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JONATHAN HUI TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD DESPITE CHALLENGING RACE AT THE 24 HOURS OF SPA

Hong Kong race driver Jonathan Hui returned to racing action last weekend for his second race of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup season, after a confidence boosting victory at Paul Ricard last time out. Sky Tempesta Racing headed into the race weekend knowing it would be a tough battle to repeat 2020’s success with Platinum rated star-driver Giancarlo Fisichella not permitted to join the line-up. Hui joined forces with Chris Froggatt, Edward Cheever III and experienced Italian endurance racer Matteo Cressoni at the historic TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium. 

With a weight penalty of an additional 20 kilos added to the #93 Ferrari 488 GT3 estimated to create a disadvantage of 0.3-0.5 seconds per lap at the Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, the team qualified in P5 in the Pro-Am class and had their work cut out at one of the most technically challenging racing circuits in the world. 

Sky Tempesta Racing started the race with their #93 Ferrari sitting 6 points behind the leaders in the Endurance Cup Pro-Am standings. The weekend was a challenging one with sudden shifts in weather requiring immense driver skill to keep the car pointing in the right direction. After battling for 24 hours straight, the quartet disappointedly came home in P4 after losing the P3 podium position in the final hour of the race due to an unexpected thunderstorm. However, the fourth place finish was enough to rocket Sky Tempesta Racing into the lead of the Endurance Cup Pro-Am standings by 17 points.

Combined Qualifying Result – P5 in Pro-Am Class (Avg: 2:21.227)
#93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari 488 GT3
Jonathan Hui | Chris Froggatt | Edward Cheever III | Matteo Cressoni

2021 TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa – Race Recap
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is arguably one of the most challenging but exciting tracks to watch drivers push their cars to the limit. The track features a sequence of long straights and swooping high speed corners along the 7km Grand Prix circuit which makes it the perfect setting for the high intensity endurance race. This combined with the unpredictable Ardennes weather makes the circuit a true test for man and machine. At 4:30pm on the 31st July, 58 cars lined up for the 24 Hours of Spa, a historic racing spectacle that is revered by racing fans across the globe.

Sky Tempesta Racing started the race from P5 out of 14 cars in the Pro-Am class, with an average time of 2:21.227 set by the 4 drivers in qualifying. Aiming to score maximum points awarded depending on a competitor’s position at the 6, 12 and 24 hour marks, the team was charged up and ready to take on more than 500 laps over a span of 24 hours. Hui arrived in Belgium coming off a victory at the Circuit Paul Ricard earlier this year, confident to achieve a strong result.

Shortly after the start of the race in damp conditions, the #93 Ferrari suffered an early spin with Chris Froggatt at the wheel dropping the team to last place.  Determined to make up lost ground, Froggatt, Cheever and Cressoni worked hard to charge back up to P2 within the first several hours of the race. Constant battles ensued on track with the #77 Lamborghini, #52 and #53 Ferraris, however the team was hit with a drive-through penalty and lost 40 seconds in the process. Still managing to maintain P4 at the 6 hour mark, Sky Tempesta Racing was awarded 6 important championship points. With nightfall, the track cooled and grip levels improved, allowing the drivers to clock in consecutive fast times to eventually move to P1 at the halfway mark, which awarded them a further 12 championship points.    

As the race reached its crescendo, the team was pushing hard to keep in touch with the podium places. Hui and Cheever drove excellent stints in the early hours of the morning battling high levels of fatigue and exhaustion. 

As the racing emerged into daylight, the team was once again dogged by further drive through penalties for exceeding track limits, each time dropping the #93 back by a few positions. The charge continued forwards, and with 2 hours remaining, the Ferrari looked set for a 3rd place podium position. With 30 minutes left, the race took a dramatic turn as sudden rainfall lashed the circuit unexpectedly, requiring teams to quickly improvise on their tyre strategy. A late stop by Sky Tempesta Racing saw them give up the last podium place to the #77 Lamborghini in the closing minutes of the enthralling 24 hour endurance by less than 4 seconds, causing heartbreak for the entire team.

The P4 finish was not all lost for however, as Hui and his team mates celebrated 15 more championship points (taking a total of 33 points over the weekend) moving the team into the lead of the Endurance Cup Pro-Am standings. Having taken the championship lead for the first time this year, Sky Tempesta Racing are currently sitting 17 points clear of the chasing pack. The team will not be letting their guard down however, as the competition moves to Nurburgring in September, finally concluding in Barcelona at the season finale in October.

Race Result – P4 in Pro-Am Class
#93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari 488 GT3
Jonathan Hui | Chris Froggatt | Edward Cheever III | Matteo Cressoni

QUOTES

Jonathan Hui | Driver #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari 488 GT3
“We gave it everything, maybe even a little too much at times, trying to beat the odds given the various handicaps handed to us. The 2021 edition of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa will be one to remember, with many highs and lows. We fell to last place early on but we never gave up, chasing our way back up to P1 mid race, but thereafter picked up numerous penalties dropping us down the order again. I had some great battles throughout and survived multiple hits from other cars on track. I feel relieved we have come away with a significant points haul which puts us in a strong position for the remainder of the Endurance Cup championship.”

Source. Craft Bamboo Racing

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