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Podium pace goes unrewarded for Barwell at Misano

20 May 2024 Podium pace goes unrewarded for Barwell at Misano

Both of Barwell Motorsport’s Lamborghini crews showed podium-challenging pace during last weekend’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup event at Misano, however both were left shortchanged by sheer bad luck.
 
The Surrey team still scored solid points on the Italian coast, with its twin Lamborghinis coming home fifth and eighth in both one-hour Sprint events, but it’s clear both sides of the garage had the pace to achieve more had it not been for more than a few doses of misfortune.
 
Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell in the Dama Fortuna Tequila/Collard Group-backed #78 were well in the fight for victory during race two, only for a freak incident during their driver change to set them back. Likewise, Patrick Kujala and Gabriel Rindone’s JNKD/VIP Motors-supported #72 car was right at the sharp end in race one before track limits proved their undoing. An early puncture in race two cost them any chance of fighting for the big scores.
Making its first race outing at Misano World Circuit since 2021, the Barwell team began dialling the twin Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo IIs into the 4.06km track during testing on Thursday. With the track surface constantly evolving as rubber was gradually laid down, it made finding the ideal balance for the drivers tricky, with the #78 crew in particular struggling to hone the handling feel.
 
The #72 fared better early on, with Kujala in particular impressing during opening qualifying by setting the second fastest time in class, only 0.1s away from the category benchmark. Things were more difficult for the #78, with Mitchell not quite hooking up an ideal lap, plus having a time removed for track limits, leaving the car ninth on what was a rare off-day.
 
However, if Mitchell wasn’t quite on it in qualifying, he more than made up for it in the race with a superb charge forward during the opening stint. As the 34-car field roared through the opening turns, Mitchell picked up two places straight away to run seventh, while Kujala got stuck into a tight fight for second with the Century Motorsport BMW and the Tresor Attempto Racing Audi both fighting the Finn hard.
 
Mitchell then honed in on the Sky Tempesta Ferrari ahead, passing Eddie Cheever to move the #78 up to sixth by the time the pit window opened. Kujala’s efforts to hold off his rivals meant he ran off track once too many, meaning the car was hit with a five-second penalty at its pit stop. Having served the penalty Rindone rejoined fifth, right ahead of Collard after two clean stops from the Barwell pit crew.
 
The twin Barwell Huracans ran in formation, with Collard closing the gap to Rindone and then moving up to fifth when the Italian suffered an unlucky spin. Rindone rejoined to bring the car home in eighth. Still, fifth was a decent start to the weekend for the #78 considering its starting position.
Barwell Motorsport's Lamborghini Huracan on track at Misano
 
Ahead of race two, the technical team made sweeping changes to the #78 to give the drivers a more positive front end in the cooler temperatures for the night race, and it so nearly paid off massively.
 
Collard had qualified the car fourth, with Rindone starting right behind in fifth. When the lights went out for the start, Collard was on it straight away, cutting his way up to second during a hectic opening lap in the darkness. Rindone’s race was undone early when debris from a clash in front punctured a tyre, forcing the #72 to make an unscheduled stop that dropped it to the tail of the pack.
 
That meant the team’s hopes rested on Collard, and he did not disappoint, closing the gap to class leader Jonathan Hui in the Sky Tempesta Ferrari to fractions of a second by the end of his stint. The two leading cars stopped together, but as Collard attempted to swap for Mitchell part of his HANS device snagged on the rubber door seal, pulling it away and obstructing his exit, costing the crew vital seconds. It meant Mitchell rejoined down in sixth. While he did reel in Louis Prette in the Garage 59 McLaren and pulled a neat pass for fifth, it was the least the crew deserved.
 
Kujala gave it all he could in his second stint after taking over from Rindone, but the damage had already been done to their race, with eighth being the limit. The fact the Barwell Lamborghinis set the second and third fastest lap times in class proves there is far more to come from both sides of the garage when the team moves on Spa for the next Fanatec GT Endurance Cup event.
 
Rob Collard of the #78 crew said: “It’s just been one of those weekends. After the challenges of race one, where we struggled with the balance of the car, we had the pace to win race two, but were denied by pure bad luck. We made the call to pit late in the lap, so when I came in we were rushing to make the driver change and when I went to get out of the car something got caught in the door rubber. The delay cost us valuable time and the win. It’s such a shame as the car was superb after the changes we made and if we’d have had that balance in qualifying, we could have been well up the road this weekend. The fact we made such improvement between the races is a big positive.”
 
Lamborghini #72 driver Gabriel Rindone said: “We really had the pace to do something special here this weekend, we just didn’t have the luck to go with it. Our car felt great throughout, and even the pace in race two was good! Penalties and the spin were unlucky in race one, and then race two got away when I must have run over some debris from a crash ahead at the start. It went through the tyre so we had to stop and change, and then I had one used tyre on so couldn’t do my usual pace. Patrick put some great times in his stint, but there’s nothing you can do in a championship this tight when you lose that much time early on. We’ll go to Spa and aim high there.” 
 
Barwell Motorsport team principal Mark Lemmer added: “Sometimes you get weekends like this where you feel you deserved more than you got, but that’s the story of this sport sometimes. The margins between victory and fifth are so fine, and in this case it came down to a freak catch of the door rubber, which is something we’ve never had before and just desperately unlucky for Rob and Sandy. The big positive is both cars showed really good pace across the weekend, and the technical team worked brilliantly to help the drivers feel comfortable. We’ll reset from this and move on to the biggest race of the year, the 24 Hours of Spa, where we’ll be aiming for a top result.”
 
Barwell Motorsport is next in action for round three of the British GT Championship at Donington Park on May 25/26. The team will resume its European schedule at the Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa on June 25-30, where it will tackle the world’s biggest GT3 race.

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