This one has been coming. TF Sport have threatened to win several times during the first half of the 2016 International GT Open season. Very strong performances from both Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey have been given up to late race incidents that have knocked them out of contention, but today at Silverstone, they were able to put everything together and win emphatically at their home event.
The British round of the championship has been a tremendous advert for both GT Open and multi-marque GT3 racing in general. TF Sport became the seventh different team to win a race in the series this year and by achieving this, a seventh different victorious manufacture and driver pairing were created.
Qualifying took place in the morning for the sixty-minuet race. A blistering lap of 1’57’792 from yesterday’s AM class winner, ‘bronze’ rated Jaime Stanley driving the Ferrari 488 GT3 for FF Corse took pole position. Pieter Schothorst qualified second in the #1 BMW Team Teo Martin M6 GT3 with Salih Yoluc taking third on the grid in the #34 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Stanley’s quick lap caught the attention of championship organisers GT Sport, and the FF Corse entry was promptly upgraded after the qualifying session from the AM class to the PRO-AM class. The fifteen second pit stop penalty they had been handed for the race today, a legacy of victory in the AM class yesterday, would still be applied and carried over to the PRO-AM class. Some, would question how fair this was.
At the start, Stanley took the lead but Hankey chased him and put the Ferrari driver under pressure during the first few laps. Stanley resisted and was able to take advantage of the Ferrari’s straight-line speed and pull out a gap of three to four seconds before the pit stop cycle.
Behind the two leaders the order had settled and ran in order until the pit stops. Yesterdays’s winner, Tomas Enge driving the Wessex Lamborghini Gallardo Rex GT3 was in third place ahead of Duncan Tappy in the Garage 59 McLaren 650S in fourth, Schothorst’s BMW Team Teo Martin M6 GT3 was in fifth and the Orange 1 Team Lazarus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Fabrizio Crestani ran in sixth. The second of the BMW Team Teo Martin cars driven by Fernando Monje sat in seventh place but had the Balfe Motorsport McLaren 650s of Shaun Balfe for close company.
The two race leaders, Stanley and Hankey left their pit stops until the later part of the window. When the cars re emerged it was the TF Sport Aston, now in the hands of Salih Yoluc that had the lead. Paul McNeilly, having served the team’s Success penalty, brought the FF Corse Ferrari back out in second place but was seven seconds behind – a gap that continued to increase as Yoluc pushed on, looking to take his first win of the year.
The Garage 59 McLaren of Michael Benham was in third place and the two BMW Team Teo Martin cars of Miguel Ramos and Gustavo Yacaman were fourth and fifth. The race for sixth place behind these two cars was the best battle on the circuit. Craig Dolby in the Wessex Lamborghini, the Orange 1 Team Lazarus Huracan of Thomas Biagi and the Balfe Motorsport McLaren now being driven by Phil Keen was enthralling.
Benham reeled in McNeilly as the race entered its closing stages and brought the two BMW’s of Yacaman and Ramos with him. He passed him for second place and was able to edge away from the Ferrari, which was now being driven very defensivly by McNeilly, bravely trying to hold off the pressures of Yacaman, Biagi, Keen and Ramos, all of whom had intentions of climbing onto the podium.
His resistance was broken when Yacaman forced McNeilly wide and passed him coming out of Beckett’s, then Biagi executed a lovely move at Vale to pass the Ferrari for fourth place, with Phil Keen slipping through to take fifth. Miguel Ramos would also pass the Ferrari for sixth.
In the meantime, Yoluc continued to drive away in the TF Sport Aston Martin and eventually won the race by a margin of twenty-seven seconds. Yacaman was able to catch and pass Michael Benham at the line on the final lap to take second place.
After the race, Hankey said of their victory, “For me it was good. I had an interesting start and then I just tried to stay with the Ferrari, that car is super fast in a straight-line so I was just doing my best to make a big gap to the guys behind.”
“I knew the Ferrari had a bit of a penalty, so I just put in every lap as a qualifying lap to try and keep up with him.”
Yoluc was full of praise for his team-mate when he climbed out of the car, “He (Euan Hankey) made my job much easier by putting a big gap to the rest of the guys, it was relatively easy” He said. “We are so happy at the end, especially with how the race went yesterday.”
In the AM class, the #99 Sports and You Mercedes AMG GT3 took victory and ninth place overall being driven by Manuel Da Costa and Miguel Sardinha. Second place in AM and eleventh overall went to the V8 Racing Renault RS01 GT3 of Filipe Barreiros and Martin Short.
Crestani and Biagi lead the points standings with 96 points. In Second place is Balfe and Keen with 74 points and Miguel Ramos is third with 69 points.
The international GT Open championship heads into its summer break and resumes at the RedBull Ring in Austria over the weekend 10/11 September 2016.