Highly rated British racing driver Stuart Middleton enjoyed a successful conclusion to his maiden season of GT3 action in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe at Jerez in Spain over the weekend, with a double podium and victory in the final race of the 2019 campaign.
Ending his debut season third in the championship, just 14 points shy of the title, Ashington-based Middleton and compatriot Jack Bartholomew started the Jerez event with third place in round 11 on Friday, 25th October, before storming to their third win of the year in round 12 later in the day. In total, the team-mates raced to eight podium results during a very competitive campaign.
On Saturday, 26th October, and Sunday, 27th October, the Bonaldi Motorsport pairing also contested the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals at the Spanish track – featuring the very best drivers and teams from the European, North American and Asian championships.
In race one, North East Caravans, Steel & Jelly and Spine Optics supported racer Middleton took the flag in 10th position after Bartholomew was caught-up in a luckless opening lap incident which dropped him well outside the top 20. In race two, the duo combined to deliver a strong sixth place.
“It’s a fantastic way to end the championship with another win, great to finish the season as we started”, said British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Middleton, “It’s been a really tough year, a lot to learn in my first year in GT3 in what has been a very competitive Super Trofeo season and with the level of skill very high. Walking away with more silverware is always a good thing.
“We’ve had to work hard, the hardest I ever have, to finish in the top three of the championship and while it would have been nice to be a bit closer to the top I did everything I could. The Lamborghini is a completely different car to anything I’ve driven before – the power level, the brakes and the way the car is so sensitive to any changes – so I’m happy with how I’ve adapted to the new challenge.”
Middleton added: “We just didn’t have the budget to test ahead of this weekend, and most of the other teams had a couple of extra days at Jerez, so I don’t think we did a bad job overall in the last two races of the championship and the World Final, especially as it was a new track for me. Our car wasn’t quite there in the World Final races, but we’re still satisfied with our own performance.”
Middleton impresses again as 2019 season reaches successful conclusion
Round 11 of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe took place on Friday morning and Bartholomew started the encounter from fourth on the grid. Slipping to fifth into the first corner and then edged back to sixth into Turn Two, hopes of a podium finish looked to be ebbing away from the get-go.
Pitting with 29 minutes of the 50-minute contest remaining to hand over the No.32 car to Middleton from sixth, the North East racer was determined to battle through and he did just that with a sensational performance. Running in 16th position after joining the track, with a number of entries yet to serve their mandatory pit stops, the first year Lamborghini driver soon made major progress.
With 20 minutes to run he was into the top six and, as he reeled off some stunning laps, Middleton climbed into fifth. Overturning a five second-plus deficit to the podium battlers inside 10 minutes, the Bonaldi driver latched onto the tail of the three car scrap ahead and applied significant pressure.
With just a few minutes to go the Safety Car was deployed due to a stranded vehicle and when the action resumed, there was only enough time for one final lap. As drivers prepared for the re-start, Middleton read the situation smartly and leapt from fifth to third before then concluding the race an outstanding second. Post-race, though, a penalty linked to the re-start dropped him back to third.
Round 12 followed just a few hours later and Middleton, from fourth on the grid, was edged back to fifth but remained in touch with the top four. Moving back into fourth position on lap two, when Jonathan Cecotto slowed, Middleton stayed there for the rest of his stint just outside the top three.
Pitting to hand over the No.32 Lamborghini Huracan to Bartholomew with just over half an hour to go, when the car rejoined the race Bartholomew was outside the top 10 but then moved up into the top three after all stops had been served. Seven seconds shy of the second placed ‘Am’ driver with 15 minutes to go, Bartholomew reeled his rival in and sliced past with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Then setting his sights on the leading No.6 car of Andrzej Lewandowski, Bartholomew caught the green Lamborghini with three laps to go. Beginning to apply significant pressure, as the Bonaldi racer prepared to mount a serious challenge for the lead Lewandowski’s car dramatically crashed out at the last corner. Bartholomew swept past and went on to win a couple of laps later by 1.3 seconds.
Competitive showing for Middleton & Bartholomew in ‘World Final’
Bartholomew qualified eighth fastest for the first of the two World Final races, which took place on Saturday afternoon, and at the start a good launch enabled him to nose into seventh momentarily around the outside of Turn One. Just a couple of corners later, though, contact dropped him to 24th.
Following a five-minute Safety Car period, racing resumed with 42 minutes to go and Bartholomew held 22nd position. Working his way into 17th place before pitting to hand over the car to Middleton with half an hour to run, when the Ashington driver joined the track he was in 19th spot.
With 20 minutes to go Middleton had climbed into the top 15 and just 10 minutes later he was knocking on the door of the top 10. Duly moving into 10th position a few laps later, the result was richly deserved after the lap one dramas.
Middleton began World Final race two on Sunday from ninth place and although edged back a position he fought hard to recover. Moving back into ninth when a rival limped back to the pits, Middleton maintained position to the pit stops and then stayed out as some rivals served earlier driver changes.
Eventually pitting from fourth place with just over 22 minutes to go, Middleton handed over to Bartholomew who threaded back into the action just outside the top 10. Moving into ninth when all stops were completed, he raced well to the flag to gain three more places and secure a solid top six.
Final 2019 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Driver Standings
3rd Stuart Middleton/Jack Bartholomew, 125pts
Source. Marc Orme