After a difficult opening GT World Challenge Europe round at Monza last month – where he didn’t get to drive, through no fault of his own – Jack Aitken finally got his season up and running with a promising first Sprint Cup race weekend of the year at Magny-Cours in France.
Partnering with Endurance Cup team-mate Konsta Lappalainen for the five-round Sprint campaign, Jack entered the weekend with renewed optimism that the #114 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán would be well-suited to the twisty confines of the Circuit de Nevers for the two one-hour races.
And it proved to be a happy hunting ground for the nimble Huracán, with all three of the Emil Frey cars inside the top 15 in each of the races, with Jack helping steer the #114 to a best finish of ninth in race two.
Much like last season, Magny-Cours was home to one night race and one day race, meaning that the field of 27 cars had to deal with almost total darkness around the circuit on Saturday evening, with limited floodlighting.
The team experienced problems in Free Practice when Lappalainen crashed, meaning Jack got just one meaningful lap. The car was qualified 21st on the grid for Race with Lappalainen at the wheel. However, the race produced a much better result, with the pairing claiming 12th by the chequered flag, with Jack setting purple sectors and being one of the fastest cars on track in his stint as he brought the car up several places.
It was a good show of consistency and raw speed in incredibly challenging race conditions, with neither driver having raced in such darkness levels before.
Race two was more straightforward. and Jack performed well in the morning qualifying session to put the car ninth on the grid. Off the rolling start, the field jostled among each other and Jack got briefly shuffled out onto the gravel on the exit of Estoril, dropping four places. However, on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult, Jack was able to reclaim all four places by the time he swapped over with Lappalainen, enjoying some good battles with very experienced GT drivers. On top of that, Jack set the fastest lap in his stint, with a purple time in all three sectors before handing over to Lappalainen. Indeed, Jack’s time was only beaten by eventual winner Luca Stolz in the second stint who benefitted from a rubbered-in track and fresh tyres.
Next on the agenda for Jack is the second Endurance Cup round of the GT World Challenge Europe season, which will take place at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France.
JACK ON… BOUNCING BACK FROM MONZA
“It was great to finally get in the car during the race this weekend! Obviously, Monza was a difficult weekend for us, but we quickly drew a line over that and focused our attention on Magny-Cours. The car was pretty good throughout the weekend and we had some good pace in the race. Unfortunately, qualifying on Saturday didn’t reflect our true potential and we had to fight our way through in the race, which thankfully we were able to do. We just missed out on our first points there but the pace in the car, especially in the cooler night conditions definitely gave us both a lot of confidence for Sunday.”
JACK ON… HIS FIRST POINTS IN GT WORLD CHALLENGE
“My aim is always to score points and finish as high as possible, so to in the top 10 and score my first GT points in the second race was a big relief. Unfortunately, after a good start, I got pushed slightly wide on the first lap and I lost some ground, so we could potentially have finished even higher than we did. I felt like the car worked well in the warmer conditions in this race and Konsta drove really well in his stint. The two safety cars in the last part of the race probably didn’t help our progress up the field and it was a bit of a shame that Konsta wasn’t able to use the car’s speed as much in his time. The race was a bit too stop-start for us to maximise the full potential, but we’re happy to get our first points this weekend.”
JACK ON… THE CHALLENGES OF RACING AT NIGHT
“It was quite strange, I have to say, but very enjoyable. Obviously, in the dark, things vary quite a bit even if you know the circuit really well. For example, braking points, references when turning in and how the car behaves in the cooler conditions: all these things change a lot when you’re driving in the dark, so it takes some time to get used to it. The first experience I had of this was in pre-qualifying on Friday, but it was all right once I got up to speed. It’s good practice for the Spa 24 Hours as well, which obviously require a lot of night driving so it’s all positive and I certainly learned a lot.”
Source. Jack Aitken