Although qualifying during the build-up to the weekend at Spa-Francorchamps was less rewarding than hoped for, the No.26 Audi R8 LMS GT3 line-up of Dundee driver Hutchison, Green and Adrien Tambay made excellent progress during the first few hours of race action on Saturday, 31st July.
As midnight approached, though, round three of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup went badly awry for the team-mates when Green was involved in a collision into the Bus Stop Chicane.
“It’s not what we wanted, obviously, but it was very difficult for us all weekend”, said Scottish racer Hutchison, who is backed by Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays, “The car didn’t have the grip we expected from the outset in practice, so we were chasing our tail a bit and it was super-challenging.
“We had some issues with the aero, so the car was very unpredictable, but in the race it started to go our way a bit more. Adrien’s first stint was really good, he did a great job, but there was a bit of damage picked up on the car in Jamie’s first stint before I got in. It’s a real shame what happened later in the night, but that’s racing sometimes. We’ve got a bit of a break now to regroup.”
Ultimately having to settle for a frustrating 31st place in qualifying, which later became an elevated 30th position, Frenchman Tambay started the race on Saturday afternoon and gained three places on lap one, before slipping back to 28th position.
Much of the opening hour was spent under Full Course Yellow conditions, following a significant four-car accident at Raidillon around the 20 minute mark, and action didn’t resume until one hour and 20 minutes into the race.
As cars began to make pit-stops under the cautionary period Tambay remained on track, climbing as high as seventh before serving his own stop. Staying in the No.26 Audi for a double-stint, when the race resumed he was in 14th place and looking good – although heavy rain then began to lash down.
Climbing into 13th position, Tambay then pitted on lap 23 for wet-weather Pirelli tyres as the track conditions became increasingly treacherous. With a little over two hours complete, he then pitted again – from 14th spot – to hand over the car to Green for his first running.
With the rain having ceased and the circuit having dried markedly, Green settled into the race in 17th position and when another Full Course Yellow period was called just before the end of hour three he pitted with Hutchison taking over for his first miles of the race.
At the re-start a few minutes later the Scotsman was in 23rd place, before climbing through into 19th position during the next quarter of an hour. Maintaining the place as hour four progressed, and looking strong, then came the bitter blow of a drive-through penalty for a track limits infringement.
Hutchison duly served the penalty, dropping the Sainteloc car down to a challenging 41st position, and he set about undoing the damage by moving up the order very impressively over the course of the next hour, gaining a full 10 places into 31st spot.
Pitting after around 90 minutes behind the wheel to hand the car back to Tambay, he ran in 37th place as night really began to set-in over Spa-Francorchamps. Just after the five and a half hour mark he pitted from 27th place for Green’s second stint, but the car would only remain active for around another hour or so when the accident at the chicane forced instant retirement.
Round four of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup will take place over the weekend 4th/5th September at Germany’s Nurburgring. Before then, on 28th/29th August, Hutchison will be in action on British soil at Brands Hatch in Kent during the latest round of the sister Sprint Cup.
GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Points
18th Finlay Hutchison, 3pts