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GT4 Cup/Dutch GT4, Assen - Race Reports

After Zandvoort, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Zolder the fifth round of the SRO GT4 Cup was held at the TT Circuit in Assen, The Netherlands this weekend. Once again the SRO GT4 Cup raced together with the HTC Dutch GT4 Championship, this time as part of the ADAC Masters Weekend.

Qualifying

Stefano d’Aste dominated Qualifying on Friday and secured pole positions in both sessions. The Italian was the only driver who lapped the TT Circuit Assen under 1:47 as he posted a 1:46.902 in Qualifying 2. In Qualifying 1 the Lotus Evora GT4 was over six tenths of a second quicker than the number 2, Dutchman Duncan Huisman. Phil Bastiaans was another two tenths of a second further behind in third place. In Qualifying 2 Ricardo van der Ende and Tom Coronel were second and third fastest overall.

Race 1

Stefano D’Aste was unstoppable in race 1. The Italian led from start to finish and was never in trouble. At the start D’Aste pulled away and took Bastiaans with him. Behind the two leaders there was a lot of contact with bodywork flying around and grass and dirt being kicked up all around the track. Cor Euser had the best start - jumping from row five to third place.

After five laps the gap between D’Aste’s Lotus and Bastiaans’ Porsche was just over a second but then on lap six D’Aste gained eight tenths of a second, almost doubling his lead. One lap later Ales Jirasek, who had started in fifth place hit the BMW of Bernhard van Oranje, spinning the #51 BMW around and causing substantial damage to the front of the Ginetta. Jirasek continued but eventually retired after losing his bonnet.

Behind the leaders Simon Knap fought for fifth place with the two Aston Martin Vantage of James Appleby and Jan Joris Verheul. On lap 10 however Appleby went just a little bit wide at the Ramshoek corner and lost control of the #6 Aston. He spun and hit the barrier backwards.

At the front D’Aste kept on going and after 14 laps the Italian crossed the line to take the first win of the weekend. 4.3 seconds behind D’Aste Bastiaans finished in second place, with Cor Euser taking third place at 6.8 seconds. Huisman finished in fourth place after starting from the front row.

Race 2

Race 2 was something completely different. Rain had hit the TT Circuit again after the first race and had only stopped just half an hour before the start of the second race. The result was a rather wet track, all cars on wets and two warm up laps before things got underway.

Unfortunately in the treacherous conditions things went completely wrong into the first corner. Van der Ende passed D’Aste into turn 1 as Ant Scragg in the #6 Aston Martin and Tom Coronel in the #51 BMW hit each other. The pair ran into the #36 Lotus Evora GT4 of Ollie Jackson, Jackson spun and was missed by most cars - but was then hit by the #23 Lotus Evora GT4 of Marco Fumagalli. When Scragg lost his right front wheel a few corners further down the road - as a result of the incident - the safety car was deployed.

The race was restarted as the cars went onto lap 5 and again it was Van der Ende who led the field into turn 1. Behind him D’Aste, Knap and Lammers were fighting hard for second place. The three came together, sending D’Aste wide onto the run-off area. The Italian kept his foot on the throttle and rejoined ahead of Lammers and Knap. But one lap later the Italian lost that position to Lammers again.

With five minutes remaining the race was far from over with Lammers and D’Aste lapping a second quicker than Van der Ende. On lap 8 Lammers went to the inside of the BMW and took the lead heading into the Ruskenhoek corner. A couple of corners later D’Aste also passed the #50 BMW M3 GT4 to take second place.

Lammers did not slow down on the last lap and crossed the line 1.3 seconds ahead of D’Aste after 10 laps to win the second race of the weekend.

Race 3

The sun was back for race 3 on Sunday afternoon, but despite good track conditions things went wrong again into the first corners. D’Aste pulled away at the start but behind him Knap and Lammers hit each other. Lammers managed to get back to the pit, but Knap was less fortunate. At the end of lap 1 D’Aste was 2.4 seconds clear of Huisman, followed by Coronel in third.

On lap 5 Coronel passed Huisman and moved up to second position. Huisman lost another position to Retera’s Aston Martin on the following lap and then ran wide. The excursion, which included hitting a tyre that was thrown up by Coronel, caused some damage to the front of the BMW. This allowed the Lotus Evora of Dick Freebird and the Ginetta G50 of Jirasek to close in and soon Huisman lost another position.

D’Aste came into the pit for his mandatory pit stop with a comfortable lead and he would rejoin the race still lightyears ahead of the rest of the field. The Ekris BMW Team was not as successful, Coronel parking his car in the pit with suspension damage - after clipping the stack of tyres - and losing a strong overall position and the Dutch GT4 lead. The #51 would not return to the track.

Verheul and Euser emerged from the pit lane in second and third position and soon the two cars were involved in a nice fight for position. Euser made several unsuccessful attempts to pass the Aston Martin, but eventually went through to take second place at the Strubben on lap 20. Van der Ende had meanwhile moved back into fourth overall. He was however in no man’s land with the cars in front 12 seconds away and the #32 BMW M3 GT4 far behind.

D’Aste controlled the remainder of the race and pulled further away from Euser and Verheul. After 27 laps the Italian crossed the line to take another GT4 Cup victory - and increasing his championship lead. Cor Euser finished in second position and first in the Dutch GT4, making it a Lotus 1-2. Verheul finished third in his Aston Martin Vantage. Ricardo van der Ende finished fourth overall - securing the 2011 HTC Dutch GT4 Championship title.

The final round of the SRO GT4 Cup and the HTC Dutch GT4 Championship will take place at Zandvoort, where the GT4 cars will be joined by the FIA GT3 European Championship for their season finale.

Marcel ten Caat