fanatec GT world challenge europe – 3 july 2023
taking an extra gamble pays off with victory at spa 24 hours
Sam de Haan has secured the biggest result of his GT3 racing career to-date over the weekend, scoring victory in at the Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa. Running with his regular GT World Challenge Europe teammates Charlie Fagg and Dean Macdonald, the trio were joined by Tom Gamble for the twice-around-the-clock battle, at the wheel of the #5 Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.
Sporting a new chrome livery, as a nod to McLaren in its 60th anniversary year, and inspired by the championship-winning MP4-23 chassis – the last car to claim the title for the brand – the #5 McLaren delivered a faultless performance throughout the 24 hours, and is the first 24 hour victory for the 720S GT3 since its launch in 2018.
Pace had been good throughout the free practice and pre-qualifying sessions, but the combined qualifying sessions delivered a very mixed result. With Spa being as famous for the racetrack as it is for the changeable conditions, heavy rain would throw the form book out of the window. Sam took the first run, setting a banker lap to go second-quickest on a dry track. This would prove to be crucial to the overall qualifying result, as the rain quickly followed and the laptimes were then all run in the wet. With a combined average time taken across all four drivers, the few who had set times in the dry immediately had a significant advantage. Tom ran second, posting the quickest time in class, before Charlie delivered a strong laptime in treacherous conditions to strengthen the hold on provisional pole position, quickest in class and P3 overall. Dean concluded the sessions, as the rain continued to fall, and the light faded over the Ardennes Forest. His time secured the quickest combined time for the #5 McLaren, and a place in the coveted top-20 Superpole. Dean would then take on the responsibilities for Superpole shootout, delivering a stand-out lap to secure class pole and P5 overall, less than 0.4 seconds off the overall quickest time.
With more tricky conditions for the race start, the track was wet but drying in warm and humid conditions, which meant a gamble on tyre choice. With more than 70 cars on track, a dry line quickly appeared, and the choice of slick tyres was the right decision for Charlie as he took the start, holding position until he switched for Sam after two and a half hours. His stint started with a safety car intervention, but he managed the restart well and continued to battle with strong laptimes as the team settled into its own pitstop strategy. This saw the progress of the ‘chrome zebra’ McLaren ebb and flow against the flow of the rest of the field, but remaining in contention throughout. The drivers continued to steadily climb the order over the following hours, holding the class lead when Sam took over for his second stint.
Another impressive stint was interrupted with an extended safety intervention, following an incident, and Sam remained within the podium positions in the class and fighting towards an overall top-10 position. At the 14-hour mark, just before his next stop, Sam regained the lead in class, running comfortably as the lead McLaren entry. From here, Sam handed the car over, and with the clock ticking down, Charlie also signed off his stints, before Tom then passed to Dean for the final run to the line. This last stint, still running as class leaders, saw one final move, successfully climbing to P10 overall. At the line, the Optimum Motorsport team successfully scored Gold Class overall honours – the best result for the McLaren model since its launch, and another impressive result for Sam as he continues to progress with his GT3 experience.
“We just won the Spa 24 Hours! An incredible effort by the whole Optimum Motorsport team, and the boys did an amazing job to keep us near the front all the way through. The weather definitely played its part – as it often does at Spa – but it was a great call by the team to get me out in the first session, and it was a huge achievement to get us into Superpole. The race didn’t disappoint, and it threw a lot at us all the way through, but the whole crew absolutely smashed it, and didn’t miss a beat. Every single person did their job to the letter, and this result is down to the huge effort they put in, so a massive thank you to them all.”
international gt open – 29 may 2023
race win at spa as championship challenge comes alive
A strong weekend for the Optimum Motorsport-run McLaren 720S GT3 saw a front row start converted into a debut victory for Sam and Charlie, moving them into the overall lead of the championship…
international GT open – 30 april 2023
portimao podium continues strong start to the season for sam de haan
Heading straight into another race weekend, Sam de Haan continued his strong start to the 2023 season, taking a podium at the opening round of the International GT Open season…