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Top-10 for Barwell in GT World Challenge opener at Circuit Paul Ricard

08 April 2024 Top-10 for Barwell in GT World Challenge opener at Circuit Paul Ricard

Barwell Motorsport got its European racing season off to a solid start, overcoming a host of challenges to score a top-10 finish in the opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season at Circuit Paul Ricard last weekend.
 
Fresh from its twin British GT victories at Oulton Park just a week before, the Surrey squad shipped two Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo IIs to Southern France to contest the opening three-hour race of the Endurance Cup.
 
The #78 Dama Fortuna Tequila-backed car of Till Bechtolsheimer, Antoine Doquin and Sandy Mitchell finished eighth in class on Sunday, overcoming a collision, a puncture and a penalty to still finish inside the points.
 
The team was forced to perform a full engine change in record time to get the #72 JNKD entry of Gabriel Rindone, Casper Stevenson and Patrick Kujala ready for the race, and the crew fought hard throughout, only to see a potential second top-10 finish slip away due to a time penalty.
While the weekend threw a number of obstacles at the team, hard work and perseverance paid off with both its cars showing strong pace across the event and the team coming away with points.
 
After bedding the twin Huracans in across Practice and Pre-Qualifying, Sunday brought the first true competitive action of the year with Qualifying, and the #78 in particular shone, with Mitchell putting in a stunning 1:53.208s effort in his qualifying run – a time that would stand as the fastest lap in the Bronze Cup class across the entire event, ramming home the potential of the Barwell Huracans in the world’s toughest GT racing championship.
 
With each driver’s best time being combined to form the grid, the #78 would start from 10th in class, with plenty of potential to move forward.
 
However, there was drama on the opposite side of the garage as the #72 suffered an engine failure at the end of qualifying, necessitating the technical team to perform a full transplant of the 5.2-litre V10 engine to be able to start the race. Barwell’s crew completed the full swap in the garage and had the car fired up again within 2.5 hours, a stunning feat of engineering and teamwork.
 
When the lights went out for the three-hour race on Sunday afternoon, there was plenty of optimism within the team. Bechtolsheimer took the start in the #78, with Stevenson installed in the #72, which would start from the pit lane after its engine change.
 
Bechtolsheimer immediately got stuck into the action, fighting hard within the pack and being the victim of an early hit, with the contact causing a puncture that called for an unplanned stop and dropped the car back. He was then caught in a hugely unlucky clash when a car braked early in front, but managed to avoid any major damage.
A well-timed second stop around a full course yellow caution period allowed Bechtolsheimer to hand across to Doquin and regain some of the lost time. Doquin then put on a superb display, the Frenchman showing excellent speed to fly back up the order and bring the car safely back inside the top 10. There was a moment of drama when the car picked up a second puncture, but fortunately it was only a few corners away from its scheduled stop, which greatly limited the time loss. Mitchell took over for the final dash and the Lamborghini Squadra Corse factory driver pushed as hard as he could, despite the car suffering a slight imbalance – potentially due to rubber pickup on the now-littered track.
 
Running seventh, Mitchell was right on the tail of the cars ahead and set to gain sixth place due to a competitor in front having a time penalty, but hopes of such a result were dashed when the #78 was handed a penalty of its own for its early clash. Regardless, the crew still took home eighth place.
 
A series of early caution periods denied Stevenson the chance to make the most of his speed during his first stint. After starting from the pits, he brought the #72 back onto the fringes of the top 10 before handing to Rindone who also put in a strong performance across the middle hour. Finnish ace Kujala took over for the final run and was closing in on a second top-10 finish, only for a time penalty for track limits to set the car back to 14th at the finish.
 
Despite the difficulties, both Barwell crews leave Circuit Paul Ricard knowing they have the pace to fight for big scores across the remainder of the season.
The #72 car fought back from an engine failure
 
Barwell Motorsport Team Principal Mark Lemmer said: “It’s been an up and down weekend for both our cars, but to come away with points is a good reward for a lot of hard work from everybody involved. We had a lot of challenges thrown at us. The team did an incredible job to get the engine changed on the #72 in such a short time – that’s something that can take some other teams full weekends to achieve! The race brought its own difficulties for both cars and wasn’t an easy one to call, but we made some great choices with strategy, and all six drivers performed very well. We know we have a very competitive package for this year – Sandy’s performance in qualifying proves that – so we’re looking forward to getting back on track at Misano and seeing what we can achieve there.”
 
Barwell Motorsport is next in action for the second round of the British GT Championship at Silverstone on April 27/28, before resuming its Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe campaign at Misano in Italy on May 17-19.

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