British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Stuart Middleton produced an outstandingly tenacious performance during the final event of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season at Sebring International Raceway on Friday, 13th November, to secure another overall podium.
Visiting the famous Florida track for the first time, the Lamborghini Squadra Corse Young Driver Programme racer – from Ashington in Northumberland – fought tooth and nail with eventual champion Madison Snow during the closing stages of round nine to take a fabulous third place.
In round 10 later in the day, Middleton and team-mate Stevan McAleer raced to a top four result and ultimately concluded the championship fourth in the Pro Class standings to bring a pleasing conclusion to the rescheduled 2020 campaign. Across the season, the Prestige Performance with Wayne Taylor Racing pairing achieved six Pro Class podiums and four outright podium results.
Marking only his second year at GT3 level, and first in North America, former British GT4 Champion and GT4 European Series Vice-Champion Middleton has performed very impressively and especially when considering some of the difficulties encountered during the campaign.
“We were a bit more on the money this weekend with the car, that’s for sure, and it’s good to end the season on a higher note”, said the talented British racer, “I think, as a driver, I’ve done the most I can all year. In terms of what I’ve had to do in my first season in America, learning all of the tracks from scratch, I think it’s been one of my strongest seasons from that point of view.
“I’m happy with the job I’ve done and thankful to the team for the hard work they’ve been putting in behind the scenes. It’s been a frustrating year for us all with some of the issues we’ve been chasing, but this weekend was a good way to end the championship. If we’d had the car more like this from the start of the season, there’s no doubt Stevan [McAleer] and I could have challenged for the title.”
Middleton proves pace and ability in finale of debut season in USA
McAleer took the opening stint of round nine on Friday morning local time and, having qualified fourth overall and in class, he made a good start to the 50-minute race and moved up into third through Turn One after Madison Snow went wide following slight contact with Steven Aghakhani.
With championship leader Snow pressuring hard as he attempted to try and re-take third, on lap three he made the breakthrough at Turn 13. McAleer was able to remain within just over a second of his rival and also edged further clear of the pack behind as the mandatory pit-stop neared.
Brandon Gdovic was the first of the lead group to pit on lap 10, and so McAleer moved back into third as a result. The next time around, Aghakhani and Snow pitted which elevated McAleer into the race lead and he then stayed out for another few laps. On lap 13 though, his in-lap, the Scotsman was badly held up by Sergio Jimenez who had already served his pit-stop.
Middleton joined the race in the No.1 car with around 22 minutes to run and he emerged in third place fractionally ahead of sole-driver Snow. With his tyres fully up to temperature, though, Snow was able to strike and edge the No.1 car back to fourth.
North East Caravans-backed racer Middleton remained in touch and with 10 minutes to go he was just over a second shy of Snow’s No.16 machine. Edging closer and closer, with little more than five minutes to go there was nothing between them. Charging hard, the 21-year-old made up huge time on the brakes and absolutely piled on the pressure.
Then, on lap 22, a sensationally bold move into Turn 10 enabled Middleton to grab the final podium place. The titanic battle continued to rage during the last couple of laps and at speeds of up to 160mph the Briton drove the wheels off his Lamborghini to fend off Snow’s continued attack. Refusing to be denied, though, Middleton held on after a remarkable performance to seal third by 0.4 seconds.
Round 10 later in the day began with Middleton at the wheel and from sixth on the grid, fifth in the Pro class, he made a strong launch from the rolling start and quickly moved up into the outright top five. Closing on fourth placed Jimenez towards the end of the first lap, Middleton applied maximum pressure and monstered his rival on the brakes.
With nothing between them lap after lap, Middleton managed to get ahead with a decisive pass at the start of the fourth tour and immediately began to pull away. With a gap of around three seconds to close to Gdovic in third, the Briton pressed on and gained chunks of time to be within a second of his rival into lap six.
Reducing the gap to 0.4 seconds into lap nine, the next time around Middleton started to be held up as he swarmed all over the back of Gdovic’s car. As a result, he pitted at the first opportunity with just under half an hour to run to hand over the No.1 Lamborghini to McAleer.
After all stops had been completed McAleer held fourth overall and in class, running around two seconds shy of sole racer Gdovic. Not able to make any inroads, he consolidated position and stayed there to the flag on lap 24.
“I’ve really enjoyed the final weekend”, Middleton reflected, “Sebring is a quality place, it’s a bit of a bonkers track and very bumpy but I really like it – it’s my favourite of all the tracks we’ve been to. I’d definitely like to come back to race in the States if the opportunity is there next year, it’s a great atmosphere and the fans are so passionate and friendly. We’ll see what happens over the winter.”
Final 2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America ‘Pro Class’ Standings:
4th Stuart Middleton/Stevan McAleer, 96pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Wayne Taylor Racing