Starting the second of the weekend’s two races in Misano from fourth on the grid, Dundee driver Hutchison took the opening stint and after slicing his way through to the lead with some remarkable overtaking he handed over to Dutch team-mate van der Ende who wrapped-up a stunning triumph.
The success, also McLaren’s first in GT4 European Series, came as the perfect reply from the Equipe Verschuur drivers to a controversial, and very debatable, penalty from race one on Saturday, 23rd June, which cost the duo what would have been a sensational double victory. Even so, the points haul from race two has enabled them to rocket into the championship top six.
“It’s been a long time coming”, said ecstatic 18-year-old Hutchison, “Ricardo did a phenomenal job when he got in the car – I tried to look after it for him in my stint, save the tyres, and then he brought it home with a great drive. Hopefully that’s the tables turned and now it goes our way for the rest of the season.”
Questionable time penalty costs race one win at Misano
Back in GT4 European Series action fresh from his first ever visit to the world renowned Le Mans 24 Hours in France, where he participated in the supporting Aston Martin Racing Festival with Academy Motorsport, Hutchison made a seamless transition back to his McLaren 570S from the Aston Martin.
Having impressed at Le Mans with a terrific drive on his debut in the opening stint of the 45-minute race, where he challenged for the lead, the Scot gained vital experience of one of the world’s most legendary tracks before heading to Misano for the resumption of his regular European campaign.
The weekend started superbly with team-mate van der Ende securing pole position for race one, thanks to a time of 1m43.206 seconds. Taking the opening stint of Saturday’s 60-minute encounter, the Dutchman held the lead into the first corner and pulled away over the course of the first few laps before the pursuing second placed Audi began to close back in.
While the Audi did move into the lead shortly after, van der Ende remained close behind and, after a Safety Car period around the 20-minute mark, the Equipe Verschuur racer piled on the pressure. Trading places a couple of times, van der Ende then pitted from second place with 25 minutes to go.
Following a great pit-stop from the team, Hutchison joined the track and pushed hard to try and get the undercut on the Audi squad which served its stop the next time around. When the Audi emerged from pitlane, though, it was fractionally ahead of Hutchison and the battle raged once again.
Swarming all over the rival machine, the Scottish teenager darted left, then right, in his attempts to unsettle Milan Dontje. Looking every which way, Hutchison applied immense pressure to the Audi driver before the Safety Car was deployed a second time – a key, and controversial, turning point.
As the duo headed into the right-hander at Turn One, with no Safety Car boards visible on the gantry and no yellow lights, they continued with the Safety Car then appearing on track behind them after slowly exiting the pitlane – an apparent mis-judgment having missed picking up the leaders.
When racing resumed with 10 minutes left, the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays supported racer made a great re-start. Getting alongside at Turn Nine, he then moved into the lead a couple of corners later but the Audi hit back before the end of the lap.
The fantastic scrap continued, with both taking turns at the front, but with just a few minutes to go Dontje dramatically spun out into the gravel while under huge pressure. Taking the lead and then controlling the closing stages, on the final lap officials slapped the No.10 McLaren with an extremely harsh 40 second penalty linked to the earlier Safety Car incident.
Instead of being able to celebrate a thoroughly deserved, and extremely hard-fought maiden victory, Hutchison and van der Ende were instead dropped to 20th place, eighth in the Silver Cup, in the final classification.
“We were devasted after race one, the win was ours”, reflected Hutchison, “When I was behind the No.5 Audi, as we both headed over the start-finish line there were no Safety Car boards or signals on the gantry. It was only after we’d gone through Turn One and Two we knew the Safety Car had joined the track behind us. We don’t believe the penalty was fair, but we had to accept it.”
Hutchison and van der Ende hit back in style in race two
For race two, Hutchison took the opening stint from fourth on the grid having qualified on the second row with a time of 1m44.059 seconds – third fastest in Silver. Getting away cleanly at the rolling start, he maintained fourth initially but wasted no time in breaking into the podium placings, grabbing third on lap three and slicing past into second on lap four with a sensational move.
All over the rear of the leading Audi of Dontje, Hutchison piled on the pressure and carrying immense speed along the back straight he catapulted past the Audi to impressively grab the lead on the fifth tour. Trying to pull a gap at the front, the Dundee racer built a cushion of more than a second but as the race reached the 20-minute mark Dontje had closed back in.
Hutchison, driving impeccably, began to edge away again as the pit-stop window neared and into lap 14 the lead was back up to around a second. Dontje pitted first which meant Hutchison headed into lap 16 over seven seconds clear at the front and he then served his stop the next time around.
Van der Ende headed into the race with just over half an hour to run and he emerged with a good lead. When the race order settled after all stops had been served, combined with a penalty for the Audi linked to track limits infringements, the McLaren held a huge 14.4 second margin.
Pressing home his advantage over the rest of the field, van der Ende scorched away at the front and with 15 minutes to go he had increased the lead to almost 20 seconds. During the closing stages he backed off slightly to look after the car and took the flag at the end of the hour just over 10 seconds clear to spark huge celebrations.
Next on the GT4 European Series schedule is a visit to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium over the weekend 21st/22nd July. There, Hutchison and Equipe Verschuur will double-up their racing activities as the event also features the seventh round of the British GT4 Championship season.
2018 GT4 European Series ‘Silver Cup’ Standings
6th Finlay Hutchison/Ricardo van der Ende, 41pts