fanatec gt world challenge europe – 31 july 2023
disappointing end to a strong nurburgring weekend
A late puncture at the Nürburgring for the Optimum Motorsport ‘chrome zebra’, was a cruel ending to a strong run of results for Sam de Haan. Battling for a further Gold Class podium at the latest round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, Sam and his teammates Charlie Fagg and Dean Macdonald were showing strong pace, and on target for a further podium before a puncture in the last stint dropped them out of contention.
It was true Nürburgring weather conditions for the fourth endurance event of the year, with the #5 McLaren running in the top-six overall, during mixed conditions, in the pre-qualifying sessions. With the session ending in the wet, it gave an early preview to activities for the three qualifying sessions to come, which were run in very wet conditions.
Charlie took the first run, running within the top-three, before the red flag was flown due to a car spinning off in treacherous conditions. On the restart, with the heavy rain slowly relenting, he went off track and caused some damage to the McLaren, which meant he was unable to make any further improvements during the session. He was then followed by Sam as the weather appeared to get worse again, with clouds hanging low over the Eifel Forest, before Dean took the final run. With both sessions extremely wet, once again, the pace was much lower than had been seen earlier in the weekend and, still carrying damage from the opening session, the Optimum Motorsport-entered McLaren lined up out of position, P7 in class.
Only a few hours after the qualifying sessions were concluded, the race got underway in very different conditions. With the sun shining, Charlie was immediately on the front foot as the lights went out, and looking to maximise the opportunity off the line. Showing the outright pace, and capitalising on the chaotic first lap, Charlie gained an impressive 14 positions. He wasn’t finished there, and continued to climb further, swiftly moving into the top 20 within four laps. He then moved up to the final class podium position at the 30-minute mark, running as the lead McLaren.
On the hour, Charlie ran slightly longer than the rest of the field, gaining track position, and handing the car over to Sam in the top-six overall, and gaining more ground on the class leaders. From here, Sam returned to the track, and was quickly on the pace, as the field settled into the second hour. As the pitstops shook themselves through, Sam was running just off the podium, and showing good pace throughout his stint. He continued to battle hard for position, handing the car over to Dean for the final hour, still in striking distance for the Gold Class podium.
Dean was looking strong as he rejoined the track, but disaster struck just as he completed his first full lap, as he went off track and picked up a right rear puncture while running in P4. Cruelly, the tyre let go just after the Scotsman had passed the pit entry, meaning the chrome, red and black McLaren was forced to limp a full tour of the 5.148-kilometre circuit, dropping them down the order, and out of contention. The team quickly resolved the issue once back in the pitlane, and Dean continued to on to take the chequered flag, finishing P7 in class, but it was certainly a case of ‘what could have been’ for Sam and the team.
“Obviously, the end result is not what we were hoping for, and hugely disappointed to end the weekend without the result we felt we could have achieved. The pace was there in each session, and we had moved up hugely from our starting position before the tyre let go. The whole team has done a great job all weekend, and just really sorry for them that we couldn’t leave here with another strong points score. However, we are still in the fight, so we will regroup over the next few weeks, and all focus is on the season finale in Barcelona.”
The fifth and final Endurance Cup event takes place over the weekend, 29 September-1 October, at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
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fanatec gt world challenge europe – 3 july 2023
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