ST Racing was crowned the new Overall GT Teams’ champion at the Hankook 24H SEBRING after taking its seventh consecutive GT4-class podium of 2021.
ST Racing has praised the efforts of its mechanics and engineers, as well as its drivers, that went into securing the Canadian team the Overall GT Teams’ and Overall GT Drivers’ championships in its maiden 24H SERIES campaign.
Having made one-off outings at the Circuit of the Americas and the Dubai Autodrome in 2019 and 2020, securing its first 24H SERIES class podium in the process at the former, ST Racing confirmed it would complete the full 24H SERIES in 2021 with its BMW M4 GT4. Chandler Hull, Jon Miller and team co-owner Samantha Tan were named as the teams’ full-time drivers for the season.
After taking three wins (Dubai, Barcelona, and Hungary) and three additional podiums (Mugello, Paul Ricard, and Hockenheim) in the GT4 class during the course of the year, ST Racing went into the 24H SERIES season finale at Sebring just 11 points ahead of nearest rival Vortex V8. While the team could not secure its fourth win of the year, a seventh podium was nevertheless enough to put the outright GT Teams’ and Drivers’ crowns out of reach.
“What a year! This was our first year in endurance racing – and my first time at Sebring, actually – and we were coming into this race 11 points ahead in the championship, so we knew that we needed a clean race,” Samantha Tan explains in an official team release. “On top of that, we were still gunning for the win, and I think the whole team put in a major effort to make sure we were fighting to the very last minute.
“It just goes to show that this is a team sport: the whole crew and all the drivers put in so much work to make sure we came out on top successfully during a year in which we were looking to learn as much as we could about endurance racing. Ultimately my goal is Le Mans and this year was a major steppingstone towards that. I also can’t thank BMW Motorsport enough for their support during the whole season, and to come out of this weekend with six championship titles, I couldn’t be happier!”
Ironically, with darkness already closing in as the green flag dropped for the Hankook 24H SEBRING, and rain already making an appearance, ST Racing’s Jon Miller opted to drive down the pitlane on lap one rather than risk a clash in the mid-pack amidst poor visibility. This dropped the #438 BMW, which secured its seventh consecutive pole position earlier in the day (eighth if you include the non-championship Hankook 6H ABU DHABI in January) to the tail of the field as a result.
The Canadian team had worked its way back up to 4th in-class by the second hour, and later 3rd when terminal engine problems eliminated the RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 at half-distance. Ultimately the fight for GT4 honours looked set to go down between NOLASPORT and the Heart of Racing Team, though gearbox failure for the latter’s Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 inside final two hours eventually left the #470 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR unchallenged to the chequered flag.
Even with a late-race splash-and-dash just nine laps from home, ST Racing still managed to secure 2nd in-class just over two minutes behind the NOLASPORT Porsche. A recovering Team ACP, which lost time earlier in the race when Jim Norman made heavy contact with the turn 17 tyre barriers, collected the final spot on the GT4 podium.
ST Racing also confirmed that “run[ning] at just 90 per cent of the car’s potential” to guarantee a championship-winning podium finish also meant the BMW M4 GT4 suffered no mechanical issues at all around the grueling Sebring International Raceway.
“We came to Sebring with the greatest respect for this track and prepared our #438 BMW M4 GT4 with what we felt would make it the most durable and reliable for what was expected to be an excruciating 24-hour race,” team principal Kenneth Tan continues. “Many have told us that it’s very challenging to finish just 12 hours at Sebring, let alone 24! Thus, our goal was to preserve the car at all costs and ensure that we finished at least 5th in order to clinch the Overall GT Teams’ championship. Goals we comfortably exceeded.
“Our car was very well prepared and ran without a single mechanical issue throughout the event, which I believe allowed us to be in 2nd after 21 hours of the race. When we were confident we had done enough to secure the Overall GT crown, that is when we turned up the heat and went after [the win].
“Unfortunately, our earlier conservative strategy, during which we ran at just 90 per cent of the car’s potential, made it a Herculean task to gain two laps on the class leader with only five hours left. But we gave it our most valiant effort and got very close with 20 minutes to go in the race. I have to extend a BIG thank you to our partners Bas Koeten Racing for providing such amazing support during our races in Europe. This achievement was totally a team effort and every single person contributed in making this possible.”
ST Racing’s result marks the second year in succession that a GT3-spec BMW M4 has secured an outright championship in the 24H SERIES’ GT division. In 2020, Team Avia Sorg Rennsport won the Overall GT Teams’ championship in the 24H SERIES Continents following wins at Hockenheim and Mugello. Sorg Rennsport teammates Björn Simon and José Manuel de los Milagros Vinégla likewise took Overall GT Drivers’ honours that year. On both occasions, Sorg Rennsport and ST Racing also secured GT4 Team and Drivers championships alongside their overall title victories.
ST Racing has already confirmed it will return for its second season of 24H SERIES in 2022, this time in the GT3 category with two brand-new M4 GT3s.
- Images – Victor Chadarov / ST Racing