The Beechdean Aston Martin Racing team started their Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season in Italy last weekend, contesting the opening Endurance Cup event of 2022 at the Circuit Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, write Colin and James Beckett.
The Vale-based team were represented by two Aston Martin Vantage GT3 cars in the three-hour event, with the squad's lead car, driven by Maxime Martin, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen competing at the sharp end of the race throughout.
Only a delayed pit stop prevented the number 95 Aston Martin from challenging for overall race victory, eventually crossing the line in a competitive twelfth overall. With thirty cars on the lead lap at the end of the race, the smallest delay was enough to drop the Aston down the order.
Andrew Howard, a former winner of the British GT Championship, returned to international racing at Imola, but his number 97 car, shared with Theo Nouet and Valentin Hasse-Clot was a non-finisher. The car exited the race after fifty laps.
A large crowd of 20,000 attended to watch the opening SRO-organised GT World Challenge event of the year, many present to watch Moto GP star, Valentino Rossi, make his GT racing debut for the WRT Audi team.
Victory overall was scored by Charles Weerts, Kelvin van der Linde and Dries Vanthoor in a WRT Audi, with Daniel Juncadella, Raffaele Marciello and Jules Gounon second for the Mercedes-AMG Akkodis ASP team.
Andrew Howard said afterwards, "I’m so proud of the job done by the whole team at Beechdean AMR this weekend. This is the most difficult GT Championship in the world, and we’ve come in on a full-time basis, worked our socks off and nearly won first-time out."
Adding, "We thought we'd be reasonably competitive, but this was well beyond what we hoped would be possible. All three drivers in the number 95 Vantage were immense and if we continue to show the pace we had this weekend, we’re going to be in the mix for wins everywhere."
* Alex Kapadia was left feeling somewhat frustrated following a day at Cheshire's Oulton Park on Saturday. Despite showing great pace, and setting fastest race lap, Kapadia and his team-mate, Richard Wells were left seventh in the latest round of the Praga Cup.
Kapadia said, "As always I want to thank Tim Gray Motorsport for their hard work this weekend and we look forward to the next race where we hope for better luck."
* James Wood will be in action at the Goodwood Motor Circuit this weekend add the track's annual Members' Meeting.
Wood is scheduled to drive a Rover 3500 in the Gerry Marshall Trophy with Marino Franchitti, brother of Indy 500 winner, Dario.
Wood and Franchitti will race the car that was owned by Robert Brooks, a former chairman of the British Racing Drivers' Club, in events across the weekend at the West Sussex venue.
A race for small capacity sportscars is being run in memory of Robert Brooks, who passed away last year, with Wood set to lead the field to the grid in a Lotus 15 that Brooks scored a famous victory with at the prestigious Goodwood Revival.