Very real hopes of victory, and at the very least a deserved podium finish, dramatically ended for Finlay Hutchison and Attempto Racing midway through the Hankook 6H Abu Dhabi on Saturday, 23rd January, after the No.99 Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO stopped on track while in second place.
With Audi Sport factory driver Markus Winkelhock at the wheel as the halfway point of the six-hour contest approached, the German racer was catching the leading car. With a pit-stop in-hand as well, all looked perfect for the Attempto squad until oil pump failure resulted in a blown engine.
Marking the second endurance race in a week for Dundee’s Hutchison and team-mates Alex Aka and Winkelhock, the trio having competed with Christopher Mies and Philipp Sager in the Hankook 24H Dubai the weekend prior, the disappointing outcome couldn’t take away from the excellent performance.
“I can’t believe our luck, or lack of it”, said the Scottish racer, “Everyone did a fantastic job and the win was there for us. Car Collection [No.88 Audi] had to do an extra stop compared to us so, as long as we finished the race, the win was ours. It’s frustrating but I’ve learnt so much from Markus [Winkelhock] and Christopher [Mies] the last couple of weekends, which has been really important.
“We’d noticed a fluctuation in oil pressure before the engine went, so we think the oil pump failed and that led to the engine going. The car was great all weekend but unfortunately here – and in Dubai last weekend – we didn’t have the reliability we needed.”
Starting off the event at the stunning Yas Marina Circuit second and third fastest in the two test sessions on Friday, 22nd January, the No.99 Audi R8 then went quickest in the final free practice with a time of 2m08.791 seconds (155.25 km/h).
In qualifying on Saturday morning, Winkelhock lapped fastest with a time of 2m09.145 seconds (154.82 km/h) and looked to have secured pole position but ultimately had to settle for the second quickest lap.
Aka started the race for Attempto and after grabbing the lead from the pole-starting No.72 McLaren 720S GT3, the German quickly began to open a gap. Running comfortably in the podium placings during the two hours of his double-stint, Aka handed over to Winkelhock for hour three.
Holding second place behind the No.88 Audi, Winkelhock produced a fastest race lap of 2m10.577 seconds as he started to catch the rival car. On lap 67, though, the developing oil pressure problem came to a head with the engine in the Attempto car expiring.
Despite the disappointment of Abu Dhabi, and retirement from the Dubai 24 Hours due to a broken driveshaft, Hutchison is taking away the positives as he focuses on finalising his full-season 2021 plans along with sponsors Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays.
“We’re hopeful we can announce where we’ll be racing soon”, he added, “I’d love to stick with Audi, I’ve really enjoyed racing the R8 for the last couple of years, and it would be fantastic to be back in the GT World Challenge so we’ll see what happens.”
Source. Marc Orme/ Photo. 24 H Series