international gt open – 25 july 2023
victory in paul ricard keeps championship charge on target
Sam de Haan was back in action over the weekend as International GT Open travelled to Circuit Paul Ricard, France for round four. It was a new look livery for the series as Sam and regular teammate, Charlie Fagg, ran with the Spa 24hr-winning chrome version of the ‘red zebra’ Optimum Motorsport McLaren, and it continued its winning ways with victory in the opening race of the weekend. This result, followed by a top-6 finish in the second event, extends the lead at the top of the championship with three rounds to go.
The first race of the weekend saw Charlie qualify with an identical time to the overall pole sitter, showing the strengths of the McLaren 720S GT3 around the 5.842-kilometre Circuit Paul Ricard circuit. The stellar lap set up an exciting opening race as Charlie held position off the start, and he continued to pressure for the lead. A strategy call saw the #69 McLaren run longer than the race leader when the pit window opened, giving Charlie an opportunity to run in clean air, posting his fastest laps of the race, before pitting to hand over to Sam.
With just under half an hour remaining, Sam took over and exited the pitlane still holding the race lead, just over eight seconds ahead of the chasing pack. From here, he ran his own race, focusing on maintaining the lead and lapping consistently as the time ran down. The chasing Lamborghini closed the gap in the closing stages, forcing Sam to defend, and he worked hard to protect the position. With less than five minutes to go, as the pair ran through the final sector, the Lamborghini made an ambitious lunge, causing contact, but Sam held his line and continued unscathed from the attack. After fending off this final attempt, Sam then continued on for the remaining two laps to bring the car home two seconds ahead of the closest rival, scoring the maximum points for their championship effort.
The grid for the second race would be set as Sam took qualifying, lining up in P5. The chaotic race start saw five wide, down the start/finish straight and into turn 1. Taking a cautious approach through the opening sector ensured Sam emerged safely, as others throughout the field made contact and were forced off track. Despite losing ground in the melee initially, he was quickly up to speed and making progress up the order as the pit window approached. As the driver changes took place, Sam handed over to Charlie with the Optimum Motorsport-entry running strong, P6 in class, P17 overall.
Quick work in the pitlane saw Charlie hold position as he emerged from the pitlane, and he set off closing the gap to the cars ahead. His pace was immediately evident as he set the quickest first sector on his first flying lap, and as the pit window came to a close, the young Brit had moved up the order to just outside the overall top-10, as Sam watched on with the team. Charlie continued to make progress, quickly moving up into the top-10 with 20 minutes remaining, chipping away at the lead gap. With just over five minutes left on the clock, Charlie passed the Pro-Am leader, before a further move just before the chequered flag to consolidate P6 overall. A strong result, and important championship points, sees Sam and Charlie extending the gap at the top of the standings as they head to Red Bull Ring, where Sam has scored consecutive wins over the past two years.
“This team has done a great job over the season so far, and we arrived here off the back of the Spa 24 Hour win, looking to keep the momentum going for the GT Open championship. Charlie did a mega job in qualifying for race 1, and we were in a great position as I took over in the lead. I knew there was a chance the Lamborghini would be close by the end of the race, but wasn’t expecting it to be quite as close! There was contact, which was unfortunate, but I stuck to my line to defend the position, and then held on to the end to take the win. Race 2 was a tough battle from the very start, and absolute chaos, but it was great to be in the fight and moving up the order in both mine and Charlie’s stints. It was a great effort by the whole team all weekend, and we leave with important points, still leading the championship. Next up is Red Bull Ring, which is my favourite race on the calendar, and looking forward to seeing if we can make it three wins there on the bounce.”
Sam resumes his International GT Open campaign for round five of championship, taking place 8-10 August at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.
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…