September 13, 2022.- Though it ended prematurely, ST Racing’s return to the 24H SERIES instilled immense confidence in the Canadian team’s GT3 competitiveness at this weekend’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA.
The 24-hour event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain marked the first 24H SERIES event in which Samantha Tan Racing has competed since the team’s outright victory at the Hankook 12H MUGELLO in March. The host venue of the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix holds particularly fond memories for ST Racing, which recorded the second of an eventual three wins en-route to the Overall GT Teams’ and Overall GT Drivers’ championships in the Canadian squad’s maiden season of endurance racing.
Despite a six-month hiatus from the series, and cheered by an impressive debut at the 24 Hours of Spa in July, ST Racing quickly re-established the pace of its BMW M4 GT3 by setting the third fastest aggregate time of the PRO/AM runners during qualifying in Barcelona.
Moreover, a fighting opening stint by Nick Wittmer, who shared the ST Racing BMW M4 GT3 with team co-owner Samantha Tan, Bryson Morris and GT World Challenge America frontrunner Steven Aghakhani, meant the BMW M4 GT3 had already moved up to 3rd after one lap, and was harrying the leader by the fourth.
After similarly strong stints from Samantha (still recovering from an allergic reaction the previous day) and Bryson, the M4 GT3 moved into the overall lead during the fifth hour, masterful strategy on the pitwall and consistent running thereafter ensuring the #1 BMW led all but 34 of the following 228 laps. Indeed, come half-distance ST Racing had also established a lap advantage over its pursuers.
Sadly, ST Racing’s phenomenal return race was brought to an abrupt halt during the 13th hour when the BMW’s M TwinPower Turbo six-cylinder blew its head gasket. Unable to affect a repair, the team was forced to retire from the overall lead.
Despite the disappointment, ST Racing still managed to lead 383 of the eventually completed 666 laps at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA, more than any other competitor, a validation of both the BMW’s speed and ST Racing’s meticulous pitwork.
Kenneth Tan, team principal: “It was heart wrenching to see our car running P1 for most of the race only for us to lose our position at the 13th hour and then abruptly stop. We race to win and our crew travelled from Canada to Europe to completely prepare the car after our race at the 24 Hours of Spa. However, a problematic fuel specification issue, which we identified during Wednesday’s track/test day, ultimately caused an engine failure at the 13th hour of our race. Nevertheless, we showed our true heart and spirit during the first half of the race with a very strong performance in the pit and on track. Had this been the 12 hours of Barcelona, then we would have won the race outright. But alas, it is not and the “band-aid” solution put together to solve the earlier fuel issue did not work for us. But as they say, we learn from experience and it can only make us stronger for our next race. Now, we look forward to the Indy 8-hour next month and will start preparing for that.”
Samantha Tan, team co-owner: “Sometimes you just run out of luck. We got up to speed quickly this weekend, and I was the first to qualify — setting us at P3 overall. We finished qualifying P3 in class, P5 overall. Nick started the race and immediately gained positions in his first stint. Shortly after, we were leading the field and fast, consistent stints from all our drivers kept us there for the next 12 hours. Unfortunately, a blown head gasket forced us to retire at around 3am. I’m absolutely gutted, knowing we had incredible pace and an immaculate car setup. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, we can keep our heads high and keep pushing at the next one.”
Nick Wittmer, driver: “We had a very good week of testing and set the car up well – the car was fast. Our goal was to finish the race and try to take the overall win. We were fighting for the lead the whole race up until the engine decided it no longer wanted to continue. We are very happy with the job that we did – We had great pace on track, my co-drivers all drove really well and our crew did an amazing job. A big thank you to ST Racing who made the car run up front like always. Unfortunately, racing is racing and some days are like that.”
Bryson Morris, driver: “It was a tough race at the 24H Barcelona, but there are many good things to take away from the weekend. From qualifying near the front of the grid, to leading 9 of the 12 hours that we were able to run in the race. I can’t thank the team enough for giving me the opportunity to continue to drive with them!”
Steven Aghakhani, driver: “The 24H Barcelona was my first time driving with ST Racing as well as my first time driving at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya! I’ve always enjoyed driving the track on the sim and getting to drive it in-person was amazing. Overall, my debut with ST Racing was a great experience. I primarily race in the North American GTWC series, so there were a lot of differences coming into the weekend – A new car, a new track, a new tire compound, and a new brake compound, to name a few. We focused on the challenge ahead and tried to maximize my performance on track. During the race, the team was very impressive. You never quite know what you’ll get with a new team, but I went into it with high hopes and the team did not disappoint. While we didn’t get the win we were aiming for, there was lots of potential and I believe that together, we will grow stronger and achieve amazing things in the future!”
ST Racing will wrap the season up with the Indianapolis 8 Hour, where the team finished on the podium a mere six seconds adrift of the GT4-class leader in 2020. ST Racing will be entering an M4 GT3 alongside STR38 Motorsports – the team’s full-service shop in California – who will field two additional entries, an M4 GT4 and an M2 CS Racing. STR’s eSports drivers will also be participating in the Fanatec eSports event taking place over the course of the weekend.
Report from Service Presse