Reigning Overall GT Teams’ champion ST Racing may have missed the podium at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, but the Canadian team is confident lessons learnt at the event will serve them well for 2022.
ST Racing is confident progress has been made with its brand-new BMW M4 GT3s, despite its podium-streak coming to a close at last weekend’s Hankook 24H DUBAI.
The Canadian team started its maiden endurance racing campaign in 2021 with GT4-class victory at last year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI, following that up with two additional class wins at Barcelona and Hungary and runners-up spots in Mugello, Paul Ricard, Hockenheim and Sebring en-route to the Overall GT Teams’ and Drivers’ championships.
At this year’s season opener at the Dubai Autodrome, ST Racing’s program with its two new BMW M4 GT3s got off to a good start with the 3rd fastest time in GT3 PRO/AM qualifying courtesy of Harry Gottsacker, a former Pilot Challenge champion with ST Racing who made his 24H SERIES debut in Dubai, two-time TC America champion Tyler Maxson, and 17-year-old Bryson Morris’ runs in qualifying.
Team debutant Louis-Philippe Montour, team staple Nick Wittmer, who helped secure ST Racing’s win in Barcelona last year, and Jon Miller meanwhile secured the sister #28 a grid place just five spots further back.
Issues struck quickly though when Gottsacker was unable to get the #1 into gear on the grid, meaning the BMW was forced to start from the pitlane. A miscommunication meant Gottsacker then ran a red light exiting pitroad, landing the #1 BMW with a two-lap penalty, but the Canadian team was nevertheless into its category lead after only the second hour. A puncture during the night, momentary power loss, and a dislodged carbon diffuser struck during the race proper, but Gottsacker, Maxson, Morris, team co-owner Samantha Tan, and United SportsCar race winner Anthony Lazzaro nevertheless brought the #1 BMW home 5th in GT3 PRO/AM.
Montour, Wittmer, and Overall GT Drivers’ champions Jon Miller and Chandler Hull meanwhile was working its way up through the overall top 20 when Hull was forced off-track on the back straight and through a polystyrene marker board. The debris ended up blocking the radiator and causing overheating issues for the BMW’s TwinPower Turbo straight-six, costing the team more time. The #28 BMW eventually took the chequered flag 9th in-class and 21st overall, the highest of any M4 GT3 entered for this year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI.
Despite its podium streak coming to an end, both Samantha and Kenneth Tan are confident the lessons learnt during the Hankook 24H DUBAI have given ST Racing a strong platform to work with as it begins its title defense in 2022.
“This was our first-ever race in GT3 as a team and we lacked a lot of valuable experience with the cars,” team principal Kenneth Tan explains in an official team communique. “They were practically delivered straight to the Dubai Autodrome from BMW Motorsport’s factory in Garching a day before unofficial practice started on Monday. That gave our crew just two days to learn a totally brand-new race car and make adjustments. So to see both cars run competitively and relatively flawlessly over a 24-hour period is impressive.
“I am very proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish during the [Hankook] 24H DUBAI. I am also satisfied with the results given the situation. Okay, it would have been nice to podium, especially when Car #1 ran within the top 10 for most of the race until the minor mechanical troubles on Saturday morning slowed us down. But what is more important is that we have proven our potential as a team and it was very exciting to see that.”
“We achieved what we came here to do: learn the new car and finish the race, which was a feat in itself considering there were 79 cars on track,” Samantha Tan continues. “We had a really strong start to the race and great pace throughout, but unfortunately, due to a few minor mechanical gremlins, it took us out of contention for the win. The car is potentially very competitive, but it needs more testing and development on our end. Since we only received the car on Monday, it was unable to reach that potential.
“That being said, the learning experiences we collectively gained were invaluable. I’m honoured to have been one of the first drivers in the world to officially race the BMW M4 GT3 and compete against Le Mans winners, and factory teams and drivers in Dubai. Most importantly, I’m so proud of everyone on my ‘little’ Canadian team and how far we’ve come. We know we had the pace and in true ST Racing spirit, we’ll come back stronger than ever to push for those wins.”
ST Racing is set to compete with both cars again at the Hankook 12H MUGELLO at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello on 25-26 March. Overall GT Drivers’ champions Samantha Tan, Jon Miller and Chandler Hull are expected to be on driver detail.
- Images – Petr Frýba