British Racing Drivers’ Club ‘Rising Star’ Stuart Middleton claimed his third outright podium of the 2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season at Road Atlanta in Georgia over the weekend, 5th/6th September, with a top three finish in round five of the campaign.
Once again entering new territory, having never previously visited the 2.54-mile track, Middleton quickly got up to speed in the No.1 Prestige Performance with Wayne Taylor Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 car and produced strong performances despite issues with straight-line speed.
Along with the third place result in the opening race on Saturday, the Lamborghini Squadra Corse Young Driver Programme racer and team-mate Stevan McAleer also added fifth overall and third in class in round six on Sunday.
Ashington 20-year-old Middleton, who is backed by North East Caravans, concludes the third race meeting of his maiden season in the USA fourth in the championship standings. He now has a long eight-week break from action before rounds seven and eight at Laguna Seca, California, in October.
“It’s always good to get a podium, but we have struggled massively again this weekend”, said the Northumberland racer, “We’ve got a real lack of straight-line speed, which obviously isn’t good, and we’re all scratching our heads. There’s no way we should be running the pace we are, and battling Pro-Am cars, so there’s a lot of work to do with our car before Laguna Seca.
“Last time out at VIR [Virginia International Raceway] it was better, even though we still had a power deficit, but this weekend it’s been back to how it was at the first round. In terms of handling, the car was better with something we tried in race one but the overall performance was still lacking. Both Stevan and I are doing all we possibly can, it’s definitely frustrating at the moment.”
Beginning the weekend fourth fastest in opening practice and then a surprising 10th in the second session, during round five qualifying on Friday, 4th September, McAleer took seventh on the grid with a lap of 1m21.585 seconds. In the round six session, Middleton lapped in 1m21.882 seconds to secure an improved sixth on the grid for race two of the weekend.
Taking the opening stint of round five on Saturday, McAleer moved up into the top six on lap one and then climbed into fifth on lap six when Stevan Aghakhani slid off the track. Although McAleer was edged back to sixth and then seventh before the mid-race pit-stop, when Middleton got behind the wheel he set about moving back up the order.
Emerging back on track in seventh, in the space of a lap Middleton was into the top five and he the took fourth position on lap 20. Running close behind the No.63 Lamborghini, the British star passed on lap 25 to take third place and went on to seal his and McAleer’s third podium of the season.
Middleton took the first stint of round six on Sunday and launched well from the rolling start, but wasn’t able to make the most of it when blocked in with nowhere to go through the first turn. Taking a look at fifth mid-lap, the move didn’t work out and he was instead edged back to seventh.
Quickly hitting back a few corners later, Middleton moved into sixth once again and closed in on the sister WTR car of Shelby Blackstock. With nothing between them into lap five, Middleton applied pressure and on lap nine the mistake came from Blackstock with a spin into the gravel.
Triggering the appearance of the Safety Car as Blackstock’s Lamborghini was recovered, when racing resumed with just over half an hour to go Middleton was fifth and just 0.6 seconds behind Sergio Jimenez. At the end of lap 14, he then pitted to hand over the car to McAleer.
When the race order settled with 20 minutes to run, McAleer held sixth and was just 1.6 seconds behind Neil Alberico. Although the duelling duo were shuffled back to eighth and seventh respectively, McAleer continued his pursuit of Alberico and moved ahead on lap 29. During the closing stages, two rivals suffered punctures which hoisted McAleer into fifth and third in class.
California’s world-famous Laguna Seca Raceway will host the penultimate event of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season on Saturday, 31st October, and Sunday, 1st November.
2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Standings:
4th Stuart Middleton/Stevan McAleer, 60pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Wayne Taylor Racing