Season 2 | Pre-Season | Snetterton
Calling all drivers: Vacation time is officially over, so forget about the beach, forget about the alcohol, it’s time to get back in the rig as Pre-Season testing is finally upon us.
It’s been a quiet couple of months since the season finale of Dapper Customs GT Challenge Season, but thankfully contracts and licencing agreements mean we’re back for more and hungrier than ever for some exciting motor racing.
The past week has seen the first trickles of teases and press releases from the teams competing this season.
We’ve got lots to cover during this pre-season period. As teams scrambled to hire available talent, new talent were welcomed to the community with open arms and manufacturers partnered with new teams.
The first press release that hit my desk came from Driver and Team Manager Zach Heesch:
BREAKING: S4L Motorsports adding second car for season 2 of Pineapple Racing Club
S4L Motorsports have revealed their intention to expand the team's GT3 presence to two cars in the upcoming season of the Dapper Custom's GT Challenge series. "Signing season one standout driver Bryan Yang was an obvious choice for us given his consistency and the speed that he showed in his first season," racing Operations Manager Zach Heesch was quoted as saying.
Talking to reporters, Heesch followed with "Bryan offers us an opportunity to challenge for the team championship this year. That was one of our goals when we started this team. We wanted to win it all. We knew our first year would be a learning year of sorts, but I think we're in a good place this season to add the second car. Bryan has proven he has what it takes to be successful in this series and after the mistakes of our first season behind us, our team was ready to take that next step of bringing in someone of Bryan's caliber." Yang scored 91 points and claimed 2 podiums last season. "Our goal as a race team is to win races and challenge for championships, and that will be the goal of S4L Motorsports and both of our drivers in season 2."
Notedly, no details were given on what car the S4L drivers will be sharing next season, or if they will be sharing at all. The season one McLaren team is reported to be in talks with several manufacturers, including both Bentley, Yang's previous manufacturer, and S4L Motorsport's season one entry, McLaren. But reports have linked the team to meetings with Ferrari as late as early May, raising suspicions that the team still has not yet chosen a direction. Certainly any choice should see them maintain their position as frequent podium and race winning contenders. One thing we do know is that combining forces with Yang will give the team a strong boost that should make them at the very least a team to watch in the fall of 2021.
Exciting news from two strong drivers merging under the same team. S4L Motorsports will certainly be one to watch out for in the Team Championship.
As our drivers hit the wet track for free practice, I had a quick chat with season newcomer Ryan Cockell:
Banana: What do you hope to achieve during pre-season testing?
Cockell: I’m hoping to get a better feel for the car and learn how to tune it to handle like an airbender on wheels
Banana: What are your expectations for the season (performance wise)?
Cockell: This season I would like to be competitive within the AM leaderboard, top 3 would be an awesome result
Banana: Any teasers about teaming up with another driver?
Cockell: I’m not currently in any talks with other drivers.
Banana: Have you signed a contract with Aston Martin, or are you still in talks with other manufacturers?
Cockell: Aston Martin approached me right away, though I was hoping to send out letters of interest to Ferrari, Bentley and Mercedes. Aston Martin won me over by promising a brand new Vantage should I win the overall PRC season though!
Pre-season was officially kicked off with a short practice session, during which Valtonen showcased his Lamborghini as a force to be reckoned with, as he was the fastest car on track, whilst other drivers were busy exploring the outer fields of the circuit, as they adapted to the moist track surface.
As drivers completed qualifying, Valtonen maintained his pace to put himself on pole, just fractionally ahead of Langaard in his new Ferrari. Banana locked out the top 3, sporting a new loaner from Nissan.
Another season newcomer, Kenmin in the 999 Mercedes was able to outperform Brown, who was struggling most with the conditions. Cockell and Chmura finished out the grid.
As the green lights signaled the start of the race, Langaard got a great start to be alongside Valtonen as they approached turn 1. Langaard opted to brake early, in order to cut back against Valtonen on the corner exit, but Valtonen covered the inside, squeezing Langaard’s Ferrari against the inside apex. Between the bumps in the tarmac, and a slight bump against the Lamborghini, the Ferrari was tossed around, and thrown against the armco barriers.
Meanwhile, both Kenmin and Cockell utilised the grip available on the outside of turn 1 to pass Banana and Brown, respectively.
As the drivers completed their first lap, Chmura showed just how effective patience can be at race starts. Whilst the drivers ahead were battling with each other, Chmura held back a little, avoiding the incidents as they occurred, to gain 3 positions.
As the laps ticked away, Valtonen’s lead extended, as Langaard pushed hard to recover from his Turn 1 incident.
On Lap 10 of 32, Chmura capitalised on a spin from Banana to climb into a podium position. Brown was also able to slip past, dropping Banana into 5th position.
Brown was hot on the heels of Chmura and chose to perform an early pit stop, attempting to undercut the Lexus ahead. Banana followed Brown into the pits, but a gearbox malfunction awarded him a stop-go penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
The race quickly settled down, as drivers were more spread across the wet circuit. Coming into the closing stages of the race, Chmura, still in 3rd position, found himself gaining on Langaard in front. The gap steadily decreased, until there was just a couple of seconds between them as they entered into the final lap.
Valtonen was the first to take the checkered flag, having been the fastest and most consistent driver of the day. Langaard crossed the line in 2nd position, with Chmura just 0.2 seconds behind. Brown, Banana, and Cockell rounded out the order, with Kenmin retiring early in the race.
Langaard celebrated his 2nd place finish with a perfect pirouette, to which Chmura got a front row seat.
In a short conversation with Langaard, he revealed he has signed up to the Fall Season as an independent driver, and his Ferrari is a confirmed deal, despite mutual interest from Porsche. When I asked Langaard what his main learning points from Season 1 were, he replied “Stay away from pesky Hondas, and pick a car with some cornering speed”.
Join us once again in 1 weeks’ time, as we jump across the English Channel to Belgium, for a pre-season testing session at Spa Francorchamps, during which we’ll have more drivers hit the track, and more press releases to discuss.