Ashington racing driver Stuart Middleton secured his, and team-mate Stevan McAleer’s, fifth Pro class podium of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season on Sunday, 1st November, at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway in California.
Having just missed out on both a class and outright podium by only 0.7 seconds in round seven on Saturday, 31st October, the Prestige Performance with Wayne Taylor Racing duo originally took the chequered flag in sixth overall and fifth in class during the Safety Car impacted second race.
Following penalties for a couple of rival entries, though, Middleton and McAleer were elevated into third in Pro and fourth position overall to bring a positive conclusion to 20-year-old Middleton’s first ever visit to the unique, undulating 2.24-mile track.
“We’re pleased to have taken another class podium, but it was another tricky weekend”, said the Northumberland racer, who is part of the Lamborghini Squadra Corse Young Driver Programme, “I couldn’t push any more out of the car, absolutely on the limit every lap to extract the performance we did. We struggled with traction quite a lot, especially when the tyres were aging a bit.
“I was able to make up a load of time on the brakes, but then cars could just pull away so it was hard work. The overall pace just isn’t there, but Stevan [McAleer] and I honestly couldn’t push any harder than we are. I’m happy with the job I’m doing in the car, I’m getting the maximum possible out of it and feel I’m on top of my game. It’s frustrating we’re not quite there, but we’ll keep pushing.”
In round seven qualifying on Saturday morning McAleer was third fastest overall, third in class, and started the first race later in the day. Making a good launch, he took second from Sergio Jimenez a couple of corners later but was edged back to third into the Corkscrew. Then, at the end of lap three, he moved into second again when race leader Brandon Gdovic pitted with fuel-related issues.
Towards the end of the opening stint McAleer came under immense pressure from championship leader Madison Snow, but managed to fend off his rival with some defensive lines. Snow got ahead on the run out of the final turn into lap 13 and although McAleer tried to fight back, he had to tuck back into third before making the mandatory driver-change pit-stop at the end of lap 15.
Middleton joined the race with around 27 minutes to run and when the order settled after all stops were completed, the Briton was fourth some 3.5 seconds shy of Snow – a sole driver – in third. With the battle for the lead closing up, Middleton tried as hard as possible to latch on to the podium fight.
Then, with around 18 minutes to go, a Full Course Yellow period was called due to the sister Prestige Performance with WTR car of Ashton Harrison having to pull off the circuit. Following a subsequent Safety Car period, which enabled the pack to close up, racing resumed on lap 26.
Right with Snow at Turn Two, North East Caravans-backed Middleton looked to make his move a couple of corners later but Snow robustly hit back and the subsequent delay at the Corkscrew dropped the British Racing Drivers’ Club ‘Rising Star’ into the clutches of the chasing group.
By lap 28 Middleton had started to close in again on third placed Snow and at the start of lap 30 a four-car train had developed in the scrap for the final outright podium place. Able to drop his two pursuers on the final tour, he took the flag on lap 31 just 0.7 seconds shy of the podium.
Middleton started Sunday’s eighth round from seventh on the grid, fifth in class, and mounted an early challenge for sixth overall but couldn’t quite make the breakthrough. Although losing a bit of ground to the group ahead, as the contest wore on he worked hard to pick up the pace.
At the 20-minute mark the pit window opened and a couple of cars did indeed take the first opportunity to stop. Middleton stayed on track, and so moved into fifth overall and third in class, but on lap 16 a Full Course Yellow period was called due to a car in the gravel.
Having moved up into the class lead, third overall, racing eventually resumed on lap 21 and Middleton pitted at the end of the tour to hand over the car to his team-mate. As McAleer joined the track, though, another FCY period was in force as a result of a collision involving two cars.
McAleer held seventh overall, fifth in class, as the field continued to circulate behind the Safety Car and the action only resumed with enough time for a two-lap dash to the flag. With no changes looking likely, a series of penalties at the end of the race – linked to the pit stops – then completely changed the final result with McAleer being elevated into third in Pro and fourth overall.
There is now little more than a week to wait until the final event of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season gets underway, at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, on Wednesday, 11th November. The race meeting will conclude on Friday, 13th November.
Provisional 2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Standings:
4th Stuart Middleton/Stevan McAleer, 78pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Wayne Taylor Racing