Marking the Dundee 19-year-old’s first race at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO, as well as his maiden outing in the pan-European championship along with new team-mates Kim-Luis Schramm and Ivan Pareras, the Scotsman battled well to conquer particularly difficult conditions.
Notably, Hutchison had the additional challenge of running on slick tyres during his mid-race stint on a wet-but-drying track and performed very impressively to ensure the team remained in contention for its eventual top six placing in Silver.
“It was quite hard on slicks and to perform straight away, especially as I was one of the first to go on slicks at that point of the race, but the team thought it was the right decision”, said Hutchison, “I’d had next to no laps in practice, probably only about 15 in total before the race, so it was challenging but I’m pleased with the result – to be 14th overall and P6 in the Silver Cup was pretty good going.”
Beginning the weekend with consistent running in practice, during the 90-minute Pre-Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon Hutchison lapped eighth in the Silver Cup within just 0.4 seconds of the top three.
For final qualifying on Sunday morning, rain, an incredibly wet track and cold weather awaited competitors and the three 15-minute sessions all ended up being badly impacted by numerous red flag stoppages as a result of a variety of incidents.
Hutchison and his two team-mates, however, put together a clean run with Schramm setting a time of 2m10.991 seconds in session one to secure sixth in the Silver class. With no let-up in the spray in session two, Hutchison’s bid was also impacted and he ended the second period 10th in Silver with a near identical time of 2m10.997 seconds.
Track conditions did improve for session three, with Pareras delivering a time of 2m06.279 seconds to lap ninth fastest in Silver. The average of all three times, determining the grid, placed the Phoenix Racing entry eighth in class and 27th overall.
Schramm took the opening stint of the race, on a very wet track, and stayed out longer than many of the rival entries which enabled the German to climb into second in class and 10th overall just before pitting to hand the Audi over to Hutchison.
With the track having dried to some degree over the course of the first hour, at the first pit stop the decision was taken to switch the car onto slick tyres for Hutchison’s stint. Running ninth in Silver and 30th overall when the first round of pit-stops shook out, the teenager made good progress to move up into seventh in class at the halfway point of the race.
He then had to contend with the increasing challenge of returning light rain which meant grip was at a premium more than ever. Following a Safety Car period with around 75 minutes to run, the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays backed racer pressed on and concluded his stint seventh in the Silver Cup and 26th overall.
Spanish racer Pareras climbed into the driving seat for the final hour and into the last 30 minutes the Audi was right on the tail of Struan Moore’s Honda NSX. Climbing into sixth in Silver when another rival hit problems, Pareras held the placing to the chequered flag and also finished 14th overall to cap a strong debut for the trio.
“Monza is all about the straights and that’s not the strongest point of the Audi, so we’re looking forward to seeing what happens at Silverstone next”, said Hutchison, “It’s a good car and the guys at the team are working well, it all comes down to the BOP [Balance of Performance] to be honest.
“We know we have a good package and there is a lot of potential, so I can’t wait for the next round where I’m sure we’ll have a much more straightforward weekend. With the weather we had at Monza, though, the result was definitely better than expected so it’s been a good start.”
Round two of the Blancpain Endurance Cup will take place on 11th/12th May at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK. One week earlier, Hutchison will get his 2019 campaign in the sister Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe [formerly the Sprint Cup] underway on British soil at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on 4th/5th May.
2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup ‘Silver Cup’ Standings
6th Finlay Hutchison/Kim-Luis Schramm/Ivan Pareras, 8pts