Finlay Hutchison and Markus Winkelhock encountered a mixed first outing in the 2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli over the weekend, delivering two determined race performances despite a lack of overall pace.
In race one on Saturday, 3rd July, the Sainteloc Racing team-mates steered their white No.27 Audi R8 LMS GT3 from 24th on the grid to a 16th position finish while in race two on Sunday, 4th July, another battling drive netted a weekend best of 15th position from 22nd on the grid.
“Our car just had no pace in it this weekend”, said Dundee 21-year-old Hutchison, “We tried to make the most of it but we didn’t know what the issue was, so it was hard to try and find a solution even though the guys in the team did the best they could. The car we used this weekend had been rebuilt recently, so maybe something wasn’t right from that.
“In free practice we had new tyres, when others didn’t run them, and we were still a way off – a driver like Markus Winkelhock isn’t 1.5 seconds off the pace, ever. The weird thing was the car felt good with the handling and overall balance, it just had no pace. In the races we both made good starts, which is what enabled us to make up some places. After that, it was really hard work.”
Only confirming their entry into the final three events of the Sprint Cup season just prior to this weekend’s action, Hutchison and Audi Sport factory driver Winkelhock targeted top 10 challenges but those aims soon went awry when they were unable to show their true speed in qualifying.
Hutchison took the opening stint of Saturday afternoon’s race from 24th on the grid and he made immediate progress from the rolling start. Gaining four positions on lap one, he rocketed onto the tail of former team-mate Alex Aka and become embroiled in a tight five car, door-to-door battle.
Just five minutes into the race, though, a Full Course Yellow period was required due to two cars stranded in the gravel. After the resumption at around the 15-minute mark, Hutchison continued to shadow Aka’s Audi R8 just a fraction of a second behind and when the mid-race pit stops began he stayed on track for a couple of extra laps – moving into seventh place as a result.
Pitting on lap 16 to hand over the Sainteloc car to Winkelhock, the German joined the action back in 24th position but made his way back through into the top 20 before another Full Course Yellow with just over 20 minutes remaining on the clock.
At the re-start with 15 minutes of racing to go, and the entire grid nose-to-tail, Winkelhock set about making up more ground and quickly moved up into 19th spot. Continuing to progress, he gained three more places before the end of the 34-lap encounter to finish in 16th position.
Although only 0.8 seconds shy of pole position in Sunday morning’s race two qualifying session, Winkelhock had to settle for the 22nd fastest time. Like Hutchison the day before, he put together a fantastic opening lap and took three places almost immediately – claiming no fewer than five positions in total to move up into 17th place.
Bottled up behind the No.107 Bentley, Winkelhock strived to find a way past and then did so on lap four – but was swiftly ordered by officials to hand the place back due to some contact. Running in 17th place again, Winkelhock shadowed the Bentley once more and when the pit-stop window opened at the 25-minute juncture he moved up into the top 15.
Climbing into 12th place by lap 18, he then pitted to hand over to Hutchison. With half an hour remaining in the race the Scotsman held 15th position and he was immediately embroiled in a very tight five-car battle. Although slipping to 16th spot, he moved back into the top 15 when Luca Stolz pitted with damage and Hutchison then closed on the Aston Martin Vantage of Alexander West.
Just 0.3 seconds behind with 10 minutes to go, Hutchison also had to be very mindful of the Mercedes-AMG of Rik Breukers which was right on the tail of the Audi. Smartly taking 14th place from West on lap 34, the Sainteloc racer continued to keep Breukers at bay but as the chequered flag neared the Mercedes was able to squeeze past – Hutchison finishing 15th, just 0.7 seconds shy.
Next on the 2021 schedule for the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In-Home Displays backed driver is round three of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup – the TotalEnergies 24 Hours Of Spa on 31st July/1st August.
The annual twice-round-the-clock race in Belgium will also act as the opening round of the three event Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli, which Hutchison is also contesting with the Sainteloc Racing squad.
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. SRO Motorsports Group