On a weekend of high drama, huge unpredictability and an enforced last-minute change of cars and teams at the Hungaroring during the penultimate GT4 European Series event of the season, Finlay Hutchison truly overcame the odds with two incredible race performances in rounds nine and 10.
During a remarkable and whirlwind race meeting in Hungary, the Dundee 18-year-old went from a dramatic engine fire during practice in his regular Equipe Verschuur McLaren 570S GT4, which led to the car being withdrawn from the event, to a switch to the V8 Racing squad and its Chevrolet Camaro GT4.
Having to begin race one on Saturday, 1st September, from the back of the grid in 42nd spot, new team-mate Duncan Huisman started the contest – which was ultimately red flagged due to the onset of very heavy rain – before Hutchison finished in 12th place overall, sixth in Silver. An unfortunate penalty for transgressing a white line, though, dropped them to 28th in the amended result.
In the second encounter on Sunday, 2nd September, Hutchison took the opening stint from the rear of the grid again, 42nd place, and a mesmerising drive on a wet-but-drying track helped to deliver a stunning top eight overall finish, seventh in the Silver Cup.
In a year where surprises, obstacles and challenges have been present with luckless regularity for the talented Scottish driver, Hutchison once again rose to the occasion with the utmost professionalism and skill to underline his very real ability and competitiveness.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to drive a Camaro this weekend, that’s for sure!”, said Hutchison, who is backed by Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays, “It was a lot of fun, and I’m very happy with my performance in Hungary. It’s a completely different driving style to the McLaren, the Camaro is a very solid racing car – as you’d expect being built by Pratt and Miller.
“We had a new engine which was put into the McLaren for this weekend, but there was an issue with an oil pipe and it sprayed oil everywhere in practice. The car went alight pretty spectacularly and, at that point, it looked like we wouldn’t be racing.”
He added: “Then I saw Luc Braams in the hospitality area and he offered to allow me to take his place alongside Duncan in the Chevrolet, and then Luc would partner his wife Liesette – she normally races on her own. I have to say a massive thank you to Luc and the guys at V8 Racing, I’m so grateful for the opportunity this weekend. I think Duncan and I, and the whole team, did a pretty good job!”
Hutchison and Huisman battle odds with stunning race drives in Hungary
After switching across to V8 Racing to partner Huisman, the duo had to begin the first 60-minute encounter at the back of the grid – even though the Dutchman had qualified in the top 10 – from 42nd overall following an issue with the Camaro’s restrictor in qualifying.
Making excellent progress during the first few laps, Huisman steered the No.9 Chevrolet into 29th position by the end of the fourth tour before the Safety Car was deployed following a first corner collision. When racing resumed with around 15 minutes gone, Huisman continued to slice his way through the order and climbed into 19th place before the Safety Car appeared again.
This time, the cautionary period was a reaction to the onset of rain which only worsened as the teams prepared to make their mid-race pit-stops. After pitting to hand over the car to Hutchison, the Scottish teenager emerged in a lofty 12th spot with the Safety Car still circulating. As the rainfall became increasingly intense, though, officials opted to red flag the race with 10 minutes to go.
Thunderstorms remained at the Hungaroring ahead of Sunday morning’s contest, which Hutchison started from 42nd on the grid on wet-weather tyres. In qualifying the teenager had delivered the Chevrolet Camaro’s best ever result with a superb fifth fastest time, just 0.4 seconds shy of the front row, but the restrictor issue meant a back-of-the-grid start was enforced again.
In tricky, slippery conditions Hutchison produced a remarkable first lap to storm through into the top 25, gaining no fewer than 17 positions. Showcasing tremendous skill and judgment, with great feel for the grip levels, the Chevrolet driver continued to gain places hand over fist and by lap seven he was sensationally into 14th place even with the track starting to favour slicks.
Climbing into the top 12 on lap 10, having incredibly overtaken more than 30 cars, Hutchison then set about closing the gap to the pack ahead. With the track drying quickly a switch to slick tyres looked to be the correct decision at the pit-stop when handing the Camaro over to Huisman, but after initially fitting slicks the team changed and bolted on treaded rubber again.
Then, no sooner had the Dutchman joined the track, the heavens opened once again. When the race order settled Huisman held 12th position with around 20 minutes left but the unpredictability didn’t end there. Huisman, driving well, moved up into the top 10 and climbed into eighth, seventh in the Silver Cup, with just over 10 minutes to go in fluctuating rainfall.
Further progress was prevented, though, when the Safety Car headed back out onto track after a Mercedes tagged the pit-wall following a spin out of the final corner. With recovery still being finalised as the clock counted down, officials red flagged the race with less than two minutes to go and so the order was confirmed – Huisman eighth and seventh in class, a stunning result from 42nd.
There is now only a fortnight to wait until the final two races of the GT4 European Series campaign, over the weekend 15th/16th September at the Nurburgring in Germany, where Hutchison will be back on track with Equipe Verschuur.
One week later Hutchison will wrap-up his British GT4 season at Donington Park in the UK on 22nd/23rd September.
Provisional 2018 GT4 European Series ‘Silver Cup’ Standings
6th Finlay Hutchison, 65pts