Season 2 | Round 1 | Silverstone
Season 2 of GT Challenge 2021 is officially underway, as Silverstone holds the inaugural race of the season.
Season 2 sees several new faces to the community, as well as plenty of new fantastic looking custom liveries.
Before we get into the action, we have some changes to the PRC Sporting Code to review. Throughout Season 1, following an incident in a race, drivers could submit a protest of collisions/overtakes/penalties within 24 hours of the race.
Previously, drivers were able to submit as many protests as they deemed necessary. Coming into Season 2, according to the latest Sporting Code, protests and appeals are limited to 3 denials per season. If a protest/appeal is successful, then it will not be deducted from the allotted three. Additionally, the intention to protest must now be given within 1-hour after race completion with the new Discord ticket system.
These changes come because our stewards volunteer their own time to ensure fairness to each driver on the circuit and work tirelessly to enforce the Sporting Regulations to keep our races clean and fair. The newly introduced limit to the number of protests aims to encourage drivers to consider the incident themselves, in an unbiased nature, to determine whether it’s worth using their protest allocation.
As always, we are constantly evaluating feedback and encourage discussion of the changes.
With that order of business out of the way, we move onto our first Season 2 race at Silverstone. As qualifying got underway, Banana was first out on track, closely followed by Kent. Both drivers wanted to get clear air straight away and avoid being caught up with traffic of other drivers.
Kent set provisional pole position with his first flying lap, a 1:57.7. A lap that he, or anyone else, was unable to beat.
Beentjes was also quick to set a fast time, and put his McLaren close to the top of the standings. Unfortunately, as more PRO drivers improved their laps, Beentjes was pushed down to 7th, but still had a great performance.
As the session came to a close, Kent was able to hold his pole, with Brown hot on his heels in 2nd. Heesch claimed 3rd, splitting the Dapper Customs Bentleys, as Banana took 4th position.
The qualifying session just echoed what we have been saying for the past 4 weeks of preseason, as the top 8 drivers were extremely competitive, separated by just 7 tenths of a second. Additionally, 10th place to 14th saw a close battle within the Silver Class.
As the race began, all drivers lined up side by side awaiting the 5 green lights to signal the start of the race. Up front, Kent got a good launch to hold his lead into Turn 1. Brown, in 2nd place positioned on the left side of the circuit, left him on the outside line for Turn 1, giving Heesch an opportunity to attempt an overtake on the inside line.
Heesch succeeded in getting alongside through Turn 1 and the two were neck-and-neck as they approached Maggots. Brown tried to defend his position but Heesch was able to overtake before the entry to Becketts.
On the next row, Banana was also on the outside line and Langaard got a good start with his Ferrari. Langaard positioned his car to the inside line of Turn 1, but Banana was able to out-drag the Ferrari into Maggots to maintain his 4th position.
As the cars raced towards the F1 complex, Banana was on the rear bumper of Brown’s Bentley. Sensing that Brown was struggling with pace early on, Banana attacked on the inside line into Vale and was able to snatch 3rd position from his teammate. Langaard tried to follow Banana through on Brown, but was too far back, and Brown promptly closed the door on the Ferrari.
It was a clean start of the race from every driver, but Lap 1 contact was almost inevitable, as Gomez and Winegarden had a coming together at the tight apex of Club. Gomez, who was alongside Winegarden, cut across the track to the apex, swiping the nose of Winegarden. Both drivers were pitched into a spin, lucky to avoid being collected by other drivers. Season newcomer Ugarov showed brilliant reaction and awareness to avoid the stricken Audis.
As the rest of the field continued on toward Village, further issues were had; this time for Roulee and Cockell. Roulee, in his mighty Nissan, braked late into Village, carrying excess speed at the apex, and side-swiped Cockell’s new Aston Martin. Roulee bounced off Cockell and spun into the grass, whilst Cockell was able to rejoin the circuit without dropping any positions.
Kent led the drivers onto their second lap, and a tight battle was forming amongst several silver drivers, from 7th place all the way to 14th. Bowler was the driver to make the most progress through the pack, climbing a couple of positions.
Back up front, after overtaking his teammate, Banana was hot on the heels of Heesch who was quickly becoming a nuisance with his high speed aero and tough defence. Banana saw an opportunity into Village, and jumped up the inside of the McLaren. Momentarily ahead, Banana had a poor exit out of the Loop onto the Wellington Straight, but was able to keep ahead. Now running in 2nd, Banana focused forward, as Kent had quickly gapped the rest of the field.
As drivers settled into the race and some gaps were beginning to form, Valtonen and Langaard found themselves fighting over 5th place,Beentjes and Daniels close behind, also fighting for position. After following closely, Langaard finally found his way around Valtonen. Beentjes tried to follow Langaard past Valtonen, but was too far back.
Another on-track battle took place between Ishibara and Goswick. Ishibara had been slowly reeling in Goswick and forced an overtake as they approached Village. Undeterred, Goswick fought back into the loop, and retook the position. Pushing hard to catch up, Ishibara lost grip on the rear tyres under heavy braking, and spun his car toward the barrier. He quickly rejoined but had to catch up to Goswick all over again.
As drivers rounded Lap 7, Yang, for S4L Motorsports, was fighting hard with Bowler whilst Chmura got involved, trying to take advantage of the situation. The battle continued for several laps, before Chmura was able to overtake Yang around the outside of Club. It was a brave move, however, Chmura did run wide over the white lines, overtaking outside track limits. We’ll have to see if this incident is reported to the Stewards.
Up front, Brown upset the balance of his car as he sped through Maggots, and his car rotated into an unrecoverable spin. The spin dropped Brown back to 8th position.
In the Silver Class, Vogel was battling with Jackson. Vogel had been chasing down Jackson, and once he had caught up, used his superior acceleration out of the slower turns and got alongside as they raced down the Wellington Straight. Jackson fought back through Stowe, but the two cars came together mid-corner. Both drivers spun, with Jackson coming off worse, dropping behind Ugarov.
Things were about to get worse for Vogel however, as he was one of the first drivers to serve his mandatory pit stop. Confusion with the pit limiter caused Vogel to overspeed in the pit lane, and he was slapped with a Stop-Go penalty. This wasn’t the worst pit stop issue we saw though, as shortly after Roulee entered the pit lane his mechanics were not ready for him. As a result, he was forced to lap the circuit again and come in on the next lap, losing over 30 seconds to an unnecessary drive through.
Throughout the first half of the race, Banana found himself slowly catching up on Kent. Banana took to the pit lane early in order to attempt an undercut on Kent and overtake the Porsche driver as they performed their mandatory tyre changes.
The Porsche driver opted to stay out until the last available opportunity to pit and as Kent exited the pit line, Banana flew past to take the race lead. Kent would have some catching up to do if he wanted to win the race.
Shortly after all drivers made their pitstops, Daniels, who was running close off the back of Brown, ran wide on Maggots. As he came back onto the racing line, he was slower through Becketts. Beentjes was surprised by the speed difference, and plowed into the back of Daniels. The Lexus driver spun off into the runoff area, and Beentjes was able to maintain control and resume. Beentjes was later issued a +5 second time penalty for the contact.
On the final lap of the race, Kent had closed the gap to Banana to just 3-tenths of a second. As they raced around the circuit, up ahead was lapped traffic of Jackson and Bartocci, who were equally focused on their battle. Banana and Kent had to get past the drivers quickly to not lose out to the other whilst also not affecting the battle of the silver class drivers. As they all approached Stowe, Jackson ran wide on the entry and Banana seized the opportunity to pass; first Jackson, and then Bartocci. Kent was able to follow Banana through, increasing the pressure on Banana to keep Kent behind.
The checkered flag was flown and Banana was first to cross the line, just a couple of car lengths ahead of rival Kent. Heesch crossed the line to secure 3rd position, ahead of his battle with Langaard.
Beentjes crossed the line to secure the first Silver Class win of the season, coming in 6th position overall. Bowler and Chmura rounded out the Silver podium in 9th and 10th respectively.
Cockell took the AM victory, finishing in 17th position overall.
The build up to the start of the Fall season told us just how exciting and competitive this season was shaping up to be, and judging by the ontrack action of the first race, it did not disappoint.
As the drivers step out of their cars and take a short break, let’s catch up with our event winners.
Crash: Congratulations on the first win of the season. We have been reading your recaps and interviews since Season 1 of the PRC GT Challenge. How does it feel to be the interviewee this time around?
Banana: It's weird. I don't like it. Can I have my microphone back, please?
Crash: In just a few. You had a great start and managed to pass both Heesch and your teammate Brown, what was your plan going into this race?
Banana: I didn't really have much of a plan. Mostly just stay out of trouble and get the best result I could, for myself and the team.
Crash: Well, I’d say your result was exceptional for both you and your team. You had a close race for first and you gambled on the undercut. Did it work out as well as you expected?
Banana: It worked even better than expected. I was catching Kent by only a tenth or two per lap, so overtaking on circuit would have been exceptionally difficult. So, I pitted early and hoped I could gain a little time through the pit stop. 6 seconds was more than I anticipated and gave me some breathing room to focus forward, at least for a little while.
Crash: It was a battle until the end. What was going through your mind as you crossed the finish line?
Banana: Honestly I'm not even sure. I was so focused on the gap back to Kent, I couldn't think about anything else. As I caught my breath on the in lap, I was thinking about how we've gathered such a welcoming yet competitive group.
Crash: We do have a wonderful group. Thank you for your time. I will hand this microphone back to the professional now. Keep up the great work and congratulations again on your first place finish.
Banana: Beentjes, congratulations on scoring a class win in your first race with PRC. You showed great pace through practice, qualifying, and the race. How are you feeling?
Beentjes: I'm really happy with how the race turned out. I put in an amazing lap in qualifying so I was kind of expecting to lose some positions in the race, but I was able to defend P7 until the pit stops which I'm really happy with. I did lose a few positions due to a botched pitstop, but in the end I'm happy with the result.
Banana: Race day had a 40% chance of rain, but we were blessed with clear skies. Were you hoping for rain, or praying or a dry track?
Beentjes: I was absolutely praying for dry. I did some practice in the wet before the race and my pace was horrendous compared to the rest of the field. I did have a lot of practice in the dry and barely any in the wet, so I think the dry really favoured me.
Banana: I think a lot of drivers will agree with you there. What can you tell me about the incident with fellow new-comer J. Daniels?
Beentjes: Well, I saw Daniels go very wide after Maggots, so I tried to take advantage of that. But, I got over aggressive. He got back on the racing line and I just misjudged his speed and ran into the back of him. Completely my fault.
Banana: An easy mistake to make in the heat of the moment. Thank you for your time and enjoy your celebrations.
Banana: Cockell, congratulations on an AM victory here at Silverstone. Last time we spoke, you told me you are gunning for a top 3 finish in AM class. How does a win feel?
Cockell: The win feels pretty incredible! I didn’t feel like I had that great of a race, between a few driver errors and tussles with other drivers on the track I really felt I was doing much worse than I did. But knowing I got the win in the end is a great feeling!
Banana: How are you settling in with your new Aston Martin?
Cockell: The Aston is feeling really good! Both Jackson and myself worked together to try and fix some understeer issues and I feel we’ve really worked well together and make a very competitive race car
Banana: I’m pleased to hear you and your teammate are making it work for you. You were chasing down Goswick for most of your first stint. Are there any other drivers you'll be keeping your eye on in the next races?
Cockell: I haven’t really focused on any individual drivers for my target yet, though I’m sure some rivalries will pop up as the season progresses. I would love to be able to score at least one team point this season though. So whoever is between myself and tenth place, I’m coming for you.
Banana: Great to hear, looking forward to seeing how the other AM drivers respond to your victory at the coming races.
If you managed to read this far, give yourself a pat on the back. Our last order of business is Driver of the Day. With an overwhelming amount of support, this week's DotD is Kent.
Join us again in a week’s time for the (hopefully shorter) recap of Round 2 of the fall season: a 1-hour sprint race at Donington Park.