After a difficult start in Zolder, Razvan Umbrarescu and the whole RN Vision STS team were keen to make amends in Britain, where the undulating Brands Hatch circuit suited the BMW M4 GT4. Medium and high-speed corners play in the hands of the stable chassis, while the previous experience of the Romanian racer on this track was an asset in the huge 46-car field.
Used tires from the Belgian weekend were the norm for Free Practice, so there was not much to read in the time sheets. The pecking order became obvious on new slicks at dusk, as Saturday action in Kent came to a conclusion with the two qualifying sessions for the European GT4 Series. Like everyone else on the tight strip of tarmac, Razvan struggled to find a suitable gap in traffic for a clean lap. As time ticked down, he delivered under pressure and placed the BMW 12th overall, 8th in Silver Cup and second between the M4s in class. Gabriele Piana further laid a good foundation by lining up 5th, which became 4th following the exclusion of an opponent.
There were reasons to start thinking about podium placings on Sunday, even more so after the first 30 seconds of Race 1. Umbrarescu kept his composure on the outside of Paddock Hill Bend and Druids, catapulting himself from 12th to 5th in no time at all. He soaked up the pressure from Jakob Schober (Mercedes) lap after lap, until proceedings were halted by a Safety Car phase. The unfortunate decision not to pit at the first opportunity costed the #111 crew dear, as it tumbled down the order behind those who grasped the occasion. Piana’s storming recovery drive was thwarted by both technical glitches and a red flag premature ending of the race, 11 minutes ahead of time. Crunching in the numbers, a podium would have been obtainable, given the race pace on display by Razvan and Gabriele.
A few hours later, the M4 GT4 was once again in the spotlight as the second heat commenced. Despite the grid placement according to the officials’ briefing, Piana was called in to serve a drive through just as he had moved up into second place, less than a second behind the leader. A similar scenario involving a mid-race Safety Car phase gave the team a chance to recover by pitting. Umbrarescu joined the fray and battled hard with Aston-Martin and fellow BMW racers to claim his first point of the year: 10th in class being also 10th overall in a contest where Silver Cup entrants were entirely dominant. Once again, the car was capable of dipping below 1m34s, a performance only accessible to a handful of crews.
The next round will take place on the Rimini Coast, on the Misano-Marco Simoncelli circuit between the 22nd and the 24th of June. In 2017, Umbrarescu and Piana won the Italian opener in Pro-Am class when both the Bacau-born driver and the RN Vision STS team were making their GT4-level debut.
Source. West Competition Racing/Photo. John Patterson