GTC Season 4 Kicks off in Fine Style!
- Tuesday, 10 May 2011
- Written by Colin MacLean
The Grand Touring Championship Season Four opening round took place at arguably the greatest track in the world, Spa Francorchamps. This race was a two hour timed enduro, a true test of man and virtual machine. This season all races taking place at international tracks utilize standing starts and this would be the first scheduled standing start for the GTC in a long time. The tension was high on the grid!
This season sees the return of the much-loved Corvette C6R as the GT car after a three season break from the rotation. In the GS class the V8 Supercar was back with a vengence. In the ST class the incredibly fun Late Model rounded out the three car choices. Holding true to the philosophy of the GTC each car was equally separated in times and fit together very well on track. No car was fast enough just to drive round the other so patience and exceptional racecraft were the order of the day.
In the GT class the story was the old versus the new. The old in the form of multi-time series champion David Sirois. The new in the form of series newcomer Thomas Stockmans. Stockmans threw down the gauntlet with pole position. Sirois took the spot next to him on the grid with reigning GS champion Mike Young moving up to the GT class in third. Off the line Stockmans settled into a blistering pace and was turning laps slightly quicker than Sirois and built up a nice gap. Young had a great race with Eric Palacio for third and forth place as they traded spots multiple times. Further down the field Mike Kelley had a highly entertaining race with Luc Poulin. The spectators enjoyed that one! Young would be the first to succumb to the pressure cooker as a mistake sent him into the wall ruining his race. This would elevate the ever-quick Palacio to third. As the race wore on it looked to be a clear victoy for Stockmans but multi-class racing is not just about running fast laps it's also about driving clean in traffic and knowing the cars around you. His lack of experience in the GTC would cost him dearly as late in the race a risky pass on a slower car would end up with him facing backwards on track with damage. Sirois would move past into the top spot ahead of Palacio and Stockmans. Cruising to the unexpected win the racing Gods would strike Sirois down literally feet from the finish line with a disconnect from the server at the worst possible time. Palacio would take home the victory with Stockmans in second and Don Hunter in third.
The GS class also had a great combination of both experienced GTC competitors and fast new hotshoes. The Illinois pairing of Chris Keogh and Paul Hesla took the first two spots on the grid with V8 Supercar superstar Kevin Savoie in third. Savoie would have dramas at the start and had to start from the pits. The GS race would be a very interesting one with Adam Bluhm making a blistering start and working his way up the order. He brought with him Daniel Graulty, Jeremy Burris and Jaymz Mynes. With different strategies at play no-one really knew what the podium would look like. The duo of Keogh and Hesla had the pace of the field and pulled out to a good lead. Pit strategy would drop Hesla down the order and pushing hard at the end dropped him behind Savoie. At the checkered flag Keogh took the flag-to-flag victory with a strong drive from Bluhm for second and a great comeback from Savoie who salvaged third after his qualifying drama.
The ST class looks to be highly competitive this season with the Late Models of John Middleton, returning for his second season in this car, Alex Ulleri and Jim McInnis all turning very similar lap times. Unfortunately for Ulleri the race would be a short one. Patrick Spence would be the recipient of a slow-down flag and when he slowed unexpectedly Ulleri was unable to avoid him and ploughed into his car destroying Ulleri's machine. This left Middleton and McInnis to duel for the win. The pair diced for 18 laps before pit strategies separated them. McInnis pitted on Lap 20 and took full fuel, but instead of waiting until late to pit again, he decided to pit as early as he could and still take on enough to make it in the event of a yellow flag. The strategy worked and he was 18 seconds ahead of Middleton after his last pitstop. McInnis would take the checkered flag and his first win in the GTC, congratulations to him! Middleton would take second place followed by Tim Mcleish in third.
Next stop for the GTC is a relative sprint race at Laguna Seca. After driving in a two hour enduro the competitors will be glad to see a "short" 55 minute race on the calendar. This track really challenges the competitors as patience and cooperation between drivers is essential here. See you all next week!