Also securing a ninth position overall finish in the rain-hit championship curtain-raiser, Dundee’s Hutchison and his two Audi Sport ‘factory’ team-mates made an impressive start to the new season – especially at a track not best suited to their No.26 Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Beginning the Monza encounter from 14th position in Pro, Winkelhock handled the first stint before Hutchison took over driving duties in the second hour and Vervisch completed the race. Rain from just 10 minutes into the contest made for some wildly unpredictable action, but the Sainteloc trio performed strongly to get the 2021 campaign underway.
“Everyone at the team is very happy with the result we achieved this weekend”, said 21-year-old Hutchison, “We didn’t have the outright pace at Monza, so we have to be happy with a top five result in our class. There’s always room for improvement, so we’ll be seeing where we can make some changes for the next one.”
During the first qualifying session of the season on Sunday morning, Winkelhock took the opening run and set a time of 1m48.008 seconds, while Hutchison was a mere 0.4 seconds shy of the factory Audi driver in session two. In the third and final run, Vervisch delivered a quickest lap of 1m47.232 seconds and on average times they were classified 14th in the Pro class.
German driver Winkelhock started the race in the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays liveried No.26 Audi and made strong early progress. After the first rain arrived 10 minutes into the race, Winkelhock pitted around five minutes later for treaded wet-weather Pirelli tyres.
Re-emerging 14th in the Pro class, as the track conditions worsened he moved through the order into the top 10 and eventually pitted for the first mandatory driver-change stops a couple of minutes into hour two, from fifth in Pro and eighth overall.
Hutchison climbed behind the wheel for his first race miles in the Sainteloc car, threading into the race ninth in Pro and 16th overall. Although still raining, conditions did begin to improve to some degree but roughly 15 minutes into his stint racing fell under caution due to debris on track.
When the action resumed with 90 minutes to go, Hutchison was seventh in Pro and he climbed as high as third in class and sixth overall before rain started to fall again. Fractionally before the end of hour two, the Scotsman pitted from fourth in Pro and seventh overall to hand over to Vervisch.
Running eighth in class initially, the Belgian racer worked his way through the order on a now drying track and just 10 minutes into the stint he was up into the Pro top five and eighth overall. Although edged back to ninth in the outright order before the finish, Vervisch maintained fifth in class by almost seven seconds.
Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France hosts round two of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Powered by AWS season over the weekend 29th/30th May.
2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Powered by AWS Points
9th Finlay Hutchison/Markus Winkelhock/Frederic Vervisch, 2pts