SECOND GT OPEN POLE-TO-VICTORY OF THE SEASON FOR TF SPORT
TF Sport scored their second GT3 win of the year, at round three of the International GT Open last week at the Red Bull Ring, Austria. Coming off the back of a very successful trip to Paul Ricard for the previous round, the TF Sport crew were confident that they could repeat their performance once again.
The #34 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 topped the time sheets in the combined free practice sessions by 0.104s over the Ram Racing Mercedes, which confirmed the strength of the Aston around the 4.33km circuit.
Two unfortunate reg flags were called during Salih’s qualifying session, both on flying laps, which marred his true starting position potential. Yoluc had to settle for seventh and prepare for a battle to the front.
Salih’s avoidance skills came into play as rivals Ortelli and Ramos battled up ahead on the opening lap of race one. Yoluc did a great job to stay on their tail as the pit window approached, and also pulled a gap to the pack behind.
Unfortunately, a safety car was called for a car beached in the gravel just before #34 neared its stop. With the pack bunched up once again, the 15 second success penalty from Paul Ricard caused more damage to Charlie’s track position when he took over from Salih. Heading back out at the end of the train, Charlie wasted no time in pushing hard to work his way up the order. Eastwood crossed the line in P6, but after a post-race time penalty for track limits and a disqualification of the race winner, the #34 was classified in ninth.
It was Eastwood’s turn on Sunday to qualify, and exactly as he did at Paul Ricard, Charlie ticked all three purple sectors to take pole position later in the day, by 0.003s ahead of Teo Martin Motorsport’s Chaves.
A superb start saw Charlie lead the first part of the 60 minute sprint. The #34 briefly slipped down to second behind the #59 McLaren, but with no handicap to serve this time round, TF Sport was back into P1 after the stop. Salih managed to progressively build a strong lead, however this was marred by a safety car, called to recover a stranded McLaren. The win was secured by Yoluc's perfectly executed SC restart.
Yoluc and Eastwood will rejoin with Jonny Adam this week, as they take on the biggest race of the year, the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Round four of the International GT Open will take place at Monza, Italy, next week - 26/27 September.
Tom Ferrier, Team Manager - “Great to get another win under our belt. Saturday was frustrating with the red flags in qualifying, setting us on the back foot for race one, but sometimes that’s just how things go. We just couldn’t keep up with the speed of the McLarens on the straights, so Charlie did everything he could to pass the Optimum pair, and ultimately it was the unavoidable track limits which hurt us for race one. Sunday’s win was hugely welcomed and set the team and drivers up well, ahead of Le Mans.”
Charlie Eastwood, #34 - “It was a tricky first race. With the 15 second penalty it was always going to be difficult to get a decent result, and with the safety car coming out before the pits opened, with everybody bunched up again, the penalty hurt us even more so and we returned on track almost at the back of the grid. Thankfully on Sunday, I had an absolutely perfect car from TF to get the job done in qualifying and from then it was just a case of managing the race. Salih, again, had a great stint and built a nice gap, but it’s never over until you cross the chequered flag! With the safety car coming out towards the end, it was tense to watch the final lap, but Sal got the job done. All in all a great weekend and it gives us a lot of confidence going into the Le Mans 24H.”