GT4 European Series Paddock Stories from Brands Hatch
11 May 2018
The GT4 European Series wrote history during the second round of the 2018 season. Never before in the history of the championship were there so many GT4 cars out on track at the same time. Phoenix Racing, HHC Motorsport, Schwede Motorsport and Autorlando Sport claimed wins at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, but there were more stories from the paddock.
NIKI LEUTWILER: "YOU KNOW THE CAR WHEN YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN"
Porsche Zentrum Oberer Zürichsee by TFT Racing driver Niki Leutwiler was one of two drivers competing alone in the GT4 European Series at the Brands Hatch circuit. After a win and a third-place finish at Zolder last month, the 57-year-old Swiss driver finished second in the first race at Brands Hatch. Unfortunately, while leading race two Leutwiler was hit by another driver and crashed into the barriers.
After competing in the French GT4 championship last year and finishing third in the GT4 European Series overall standings, Leutwiler made the decision to switch to a full season in the GT4 European Series this year and move from Pro-Am to Am.
“Obviously I wanted to do better than the third place in the European championship and this I can only do when I do the European series. On the other hand, the French championship is very competitive and the tracks are sometimes…..you know, they are going to Pau and getting a car back in one piece from Pau is not always guaranteed,” said Leutwiler.
“Last year I raced with Ander Vilarino and we raced in Pro-Am and we did well, no doubt about it. It was very difficult for the Pro to make a difference, not just Ander but others as well. Then we just thought about it and thought why don’t we do Am.”
“We should have a real chance to win Am and we saw some tiny advantages in having just one driver, because you do know the car when you come out of the pits after the pit stop. I learned a lot about that, already in Zolder. The tires don’t like the pit stop, the car is worse afterwards, whatever driver is in. They just don’t like standing still in the pits.”
BUSY WEEKS FOR ACADEMY MOTORSPORT
British squad Academy Motorsport had two new drivers onboard its #61 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for its home round. German driver Immanuel Vinke scored 12 points at Zolder in the Am class, but the former Reiter Young Stars driver opted not to compete in the UK. Academy Motorsport drafted in experienced drivers Jan Jonck and Dennis Strandberg, who scored 12 points in the Silver class.
Highlight of the weekend for the Pershore-based squad was team boss Matt Nicoll-Jones taking the overall lead of race two.
"The main thing for me was that I didn't chase the guys at the front, because we needed to save tires. At the front they were on it, they were on a mission to kill the tires. I knew a little bit better, so I waited and let them go, knowing that I would get them back eventually when they had used up their tires and I still had something left," said Nicoll-Jones. Unfortunately teammate Fiona James, described by Nicoll-Jones as one of his best customers ever, was turned around by another competitor, which meant she lost a lot of positions.
Nicoll-Jones and his team now have a busy couple of weeks coming up, with cars running in the British GT championship, the Aston Martin Festival at Le Mans and the next round of the GT4 European Series at Misano.
"Next up for us is Snetterton, then we have Silverstone, then Le Mans and Misano. It's mental. We go from Silverstone, reprep the cars and go straight to Le Mans, reprep the cars after Le Mans and go straight to Misano, then reprep the cars in Belgium and leave everything there. We're away for six weeks or so."
Last week Aston Martin confirmed the introduction of a new generation of the Aston Martin Vantage GT4. The new car will replace the current version, of which 124 were built. The new car will be made available to customer teams in early 2019 and Academy Motorsport aims to be one of the first teams to race the car.
"We're the biggest Aston Martin GT4 team worldwide, including people doing corporate and track days. We hope to get our hands on a new car and plan to race in Europe and Britain in 2019."
NXTGEN SIMRACERS ATTEND GT4 EUROPEAN SERIES AT BRANDS HATCH
The GT4 European Series invited several NXTGEN Racing simracers to visit the championship at Brands Hatch. NXTGEN Racing is known for recreating several GT4 European Series liveries for Gran Turismo Sport and racing them in online racing leagues.
"I had an amazing team at Brands Hatch to watch the GT4 European Series. Seeing all the cars up close in real life was superb and hearing all 40+ of the cars on track was unreal. The paddock area was amazing and all the GT4 European Series teams were very welcoming and would answer any of my questions and allow me to take pictures of their cars so I can carry on to replicate the liveries," said Mark Sykes.
"Absolutely loved it. Had never been to Brands Hatch before. I couldn't get over the drop off on the first corner and then the elevation changes around the rest of the circuit," added Chris Byrom. "One doens't appreciate stuff like that when playing a game. A massive thanks to the series."
"I found myself in awe just lookinga round such fast cars and having a chat to the teams. The racing was next to none for the whole weekend," said Ben Henderson. "I myself have such an interest in GT4 racing as that's what I race online through NXTGEN Racing, so this was the perfect prize to win for me!"
IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS FOR GT4 EUROPEAN SERIES LIVE STREAMS
Over 191,000 viewers tuned in to the GT4 European Series broadcasts on the GT4 European Series YouTube channel, Facebook as well as SRO Motorsports Group’s GT World channel on YouTube.
The opening race of the weekend on Saturday morning was watched by over 74,000 people, half of them watching the German stream with famous German commentator Wolfgang Drabiniok. Amongst those fans were a large number of Felix von der Laden supporters, who saw their favorite taking third in the opening race.
The series also introduced a new project aimed at its German fans, called GT4 European Series Motorsports Talk. The first show, aired after qualifying on Saturday evening, saw Wolfgang Drabiniok talk GT4 and motorsports in general with guests Gabriele Piana, John-Louis Jasper, Christian Danner and Felix von der Laden. Over 17,000 watched the show so far.
All sessions, the GT4 European Series Motorsport Talk as well as highlight videos and special videos made by the SRO Motorsports Group digital team are available on the YouTube channel or via GT4 TV on the GT4 European Series website.
MIDDLETON WINS PIRELLI JUNIOR CUP AT BRANDS HATCH
A post-race penalty in race one prevented a clean sweep by HHC Motorsport drivers Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton at Brands Hatch. The drivers of the #55 Ginetta G55 GT4 will now travel to Misano, trailing Phoenix Racing drivers Milan Dontje and Nicolaj Moller Madsen by just three points.
Middleton will receive a free set of Pirelli tires to be used at the Misano World Circuit next month. Middleton’s qualifying result and the average of his five fastest lap times in each of the two races on Sunday netted him enough points to claim the Pirelli Junior Cup win at Brands Hatch.
After two events, Stuart Middleton leads the Pirelli Junior Cup overall standings with 140 points. Moller Madsen is second with 124 points, followed by Middleton's teammate Tregurtha with 119 points. The driver with the most points after the final round will be awarded the Pirelli Junior title at the end of season prize giving ceremony.
NEW POINTS LEADERS IN ALL THREE CLASSES
Milan Dontje and Nicolaj Moller Madsen lead the Silver Cup after the first two rounds of the 2018 GT4 European Series. The Phoenix Racing drivers collected 72 points in four races, three more than rivals Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton. Phoenix Racing and HHC Motorsport won two races each so far. A double podium finish at Brands Hatch means defending GT4 European Series champion Max Koebolt and his teammate Simon Knap are now in third place, 14 points behind the Phoenix Racing drivers.
With a double victory at Brands Hatch Schwede Motorsport drivers Marc Basseng and Phillip Bethke took the lead in the Pro-Am class. The German pair won three of the four races this season and and claimed a second-place finish in the second race at Zolder. Despite not finishing race two at Brands Hatch, Racing One’s Patrick Zamparini and Csaba Mor are still second in class, now 31 points behind the Schwede Motorsport drivers. Jörg Viebahn and John-Louis Jasper are third in class after a decent weekend in the UK.
Eric Mouez and David Loger are the new points leaders in the Am class. Despite having to start from the back of the grid after their #26 CMR Ginetta G55 GT4 was excluded from qualifying, a fourth and third place at Brands Hatch means the French drivers now lead the championship. The double win for Autorlando Sport drivers Alessandro Giovanelli and Giuseppe Ghezzi results in them taking second place. Niki Leutwiler is currently third, after being taken out of the second race at Brands Hatch.