Jack Aitken stepped up his preparations for this summer’s jewel-in-the-crown Spa 24 Hour race with a promising, albeit unrewarded, second round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup season at Paul Ricard.
Coming into the weekend, the British-Korean driver was in confident mood, having put in a superb performance on his one-off return to the FIA Formula 2 championship at short notice on the streets of Monaco. The improvements made to his Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo meant that things were looking up as opening practice began on Friday.
Now well accustomed to his GT3 surroundings, Jack came out of the blocks well in the official free practice session on Friday afternoon, with he and his team-mates concentrating on bedding in time around the high-speed Le Castellet circuit in the south of France.
Also known as the 1000km of Paul Ricard, the race on Saturday was the biggest test of endurance outside of the Spa 24 Hours on the GT World Challenge Europe calendar, lasting six hours and finishing under the lights at midnight. Jack helped qualify the #114 seventh on the grid, alongside team-mates Konsta Lappalainen and Arthur Rougier, the starting position for the car all season so far.
Jack started the race and recovered from losing a couple of positions in impressive fashion by doing what few drivers at the sharp end managed to achieve, overtake. In particular, Jack pulled off a sensational divebomb manoeuvre on the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche (which won last year’s Nürburgring 6 Hours) under braking for the final corner, perfectly showcasing his racecraft and opportunism.
Another first for Jack was double stinting during the race, which will become second nature by the time the 24 Hours arrives in July. Jack stayed in the car for the second hour and was the fastest driver on the track in the second half of this period in the car. He then swapped over to Lappalainen who maintained the strong seventh place past the half-hour marker.
Unfortunately for the trio, a broken brake-line caused by a puncture ended things in the second half of the race, but the promise shown has left Jack and his team in confident mood ahead of the next Endurance round at Spa-Francorchamps.
JACK ON… THE PAUL RICARD WEEKEND
“Although the result wasn’t there, it was still a positive weekend as it was the first time, I had done a double stint in the car. We had our best qualifying for the car all season so far as well which was a pretty strong performance.
“I didn’t have the best start, but I was able to move back up the order during my double stints to around P6 and I was the fastest driver on track in the second half of the second stint when I finally got some clean air and managed to make some moves, which is generally very difficult to do.
JACK ON… TAKING THE POSITIVES FROM A TRYING RACE
“Unfortunately, things went downhill after a tyre issue caused the brake-line to severe, forcing the car into the pits for a lengthy period. Such was the damage, the car had to be retired and it was the end of what had been a very positive weekend.
“It was a good experience, and good preparation for when we go to Spa and have to do double stints quite often. I am confident the result will come eventually, we’re just not having the best luck at the moment.
Source. Jack Aitken