Battling to a strong, hard-fought 13th place finish in race one on Saturday, from 22nd on the grid, an improved eighth on the grid for Sunday’s race looked set to pave the way for a deserved points finish but contact for team-mate Frederic Vervisch at the first corner quickly unravelled those hopes.
Ultimately forced to retire the No.11 Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO late-on during his stint due to an overheating gearbox, Dundee racer Hutchison was happy with the overall pace and performance and is now seeking to end the championship on a high next weekend in Hungary.
In addition to his Blancpain commitments at the Nurburgring with the GT3 Phoenix Audi, the young Scotsman also reappeared in the supporting GT4 European Series races after being drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Will Moore at Academy Motorsport.
With no time in the squad’s No.62 Aston Martin GT4 prior to the first contest, Hutchison didn’t actually get to race when team-mate Matt Cowley had to retire the car midway through with power steering failure. In the second encounter on Sunday, Hutchison started the race and, from an enforced back-of-the-grid start, stormed through the 32-car entry to ultimately finish in 19th place.
“In qualifying for Blancpain we were unlucky, there was a high peak – crazy high – with the tyre performance this weekend and on my first lap I was blocked which cost me about a second”, said the British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star, “Race one was always going to be tough after that but we did a good job, I was really happy with P13 from where we started.
“Race two was unfortunate, obviously Frederic had some contact at the start and then we had to retire the car as the gearbox was overheating and there was no point doing more damage. We go to the Hungaroring next weekend which is a high downforce track, so that should suit the Audi.”
Weekend of mixed fortunes in Germany for Scotland’s Hutchison
Losing out in qualifying for race one on Saturday after being badly baulked early in the session, Scottish racer Hutchison had to settle for 22nd on the grid which made the opening Nurburgring encounter a tougher prospect than had been anticipated.
Launching away well at the rolling start, the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays supported driver climbed through into the top 20 on a strong opening lap. Coming under pressure from the Aston Martin of Aaro Vainio towards the end of the first 10 minutes, Hutchison was edged to 21st place but he moved back into 20th at the expense of Steven Palette with 25 minutes elapsed.
When the pit-stop window opened Hutchison stayed on track and moved through to 14th position as some rival entries made earlier driver changes. Pitting just before mid-distance, Vervisch got behind the wheel of the No.11 Audi and held 16th position when the order settled.
Gaining three more places before the conclusion of the one-hour encounter, 13th place marked a very strong performance from 22nd on the grid and Vervisch was ultimately just three seconds shy of the overall top 10 at the chequered flag.
Vervisch lined-up in eighth position for the rolling start at the beginning of race two on Sunday afternoon and although making a clean launch he was momentarily edged to ninth as the cars threaded through the Turn One right-hander.
Sandwiched between a Ferrari and Mercedes, as the trio exited the turn contact impacted Vervisch’s momentum and also resulted in damage to the front-right of the Phoenix Racing Audi R8. Worse was then to follow into the left-hander at Turn Two when he was pitched into a spin.
Recovering to the track down in 23rd position, a fired-up Vervisch did all he could to make up as much of the lost ground as possible and he swiftly moved up into 21st place before then becoming bottled-up behind the Mercedes-AMG of Thomas Neubauer. Remaining on track as the pit-stop window opened, Vervisch moved inside the top 15 as the early driver changes took place.
Pitting to hand over to Hutchison with around half an hour to run, when the order settled he held 21st place and made good progress straight away by climbing into the top 20. Producing a great pass on Mauro Ricci’s Mercedes for 19th position with 20 minutes to go, soon after – with the gearbox overheating – Hutchison and the team opted to retire from the race.
“It’s not been the weekend we wanted, but our pace was strong so that was positive and the BOP [Balance of Performance] was better for the Audis”, said Hutchison, “It was good to be in GT4 again as well with the Academy guys and great to work with Matt [Cowley] for the first time, if we’d been able to qualify the Aston instead of starting at the back I think we would have been in the points.”
There are now only a few days to wait until the final two races of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe season which take place this coming weekend, 7th/8th September, at the Hungaroring.
2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe Standings
14th Finlay Hutchison/Frederic Vervisch, 11pts