.
Focusing back to Kent, who had started the race from the pit lane, he caught up to the cars ahead and was beginning to move up the order. 11 laps after the race start, Kent passed Cockell in 10th position, before setting his sights on Gomez up ahead, passing the AM championship leader the next lap.
25 minutes into the race, and the pit window opened for drivers to serve their mandatory tyre change. Dominiak dove into the pit lane, closely followed by Banana. It was a flawless stop by Dominiak, whilst rival Banana had a slower stop, once again dropping further off the back of the leader.
Brown also followed the leaders into the pits, attempting an undercut on Bowler, who stayed out on track longer. It was a quick stop from Brown, and he hit the track with new boots. He set about running clean laps, in the hope of overtaking Bowler whilst he served his stop. But it wasn’t enough as 3 laps later, Bowler rejoined the circuit ahead of Brown.
The race reached lap 16, and Kent had caught up to Pozzoli, who defended his position well, halting the forward charge of the faster Porsche driver. After sitting behind the red Ferrari for a full lap without being able to make a pass, Kent took to the pit lane for his change of tyres.
Driver Cockell, for Monterey Motorsports, entered the pit lane on Lap 18, but misjudged the pit speed limit line, and entered the pit lane over twice the speed limit. After serving his stop and rejoining the race, Cockell was awarded a 30 second stop-and-go penalty.
As Bowler rejoined the race and got his new tyres up to temperature, Brown was pushing his Bentley hard to close the gap. Brown continued to push forward until he was once again right on the rear diffuser of Bowler. Over the course of several laps, Bowler defended well to each of Brown’s efforts. As the race reached the final few laps, Brown appeared to have used all the available grip from his tyres, as he slowly began to fall off the back of Bowler, the gap steadily increasing.
The race settled down for most drivers, as the gaps between each car grew bigger and less on-track battles took place. As the race hit lap 30, with around 6 laps to go, Kent had caught up to Jackson in 7th position. Kent caught up through turns 5 and 6, and made his move at the hairpin of turn 7, launching his car around the outside. Both drivers gave each other the space they needed, and Kent completed the move to climb to 7th position.
With just 2 laps to go, Dominiak led the race by around 3 seconds to Banana. It looked like a sure victory for Dominiak, as he had been able to out-pace Banana for the majority of the race. In the closing stages, however, Dominiak had caught up to Langaard, who was a lap down following his race incident and penalty.
Langaard continued his race exactly as he should have, maintaining a predictable line without defending Dominiak in any way. However, Langaard reduced Dominiak’s pace in the last lap, which allowed Banana to catch up dramatically. Banana was hot on the heels of Dominiak as they rounded turns 14 and 15, but reached the checkered flag before an opportunity to overtake.
Dominiak was the first driver across the line, with Banana in a close second. Heesch brought his McLaren home in 3rd position, matching his best finish from Silverstone.
Bowler came home to another brilliant finish in 4th position, taking the Silver Victory for the 2nd consecutive time. Jackson and Bartocci rounded out the Silver podium in 7th and 8th respectively.
Gomez continued his AM championship lead after picking up another AM class victory in 10th position.
As the drivers head back to their team garages, it’s time to head to our latest press recruit, Zach Heesch for post race interviews:
Heesch: Banana dropped his press badge and now I ask the questions around here. So, I have a few for you after your performance today. Mr. Dominiak, fantastic win today! How much of a challenge did you find it to maintain your incredible pace?
Dominiak: Thank you! It was quite a challenge to do consistent quick laps on a track that is not the best for the car. Banana’s pace was incredible and I had to be on top of my game for the whole quali and race. Also started to make some mistakes in the end and Banana managed to close in. Probably the toughest race so far.
Heesch: Your season-long battle with Banana for fastest racer produced another good race today. Any comment on the pressure you felt from Banana behind?
Dominiak: Massive amounts of pressure. He was really giving it all and I could feel it. The lap times that he managed to do were absolutely insane. I dare to say that this was the closest race that we ever had. Plenty of fun and quite a challenge.
Heesch: You find yourself 2nd in the standings with a big points difference to Banana. Do you feel confident you can still close the lead and challenge for the championship, despite missing the three races earlier this season?
Dominiak: I think that this season's title belongs to Banana. There is way too much of a deficit in points and judging by his performance this season he is unreachable for me. Especially since I didn't participate in three races that he won. He deserves it. But I won't hand him the crown easily so anything can happen.
Heesch: Mr. Bowler, great race today! 4th overall and your second straight Silver class win. You must be feeling great about the race today?
Bowler: Yeah very happy with that, loved it!
Heesch: You had a race long contest with Brown and managed to come out on top. Do you think you'll be racing in the pro class next season?
Bowler: I had a good battle with Brown yeah, he was so quick! Kept me honest! I could be pro next season maybe, I struggled at the start of the series to adapt to the car, but I feel like I have now and the pace has been improving!
Heesch: You've pulled to within 6 points of the silver class points lead. How are you feeling for the remaining races and the fight for that class championship?
Bowler: It'll be tough to win the class, the quality of the competition is strong and the remaining races aren't tracks I feel I do particularly well at so we'll see how we do, I've got a few other events on too so practice time might be limited, but I'll do what I can!
Heesch: Hibana congratulations on the 2nd place today! How do you feel about your race today?
Banana: Thanks very much. Overall, I’m very happy with my result. Had my pit stop gone a little smoother, or there have been an extra lap or two, I might’ve been able to properly challenge for the win, but 2nd is still a great result for myself and the team.
Heesch: You're holding a strong 57 point lead in the championship, with just 4 races remaining, you must be feeling good about your chances this season?
Banana: This whole season has been unbelievable. It’s no secret that I have plenty of experience with the Bentley, but coupled with the incredible support from my team, both on and off the circuit, we’re reaping the benefits, and hope to do so right down to the end of the season.
Heesch: The next race takes place at Paul Ricard, do you feel the track favors the high speed of the Bentley? And who do you expect your strongest competition to be come race day?
Banana: Paul Ricard is a tricky circuit, but I’m sure we’ll find the Bentley to be a strong contender. As for rivals; The McLarens of S4L Motorsport could find themselves being a threat, And I expect Langaard’s Ferrari to have a strong pace. We also can’t discount the Porsche’s of BSKIT Motorsport - Racing for Rob. They always seem to have something stuffed up their sleeve.
Heesch: Thank you Hibana, good luck in France.
Following the end of the race, some drivers voted for their ‘Driver of the Day’. A small reward to a particular driver that had a strong performance on track.
This week, that vote goes to D. Bowler, for his tense battle race-long with Brown, and an excellent finish in 4th position overall, taking a class victory in the process. Well Done, Bowler! We hope this strong pace continues and we have a fair fight for the Silver Championship Title.
As always, thank you for joining us for the latest round of GT Challenge Fall Season. Join us again very soon for what should be an exciting 2.4hr solo endurance as we head to Paul Ricard.