Aiming for a return to the points-paying top 10 in the final outing of his maiden campaign in the ultra-competitive championship, Dundee teenager Hutchison had to instead settle for a best of 12th position in the second of the weekend’s two races despite damage to his Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO.
Gearbox maladies with the No.11 car in practice put the squad on the backfoot and after finishing 18th in a wet-and-drying first race on Saturday afternoon, with a dry set-up which didn’t pay off, Hutchison and Vervisch did run as high as ninth in Sunday’s encounter before the Scotsman ended the race in 12th spot.
One noteworthy highlight for the team came by way of the pit-stops, with Phoenix producing the fastest of the weekend. As has been the case all year, the squad has been rapid with the turnaround in the pits.
Reflecting on the weekend, Hutchison said: “It has been tough in Hungary, we didn’t have any pace at all unfortunately. There was an issue with the gearbox in practice, which put us on the back foot, and after that it was always going to be difficult. Qualifying wasn’t great at all, and then we just couldn’t fight as hard as we wanted to. The team deserves credit for some mega pit stops though.
“As a driver I’ve learnt a lot in my first year in the World Challenge, it’s been fantastic working with an experienced team-mate like Frederic even if the season hasn’t gone to plan for us. We’ve obviously got one race to go in the Endurance Cup, with Ivan [Pareras] and Kim-Luis [Schramm], so we’re all looking forward to that.”
British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Hutchison began race one from 20th after an issue with his tyres in qualifying and the action started behind the Safety Car on a very wet track surface with lots of spray. The action proper got underway after eight minutes and the 19-year-old maintained position initially before being edged back a spot.
As the track started to dry more and more, Hutchison still ran in 21st position and when the pit-stop window opened at the 25-minute mark he continued on track – climbing as high as seventh before pitting to hand over the car to Vervisch with just over 25 minutes of the hour-long race to go.
As the Belgian departed the pits, though, the similar Audi of Dries Vanthoor departed its box into the path of Vervisch – who was already in the fast lane of the pits – and there was contact, delaying the Phoenix car. Running in 16th position, Vervisch was edged back a place in the final quarter of an hour and ultimately finished in 18th place, behind Vanthoor.
Vervisch started race two from 16th position and through a busy, and fairly robust, opening lap he was able to gain two positions despite receiving contact from the Lamborghini of Andrea Bertolini midway around the 4.3-kilometre track.
Following an early Safety Car period Vervisch, now in 13th place, got away well when the action resumed on lap five and soon pressured the Lamborghini of Phil Keen but the Phoenix Audi was then shuffled back to 14th place by the similar Audi of Markus Winkelhock. After dramas for Vanthoor, Vervisch moved up a spot into 13th position on lap seven before pitting with 24 minutes elapsed.
Hutchison climbed behind the wheel for his stint, with just over half an hour to run, and when the race order settled after all driver-change stops had been completed the Scotsman was an elevated ninth and in sight of a welcome points return – although the car was developing a mechanical issue.
With 20 minutes to go the Aston Martin of Aaro Vainio successfully challenged, and so Hutchison slipped to 10th place, and as the final quarter of an hour approached the Dundee racer headed a train of no fewer than nine Audi R8 racers. Losing a bit of ground late-on, Hutchison did the best he could in the circumstances and ultimately ended the final race in 12th position.
Having completed his first season in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe, Hutchison’s maiden year in the sister Blancpain Endurance Cup will reach its conclusion three weeks from now over the weekend 28th/29th September in Barcelona, Spain.
2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe Standings
16th Finlay Hutchison/Frederic Vervisch, 11pts