GT4 keeps on growing at an accelerated pace: more than 50% of the crews gathered in the Zolder paddock were in a situation of running a new car for the first time in the series. Out of the 44 pairs entered, 10 went for the new BMW M4 GT4, including the Razvan Umbrarescu – Gabriele Piana duo. For 2018, their team (RN Vision STS) heralds the status of BMW Customer Racing Team, the Romanian driver’s feedback being prized by the Bavarian constructor since winter testing. Given the rate of development of the new GT4 challenger, it made sense to focus on comparing the pace with all other BMWs, including the official factory Junior program (Beitske Visser and Nico Menzel) that Umbrarescu shared the garage with.
Through the above-mentioned perspective, the Romanian driver found himself content with practice and qualifying. On Friday, car #111 was the leading BMW on the timesheets in both sessions. Afterwards, Razvan and Gabriele placed the car high on the grid for both races, surpassing the BMW Juniors. The opening race started in stunning fashion, as Piana rocketed from 6th to 3rd when the lights went out, but the Italian couldn’t keep the front-running pace as the gearbox overheated and the brakes’ efficiency faded when running behind another car. A miscalculation in the pits further relegated the pair beyond the points paying positions, yet still there were reasons to be optimistic, ending fifth in the fastest laps classification.
The Sunday event started cleanly for Umbrarescu in 11th place. A prolonged Safety Car period bunched up the peloton, the M4 GT4 being once again affected by the same technical issues. Gabriele Piana had to give up the fight for fourth overall as his pace had to drop in order to see the checkered flag. Pluses and minuses went under the radar after the race, as drivers, team and constructor representatives went into a comprehensive briefing. Umbrarescu is confident that the technical support on offer will come up with solutions during the four weeks remaining before round two in Brands Hatch.
The car has very good torque and the performances were there during the first laps of the races. Afterwards, I had to adapt my braking points by about 20 meters to be able to stop the M4 GT4. Brakes and gearbox overheating forced us to slow down and it remains to be seen how much of these issues are due to the imposed ballast. I can say we had a good weekend, as the average pace of our pair was the best of all BMWs.
Source. West Competition Racing/Photo. Gabi Tomescu