Following an incident packed event for the Canadian team at the season-opener in Dubai, Overall GT Teams’ champion ST Racing secured its first outright win in the 24H SERIES in only its second series start with the brand-new BMW M4 GT3.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba
ST Racing team principal Kenneth Tan has celebrated the Canadian team’s “amazing” inaugural first win in the 24H SERIES at this past weekend’s Hankook 12H MUGELLO following its “mediocre finish” at the season-opener in Dubai, its first series entry with the brand-new BMW M4 GT3 since stepping up from the GT4 ranks.
Despite power loss issues, a pitlane penalty, a puncture, and a dislodged carbon diffuser dropping the team’s dual-entered M4s to 5th and 9th in-class in Dubai, Kenneth Tan believes that time spent preparing the new BMW between races proved crucial to ST Racing’s victory in Mugello.
“It is such an amazing feeling to have finished first overall after our mediocre finish in the [Hankook 24H] DUBAI,” Tan explains in an official team statement. “Our BMW M4 GT3 cars were practically just taken out of the box but since then, we have had time to work with it and together with BMW Motorsport support, we understood the car and the drivers were able to run its potential. That, together with pure teamwork, ensured that we got it done.
“I am so proud of our whole team. Each and every person contributed and this is what happens when everyone works towards a single passionate goal. Forza STR!”
The reigning Overall GT Teams’ champion started from the front row of the grid for the very first time at the 2022 Hankook 12H Mugello following a strong run in the series’ new staggered qualifying session, during which team co-owner and namesake Samantha Tan, team newcomer Bryson Morris, and staple Nick Wittmer set the second fastest laps of their respective runs,
A scintillating start then saw Wittmer move into the overall lead around the outside of turn one – San Donato – at the start of the race, a position the Canadian held until Pierre Kaffer re-passed the BMW in the pole-sitting phoenix Racing Audi R8 on lap 10. An early Code 60 caution period, and resulting scramble for refueling, briefly saw the ST Racing BMW briefly drop out of the top five during the opening scramble at refueling, but, ironically, another Code 60 caution period, thrown during Samantha Tan’s first stint, proved crucial to ST Racing’s strategy, the team opting to retain track position rather than pit with the other frontrunners. This put the #1 BMW back in the pound seat heading into the overnight intervention.
On alternating pit strategies, the ST Racing BMW would continue to swap the lead with the Team LANDGRAF Mercedes-AMG GT3 the following day – Phoenix Racing having been delayed with a puncture – before finally pulling a full lap clear mid-afternoon. A lead the Canadian team later extended to two laps across Sunday afternoon, and hold uninterrupted for the final two hours en-route to the chequered flag. In total, ST Racing led 245 of the 330 completed laps.
The result marks the first victory for ST Racing since its third class win of the year in 2021 at the Hungaroring, a result that helped the then-GT4-class runner secure the Overall GT Teams’ title as well as GT Drivers’ honours for Samantha Tan, Chandler Hull and Jon Miller. It is also the first outright win for a BMW in the 24H SERIES since Schubert Motorsport took victory at both the 24H DUBAI and 24H BARCELONA in 2011 with its Z4 GT3.
“To be the first BMW M4 GT3 in series history to win overall, I’m speechless!” Samantha continues. “I’m so incredibly proud of everyone on this team. After the bittersweet finish in Dubai, we were beyond ecstatic to see our… BMW M4 GT3 leading the field. Every single member of this team did a phenomenal job to ensure that we finished in the top spot; there were countless hours of work dedicated behind the scenes to make all this possible. I can’t put into words how grateful I am to my co-drivers Nick Wittmer and Bryson Morris, to everyone on my team, to BMW Motorsport, Motul, HRX, Endless, and to all our fans for their unending support. This win is for you as well!”
The result means ST Racing now leads the 24H SERIES European championship standings ahead of Phoenix Racing and Team LANDGRAF heading into next month’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS on 22-23-24 April.