Despite its “heart-wrenching” retirement from the lead of the 2022 Hankook 24H BARCELONA, ST Racing nevertheless displayed “true heart and spirit” on its return to the 24H SERIES.
Words – James Gent
Images – ST Racing (George Bucur)
ST Racing team principal Kenneth Tan has described his team’s early retirement from the 2022 Hankook 24H BARCELONA as “heart-wrenching” given the pace of the #1 BMW M4 GT3.
The Canadian team, which made its first start in the 24H SERIES since winning the Hankook 12H MUGELLO outright in March, started an impressive 5th on the grid, team namesake and co-owner Samantha Tan, Bryson Morris and series newcomer Steven Aghakhani having qualified just two-tenths adrift of the front row. A fighting start from teammate Nick Wittmer meanwhile, also part of the team’s Mugello-winning line-up, meant the #1 BMW M4 GT3 was already up to 3rd after the opening lap and up to 2nd after the fourth.
Having played its pit strategy well during the opening gambit of Code 60s, alongside a similarly impressive stint from Samantha, ST Racing had moved into the overall lead by the fifth hour, its initial 25-second advantage over Phoenix Racing – and, intermittently, Poulsen Motorsport – increasing to over a full lap by half-distance.
Sadly, head-gasket failure during Wittmer’s third stint meant the outgoing Overall GT Teams’ champion was forced to retire from the Hankook 24H BARCELONA.
While the decision to retire was “heart-wrenching,” team principal Kenneth Tan has nevertheless praised the whole ST Racing organization for its “true heart and spirit” in Barcelona. Indeed, the #1 BMW M4 GT3 led 283 of the completed 696 laps during the course of the event, more than any other competitors and only five less than eventual winner WTM Racing.
“It was heart wrenching to see our car running P1 for most of the race only for us to lose our position at the 13th hour and then abruptly stop,” Kenneth Tan explains. “We race to win and our crew travelled from Canada to Europe to completely prepare the car… However, a problematic fuel specification issue, which we identified during Wednesday’s track/test day, ultimately caused the engine failure. Nevertheless, we showed our true heart and spirit during the first half of the race with a very strong performance in the pit and on track. Had this been the 12 hours of Barcelona, then we would have won the race outright. But alas, it is not and the ‘band-aid solution put together to solve the earlier fuel issue did not work for us.”
The result is particularly bittersweet given that ST Racing secured its second GT4 class win (of an eventual three) at last year’s Hankook 24H BARCELONA with its BMW M4 GT4, Samantha Tan on that occasion partnering with Wittmer, Chandler Hull and Jon Miller. Samantha, Hull and Miller went on to secure the Overall GT Drivers’ championship.
“Sometimes you just run out of luck,” Samantha Tan continues. “Nick started the race and immediately gained positions in his first stint. Shortly after, we were leading the field and fast, consistent stints from all our drivers kept us there for the next 12 hours. Unfortunately, a blown head gasket forced us to retire at around 3am.
“I’m absolutely gutted, knowing we had incredible pace and an immaculate car setup. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. We can keep our heads high and keep pushing at the next one.”