British-Korean driver Jack Aitken overcame a challenging start to his GT World Challenge Europe campaign to record a top 15 finish in the opening Endurance Cup race of the 2022 season.
Alongside team-mates (and Lamborghini Factory Drivers) Mirko Bortolotti and Albert Costa Balboa, Jack showed consistent top 10 pace throughout the weekend, but was caught out by an untimely red flag at the end of the first qualifying segment on Sunday morning. This prevented the #63 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO from improving its place ahead of Q2.
Subsequent red flag stoppages in the remainder of the session meant that the #63 Pro entry car started 13th on the grid, with Jack starting the race.
Off the rolling start, Jack made quick progress with a pair of opportunistic overtakes to move within striking distance of the top 10. From then, it was a case of managing his pace and position amid some tyre struggles, a legacy of a tricky day in practice and pre-qualifying on Saturday.
Jack’s pace remained consistent and by the time he handed over to Costa Balboa at the end of the opening hour, the #63 was in a strong position with two hours remaining. With Costa Balboa at the wheel, the car remained in contention in 12th place, but another unfortunate full course yellow – the third of four – cost the #63 car valuable time.
With pit strategy key to endurance racing, the team could not pit when the rest of the leading runners did, because they would not be able to fill the car with the sufficient fuel to complete the race. Bortolotti was consequently forced to do another lap before pitting and dropped to 20th.
But the recovery was strong, and Jack managed to celebrate a bittersweet 13th place finish at the end, with the crew’s outright speed proving that a strong result was on the cards with just a bit more luck.
JACK ON… A BITTERSWEET WEEKEND
“We were very unlucky with the safety car coming out when it did, that really cost us a lot of time and positions; we should have been in the top 10 today. It’s not a disaster, but we still have some work to do before Paul Ricard.”
JACK ON… HIS START TO THE RACE
“I made some positions at the start, and it was quite opportunistic, and after that it was a case of trying to hold position. I was struggling a bit with the rear tyres. For Mirko’s stint, we had similar pace to the guys in front and we definitely could have finished in the second half of the top 10 because we lost about eight or nine positions in the stop.”
JACK ON… THE NEXT RACE
“Looking at the result this weekend, we were the top Lamborghini, but we still struggled for straight-line speed against the likes of the Mercedes and Audi, and we’re quite far behind. The Balance of Performance has kind of worked against us at the moment, but hopefully there is an adjustment before Paul Ricard where we can fight a bit more up at the front.”
Source. Jack Aitken