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GT4 European Cup, Zolder – Race Reports
RJN Back To Winning Ways

Qualifying

The Ice Pol Racing Team Porsche 997 of Maxime Martin and Ludovic Sougnez proved to be the fastest car on track in Belgium, with the two local drivers seemingly haven taken pole for each of the weekend’s races. However, news later came through that the Porsche had been moved to the fourth row of the grid for both races, for unknown indiscretions.

This meant that the front row of the grid for each race would be locked out by British drivers in British cars; Nigel Moore and Joe Osborne – the championship leader moving to Team LNT after just two races with Team GCR – on pole, with the Ginetta G50 of Hunter Abbott and Henry Fletcher second for the first race; while in race two, the LNT Ginetta again took pole, but with Spa double-winner Michael Mallock alongside in the RS Williams Aston Martin GT4.

The AF Corse Maserati Gran Turismo MC of Lorenzo Casé was on the second row for both races, with GCR’s Tom Dunstan having his best qualifying result of the season; third for race two.

In the Supersport class, Denis Donkervoort claimed pole in his eponymous D8GT

Race One

An uncharacteristically dreadful start from Nigel Moore left the LNT Ginetta in eighth place by the end of an eventful first lap, which saw just four of the 17 cars retain their starting positions.

The main beneficiary of the kerfuffle was Alex Buncombe who managed to find a way through from fourth to first over the course of that lap in the RJN Nissan 350Z. Hunter Abbott hung on to second and enjoyed an intense battle with Sougnez’s Porsche; losing second place on lap five to the Belgian, before fighting back to retake the place two laps later and setting the fastest lap of the weekend in the process. Tom Dunstan, meanwhile, made a very strong start – going from sixth to third on the first lap – but was forced into retirement on just the fourth lap.

As Abbott and Sougnez duked it out, Buncombe concentrated on building a lead; something he did successfully, before pitting on lap 13 to hand over to Lucas Ordoñez.

Casé briefly took the lead during Buncombe’s stop, but dropped back following his own stop. His opening laps had been hindered by too-cold tyres, although he eventually managed to claim third.

As Ordoñez kept the Nissan out front, Michael Mallock was beginning to make progress in the Aston. From seventh at the end of lap one, the Wellingborough driver made gradual progress through the first two thirds of the race and was up to fifth by the end of lap 17. At this point, Mallock was at the tail end of a four-way fight for second (Fletcher, Casé and Martin ahead), but contact amongst this quartet saw the Aston emerge in second, while Martin’s Porsche suffered race-ending damage and Fletcher lost a lot of ground.

Joe Osborne eventually brought the LNT Ginetta home for fourth – the damage being done on Moore’s opening lap – but the day belonged to Buncombe and Ordoñez, as the Spaniard brought the Nissan home for its first win of the year.

“It's been a long time coming," said Buncombe. "We've been fast all year and now we've got our first win. I'm ecstatic! I'm looking forward to the next race and then the next two in Portugal.”

“It was a really tough race for me, because when Alex came in the pits in first position, he had done an amazing job at the start," continued Ordoñez. "We did a great driver change which we've been practising a lot since the last race because we've been having a lot of problems in that area. I tried to keep the first position and I'm really happy with my performance. I didn't make any mistakes. This is an important win in my first year. This is my first win as a Nissan GT Academy winner. I want to thank Nissan and Playstation for this and it's amazing, for the team, for Nissan, for the sponsors, for Playstation. Thank you so much and I hope to do the same thing again in the second race today!”

And Mallock was equally happy with his result; “It's great to get a second place," he said. "We knew we were going to struggle at this track. The start was horrendous. I got alongside the Maserati, and I guess he didn't see me. I locked all four wheels trying to avoid him and dropped back to about 10th place. So getting back to second is a good tribute to the team and to the work they've done on the car to get us this far.”

A Donkervoort took the Supersport win, but the #102 version of Stephane Wintenberger rather than the pole-sitting #103, which bit the dust after just five laps; “I'm happy to be back. The team has worked well on the car, it's been getting better from race to race. It's fun, all's going well.”

Race Two

Unfortunately for Joe Osborne, his start in the Team LNT G50 was even worse than Nigel Moore’s; a too-rapid arrival at the first corner resulting in the Ginetta dropping down to 11th. This meant that he and Moore were once again destined to spend the race playing catch up, before eventually finishing fifth.

Michael Mallock, by contrast, had an error-free opening lap and assumed the lead. However, Maxime Martin was enjoying a storming start and was soon challenging Mallock; needing just three laps to grab the lead in the Ice Pol Porsche.

Martin was able to maintain his lead quite happily, while Mallock was having to defend from Casé’s Maserati, Pierre-Brice Mena’s BMW M3, and Tom Dunstan’s Ginetta. Mechanical problems struck the Gran Turismo and the Beemer at the stop, while Mallock suffered gear-selection problems in the second half of the race. This was all to Dunstan’s advantage, and the young driver went on to take a well-deserved second place.

"The race was fantastic!" was his delighted response. "We didn't decide we could afford to come here till last Saturday. Everyone has worked non-stop to bring it all together. It really is a team effort and it was a brilliant one”

Sougnez carried on from where Martin left off and the Porsche went on to take a popular home win, and a third win out of four races for the team so far this season. 

“We did a very good job with the whole team,” said Martin. “I took quite a good start. I was 3rd in the first lap, then 1st in the third one. It was great. The car was fantastic. Ludovic did a great job at the end.”

Having been crippled by a puncture in race one, Denis Donkervoort had the satisfaction of taking the win in the Supersport class; and of seeing his own cars once more overcome the KTM X-Bows.

Race One Result

1 14 GT4 Ordoñez-Buncombe Nissan 350z 23 laps 40:25.044 
2 32 GT4 Mallock Aston Martin GT4 +10.224s
3 40 GT4 Casé Maserati Gran Turismo MC GT4 +14.015s
4 50 GT4 Moore-Osborne Ginetta G50 +16.295s
5 18 GT4 Mena BMW M3 +28.873s
6 6 GT4 Abbott-Fletcher Ginetta G50 +31.382s
7 17 GT4 Veltman BMW M3 +53.374s
8 44 GT4 Hladik Aston Martin GT4 +01:12.246
9 3 GT4 Pugachev Aston Martin N24 +01:22.848
10 4 GT4 Guttroff-Richter Corvette C6 +01:41.943
11 102 SPS Wintenberger Donkervoort D8GT 22 laps
12 108 SPS Eder KTM Xbow 22 laps
13 109 SPS Ladas KTM Xbow 22 laps
14 104 SPS Pronk Donkervoort D8GT 21 laps
15 55 GT4 Martin-Sougnez Porsche 997 GT3 18 laps
-- 5 GT4 Dunstan Ginetta G50 DNF
-- 103 SPS Donkervoort Donkervoort D8GT DNF

Race Two Result

1 55 GT4 Martin-Sougnez Porsche 997 GT3 23 laps 40:28.699 
2 5 GT4 Dunstan Ginetta G50 +7.672s
3 32 GT4 Mallock Aston Martin GT4 +10.889s
4 40 GT4 Casé Maserati Gran Turismo MC GT4 +11.417s
5 50 GT4 Moore-Osborne Ginetta G50 +11.761s
6 103 SPS Donkervoort Donkervoort D8GT +28.236s
7 17 GT4 Veltman BMW M3 +29.234s
8 6 GT4 Abbott-Fletcher Ginetta G50 +41.356s
9 102 SPS Wintenberger Donkervoort D8GT +47.249s
10 44 GT4 Hladik Aston Martin GT4 +01:08.596
11 4 GT4 Guttroff-Richter Corvette C6 +01:40.606
12 108 SPS Eder KTM Xbow +01:43.400
13 3 GT4 Pugachev Aston Martin N24 22 laps
14 109 SPS Ladas KTM Xbow 22 laps
15 104 SPS Pronk Donkervoort D8GT 22 laps
-- 14 GT4 Ordoñez-Buncombe Nissan 350Z DNF
-- 18 GT4 Mena BMW M3 DNF