Attempto Racing’s Finlay Hutchison watched hopes of a Silver Cup podium challenge frustratingly go awry during a one-off outing in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup at a rain-hit Zandvoort on Saturday, 26th September – the Scottish driver ending the event with a best finish of sixth in class.
Drafted into the squad’s Sprint Cup line-up at the absolute eleventh hour, running in place of Frederic Vervisch who had clashing commitments racing in this weekend’s Nurburgring 24 Hours, the Dundee driver partnered regular Endurance Cup team-mate Nicolas Scholl.
Showcasing impressive pace from the outset at the Dutch track, the No.66 Audi R8 LMS GT3 pairing carried realistic Silver Cup podium hopes into both one-hour encounters. However, a fruitless tyre gamble in a rain-hit opening race and an early incident in race two proved very costly.
Sixth in the Silver Cup, 15th overall, was the best result of the weekend for the Attempto drivers in race two – having started second in class. During race one, British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Hutchison and Scholl took seventh in class and 17th overall after a decision to start with slick Pirelli tyres on a damp track didn’t work out when more rain arrived.
“Our pace was strong all weekend, so it’s disappointing we didn’t come away with a podium as we definitely had the capability”, said the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays backed racer, “For the first race I did wonder whether we should be on wets at the start, but the decision was slicks and it was just one of those things – a real 50/50.
“We were unlucky in race two with Nicolas put wide at the start, we had a great chance from second on the grid in the Silver Cup. When I joined the track for my stint I was in no-man’s land really, so it was pretty uneventful. It’s been good to be back at Zandvoort, the parts with the new surface where they’ve changed it for F1 is so different with the grip – it’s like you’re racing at two different tracks!”
Hutchison and Scholl were an excellent sixth fastest overall in practice on Friday, 25th September, and inside the top 10 again in pre-qualifying. In final qualifying, the Scot was seventh in Silver and 14th overall in a red flag shortened run. Scholl was 12th quickest and second in class in session two.
Tyre choice for race one on Saturday morning was critical, but also real throw of the dice stuff. With a damp track and dark clouds overhead, but drier weather expected to follow, drivers and teams were certainly left with a quandary. Attempto opted for Hutchison to be on slicks but as the field circulated on the formation lap rain began to fall again.
Actually starting 13th overall and sixth in Silver due to a car having spun on the way to the grid, Hutchison negotiated the opening lap well. Ending the first tour in 12th and sixth in class, all was good initially but the rain continued and the slick tyre shod cars struggled more and more for grip.
Hutchison pitted his Audi at the end of lap two to switch to wets and rejoined at the back in 22nd overall and 10th in Silver. Moments later, the rain ceased but the track was still more than wet enough for the treaded tyres to be the correct choice. Making good progress, Hutchison moved into eighth in Silver and 18th overall and produced a best lap faster than half of the top 10 runners.
Pitting for the mid-race driver change at the end of lap 14, with just over 25 minutes elapsed, Scholl climbed aboard the No.66 Audi with slick tyres fitted. Running in 19th overall and eighth in class, he went on to end the unpredictable contest 17th overall and seventh in Silver.
The Austrian started the dry second race from the sixth row and second in class, but his hopes of capitalising were spoiled at Turn One when a spinner just ahead, in the middle of the track, resulted in the No.66 Audi being forced off across the gravel on the outside.
Recovering in 18th overall and seventh in the Silver Cup, he gained places on laps two and three and then became bottled up behind the Toksport Mercedes-AMG of Juuso Puhakka and Lexus of Thomas Neubauer. As others hit troubles, so Scholl moved up to 14th overall and fifth in Silver. When the pit window opened at the 25-minute mark, he stayed on track and duly moved further up the order.
Some light rain didn’t materialise into anything of concern and as others made their mandatory stops, Scholl moved up into the Silver lead and seventh overall. He then pitted at the end of lap 20, with Hutchison joining the track seventh in class, 18th overall, with just under 25 minutes remaining.
In the space of just a handful of laps he had climbed through into the outright top 16, sixth in the Silver Cup, and moved up into the top 15 overall on lap 23. With little prospect of any further place gains, he still closed on the AF Corse Ferrari ahead and at the flag on lap 37 he was just 0.8 seconds shy.
Hutchison now heads to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium with Attempto for this coming week’s official test days for next month’s Total 24 Hours of Spa – the third round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. Testing is this Tuesday, 29th September, and Wednesday, 30th September.
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. SRO Motorsports Group