Embarking on an intense weekend, the 19-year-old from Dundee celebrated second place in the V8 Racing squad’s Chevrolet Camaro in the first GT4 contest on Saturday with team-mate Olivier Hart. In race two, the duo added seventh position after a stellar performance from 12th on the grid.
In the headline Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, Hutchison – with regular team-mate Frederic Vervisch – stormed to a terrific top eight finish in the No.11 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO from 19th on the grid in the opener. They then bagged another top 10 finish in race two on Sunday.
“I’m pretty happy overall, it was great to be on the podium in my first race in GT4 since last year and our results in GT3 [Blancpain] were actually quite strong – especially considering where we ended up in qualifying”, said the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays backed racer, “We need to nail the Audi in qualifying to get more from the tyres, but our race pace is really strong.
“Overall I was quite happy with how I adapted from the Chevrolet to the Audi, and vice-versa, and I was surprised how smoothly it went between races. It’s been a very busy weekend, but enjoyable, and I can’t wait for the 24 hours at Spa now – we’re aiming for a Silver Cup podium there.”
Saturday’s action began with qualifying for the GT4 European Series and Hutchison took the first session, setting the grid for race one. Starting out on a wet track, the circuit did dry and Hutchison posted the fourth best lap.
Taking the opening stint of Saturday afternoon’s race, the Scotsman was slightly impeded at the beginning and so was edged to sixth. Under some pressure from one of the McLarens initially, Hutchison soon started to get into his rhythm and began to close on the No.25 BMW of Alec Udell.
Following an excursion for an Aston Martin just seven minutes into the race, a Full Course Yellow period was called and the action resumed with 48 minutes to go with nothing to separate the lead bunch. Matching the cars ahead for pace, Hutchison smartly passed the BMW for fifth on lap nine but contact between the pair on the very next tour dropped Hutchison back to seventh.
When the pit stop window opened at the 25-minute mark, Hutchison pitted at the first opportunity to hand over to Hart and after the race order settled the Camaro held seventh place, right on the tail of the No.16 KTM. As they diced, the KTM ended up spinning off the track and Hart assumed sixth.
Soon grabbing fifth, with 15 minutes to go – as light rain appeared – he also dived past the No.14 McLaren for fourth and swarmed all over the third placed BMW. Taking the position with 10 minutes to go, he then seized second on lap 28 to cap a terrific result.
No sooner had the podium celebrations concluded, Hutchison had to hot-foot his way from V8 Racing and across to Phoenix Racing’s garage with the first Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe race scheduled to start just over half an hour later.
Taking the first stint, from 19th on the grid after a challenging wet-but-drying qualifying, Hutchison put together an outstanding first lap to gain several positions and after avoiding some contact mid-lap he was able to conclude the first tour in 14th position.
Following the appearance of the Safety Car for lap two, racing resumed on lap five and Hutchison soon climbed into 13th place and closed behind the Mercedes of Nico Bastian in the process. As the race wore on, there were no further changes prior to the opening of the pit-stop window.
Hutchison, like the vast majority of competitors ahead, stopped early to hand over to Vervisch in a very busy pitlane and when the race order settled the Belgian held 12th position in between two other rival Audi entries.
Due to problems for another car Vervisch moved into 11th with 10 minutes remaining and he duly broke into the top 10 – the second highest placed Audi overall – after passing Oscar Tunjo. With just a couple of laps to go, Vervisch was able to storm into the top eight to seal an excellent result.
More great performances from Hutchison on Zandvoort day two
The second GT4 European Series race provided the first track action on Sunday with Hart lining-up 12th on a damp grid. No sooner had the race begun, though, red flags were shown following a huge startline accident in the mid-pack. Following a delay of around 25 minutes, the action got underway behind the Safety Car and racing proper then started with 55 minutes on the clock.
Moving up a place on lap four when a car ran on into the gravel at Tarzan, Hart then climbed into the top 10 before the race fell under Safety Car conditions once again at the 15 minute mark. Racing resumed around four minutes later and Hart did a great job, moving up into eighth position, but he was edged back to 10th again in a tight battle before the pit-stop window opened.
As driver changes started to be served Hart remained on track and moved up into third before pitting on lap 16 to hand over the Camaro to Hutchison. Joining the race in 10th position, the Dundee racer moved into ninth on lap 18 and started to close down the cars ahead.
Soon grabbing eighth, Hutchison had 1.6 seconds to make up to the No.2 Mercedes and he duly reeled in his rival very quickly. Passing for seventh at Tarzan on lap 26, the gap to the top six was too much to bridge during the final 10 minutes but seventh, from 12th on the grid, was a strong finish.
Around 90 minutes later the second Blancpain encounter got underway with Vervisch taking the first stint in the Audi R8 from 11th on the grid, but on a busy opening lap he was edged to 13th. Running tight behind the Lamborghini of Marco Mapelli lap after lap, Vervisch piled on the pressure but no changes were forthcoming with the drivers so evenly matched.
Pitting around the 25-minute mark to hand over the car to Hutchison, he held 10th place after all stops were completed and ran second in a train of five Audis with season-long rival Rik Breukers close behind and the Attempto Racing car of Milan Dontje just over a second up the road.
With his mirrors filled by Breukers’ car, Hutchison produced faultless lines to keep the Team WRT driver at bay lap after lap. Into the closing stages an excursion for Breukers alleviated the pressure, and the Scottish youngster went on to seal his second top 10 Blancpain finish of the weekend.
There is now a seven week break for the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe with the fourth event of the season taking place at Germany’s Nurburgring on Saturday, 31st August, and Sunday, 1st September. Before then, Hutchison returns to Blancpain Endurance Cup action with Phoenix Racing a couple of weeks from now in the blue riband Total 24 Hours of Spa.
2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe Standings
13th Finlay Hutchison/Frederic Vervisch, 11pts