Driving strongly and very competitively during the final stint of his debut race with Team WRT, the 22-year-old took the chequered flag inside the Silver Cup top six after some tight action during the closing stages. However, a late time penalty dropped the Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II back to eighth.
“We were quite strong in the race, qualifying didn’t go to plan for us and it’s the nature of the track at Imola that it’s hard to make up positions”, said Hutchison, “Due to qualifying further back than we expected we were priority two for the pit stops, so that had an impact as well on what we could do.”
Teaming with fellow Scottish racer Lewis Proctor and Mexico’s Diego Menchaca, the trio emerged from their respective runs in qualifying on Sunday morning with an average best of 13th fastest in class. Proctor started the race for the Team WRT entry and moved into the top 12 on lap one, before the race fell under Safety Car conditions due to an early incident.
When the action resumed around 10 minutes later, Proctor gained another place to move into 11th but he was edged back a spot around the half-hour mark. Following a Full Course Yellow period soon after, racing resumed 15 minutes later and then Proctor pitted towards the end of the first hour.
Menchaca took over behind the wheel of the No.31 car and as he departed the pits there were concerns with fluid appearing to be leaking from the back of the Audi. Fortunately, it was nothing of concern, and so the Mexican driver continued on his way an improved 11th in Silver.
Maintaining position as the race reached the midway point, another Full Course Yellow occurred when an Aston Martin slowed and pulled off the track. Racing was set to resume with around 70 minutes to go, but another incident – under Safety Car conditions – meant the race remained under caution. Menchaca, now in the Silver top 10, then pitted as the end of hour two approached.
Hutchison climbed aboard the Audi and threaded back into the race in the train behind the Safety Car, with the action resuming with 52 minutes to go. Holding an elevated eighth in the Silver Cup, the Scotsman reeled off some impressive laps and after another FCY period he moved up into the top six.
Closing down former team-mates Aurelien Panis and Fred Vervisch, in their respective Audis, with less than half an hour to run Hutchison was right on their tail and preparing to challenge. Although losing a bit of time a few laps later, he reeled Panis in once again before coming under pressure from Ben Barker’s Lamborghini.
Still holding sixth in class, Hutchison maintained the position to the flag at the end of three hours and was just outside the outright top 20. With an unfortunate late time penalty, this became eighth in the Silver Cup in the amended result.
“Our car was strong this weekend, the kerb riding is phenomenal compared to Audis I’ve raced before, but Imola still wasn’t a track that was going to be our strongest”, Hutchison reflected, “I think next time out, at Paul Ricard, we can be quite positive as it should suit our package much more and we’ll have a much better chance of trying to challenge for the podium.”
The annual visit to Circuit Paul Ricard in France, for the six-hour second round of the season, will take place over the weekend 4th/5th June. Before then Hutchison will be racing on home soil at Brands Hatch in Kent, for the first time since 2019, on 30th April/1st May for the opening event of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup.
2022 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup – Silver Cup Standings
8th Finlay Hutchison/Diego Menchaca/Lewis Proctor, 4pts