GT world challenge europe – 5 September 2021
IMPRESSIVE PACE AND DETERMINATION SECURES NÜRBURGRING PODIUM
A hard-fought three-hour race at the latest round of the Fanatec GT world Challenge Europe powered by AWS saw Sam De Haan clinch his first podium of the season with RAM Racing. Sharing the #69 Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Rob Collard and Fabian Schiller, the trio completed an impressive weekend remaining in contention throughout, and narrowly missing out on victory in the closing stages.
The early sessions of the weekend saw the Zenith-backed Mercedes-AMG firmly challenging for the lead of the highly-competitive Pro-Am class. Sam and his teammates ended both free practice and pre-qualifying in P3, setting high hopes for a strong qualifying result. Sure enough, these hopes were more than achieved when each of the three drivers took on their individual laps, with a standout performance from Sam in the second session. Having shown good pace earlier in the weekend, Sam ended the second period in P2 with a margin of less than 0.2-seconds to the top of the timesheets. This performance, combined with Rob and Fabian secured the team’s best qualifying result to line up P2 in class.
With the three-hour endurance race taking place later the same day, confidence levels were high as the sun shone in unusually warm conditions at the Nürburgring for the start. Fresh from his impressive performance earlier in the day, Sam took the start and battled hard over the opening laps to maintain position despite more experienced drivers battling for position.
Sam continued to push and improve his laptimes over the initial laps, maintaining a podium position in class and making steady progress through the overall field. As the race approached the first pitstop window, Sam had built a 2.5-second gap and put a car between himself and his closest competition. Despite this cushion, he remained fully focused on the task in hand, and this was underlined when he posted his quickest lap of the stint as he looked to make the most of the advantage before pitting.
Shortly after, Sam was the first of the Pro-Am runners to pull the trigger with pitstops, completing an impressive opening stint and making way for Rob. A faultless stop by the RAM Racing team returned the #69 to the track and Rob was immediately up to P2, closing the margin to the leader with each lap.
A full course yellow period stopped Rob gaining further ground, and the lead pair were then both caught out by the Safety Car restart, where they were leapfrogged by the Lamborghini which had been running in P3. Despite this minor setback, Rob remained on the rear bumper of the Mercedes-Benz, now in P2, and more quick work by the pitcrew saw another position gained as Rob made way for Fabian.
The final stint was then anything but a simple run to the finish for the German driver. Another Full Course Yellow interruption temporarily prevented his attempts to close down the leader, but a further Safety Car neutralised the field and put him in the box seat for the restart with less than 30 minutes remaining. He was unable to make a pass stick on the leader, but another opportunity soon presented itself when another incident on track brought out another Safety Car.
Grasping this opportunity, Fabian made the pass for the lead when the race got back underway, working hard to defend the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining. However, one final twist of fate would see late drama as Fabian was in the wrong place at the wrong time, having to take avoiding action from a wounded backmarker limping back to the pits. A brief skirmish off the track would lose momentum, allowing the chasing pair to make the pass for the lead, but quick reactions saw Fabian return to the track and defend the final podium position, crossing the finish line only 2 seconds behind the leaders after three hours of hard racing.
Reflecting on the result, and what might have been, Sam explained:
“I didn’t think our first GT World Challenge Europe podium would have such mixed emotions! It is amazing to get our first result of the season, and RAM Racing did a great job all weekend, but definitely feel we deserved more. We were fighting at the front in every session and throughout the race, but some bad luck with the backmarkers in the last five minutes was a cruel way to lose a win. Really proud of the whole team, and shows that we have the pace to fight for the win – we will be aiming for the top step in Barcelona.”
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