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  • Writer's pictureSIMONE PASSARELLO

24H Series, part 1: late drama for Samantha Tan and the Gostners, Gaillard recovers to P3

In the opening 4 hours of the Mugello 12H, there was late drama for Samantha Tan when the Canadian driver suffered a broken hub as she led the GT4 field. The pole-sitting BMW of Sandra van der Sloot lost over one hour for steering issues, while the Gostner-family Mercedes recovered from a trip to the gravel. Great stint for Karen Gaillard, who charged back to P3 in GTX.

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The 24H Series headed to Mugello, Italy for the third round – and second points-paying event – of the 2021 season.

Canadian promising young racer Samantha Tan has been one of the main protagonists of the opening races, with her team claiming two class victories in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and thus coming into the Italian round as GT4 points leader.

In a very compressed schedule, Friday morning started with a third practice session, immediately followed by the 30-minute Qualifying sessions for GT and TCE divisions.

Samantha and her teammates Jon Miller and Chandler Hull secured class pole position for the 12-Hour race, maintaining momentum after the impressive start to their first ever international racing campaign.

“It’s my first time in Mugello, it’s a beautiful track, with incredible high-speed corners and amazing flow.” – commented the young driver-owner of the #438 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4. “Qualifying went really well, we had an issue in practice with a shock-absorber, but we fixed the car and Jon [Miller] went out, got first position and really looking forward to the race”.

Iron Dames’ Manuela Gostner joined her sister Corinna, as well as her brother and father in an all-family team at the wheel of the MP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3. After the tricky morning sessions, they took the start in the first four hours part of the race from eleventh place overall and in GT3-Am.

“It will be difficult as always, we’re in the mid-pack and surrounded by strong drivers” – commented Corinna.

In the TCX category, Dutch driver Sandra Van Der Sloot clinched the fastest time in qualifying in the JR Motorsport BMW, while Karen Gaillard was forced to miss the morning practice session for persisting technical issues on her Vortex V8 car and started from sixth position in class, P27 overall.

“We got the fastest lap in the qualifications, with my teammate driving to pole position. It’s a good position to start the race. It’s a 4-hour race, so you have to be careful and make sure you finish the first part.” – told us van der Sloot just before the start.

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With Jon Miller starting the first driving stint, the Samantha Tan Racing’s strategy changed with just 15 minutes into the race, when Miller was forced to an early pit stop for a left front tire puncture that dropped him P38 overall and second in the GT4 class. Nevertheless, the BMW pace was good and the team managed to recover the gap. Tan’s teammate tire problem was only one of many that happened in the opening half-hour of the race.

It was a great start for Karen Gaillard in the #701 Vortex: despite she had been fighting with the balance of the car all weekend, the Swiss showed strong pace and battled in the midfield, moving up to P5 in the GTX class led. She would also catch up with the #721 sister car. Meanwhile, TCX was still led by Van Der Sloot’s teammate Ted Van Vliet in the #203. Manuela and Corinna’s brother David drove the first stint and made up one position in the very competitive GT3 field.

At the top of the classify, the Equipe Verschuur Renault RS01 led the action early on, ahead of the Rutronik Audi of Pierre Kraffer and with Josef Kral following in third at the wheel of the MiddleCap Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo.

After a 40 minutes of clean racing, the first code 60 of the race was called out when the #969 GDL Racing Porsche driven by Maurizio Fratti got stuck in the gravel. The incident allowed some of the teams to take the way of the pitlane for the first round of pit stops.

Jon Miller drove the M4 BMW GT4 of the Samantha Tan Racing for a longer stint and claimed back the class leadership. He pitted and handed over to Chandler Hull after over an hour of racing, just when the first big crash of the day interrupted the action: the #710 black and gold Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini of Gabriele Rindone hit the wall hard at the pit lane exit. He was unhurt, but their race was definitely over.

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Sandra Van der Sloot got into the driving seat of the JR Motorsport car – but her run was soon influenced by steering issues that forced the Dutchwoman to bring back the BMW M3 F80 to the garage when she was running battling for the lead in TCX. The car remained in the garage for almost an hour, missing out on many laps and a big chance for division glory.

Karen Gaillard left the #701 Vortex in the hands of her teammate Boris Gimond, while Corinna Gostner also rejoined on track in the green MP Racing Mercedes GT3 AM in P9.

At the following green flag, the whole pack was led by the Hella Pagid - racing one Ferrari, ahead of the identical 488 GT3 Evo of the MiddleCap crew and followed by the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche in third.

Corinna Gostner had a short but convincing stint and left the car to Thomas Gostner when the #278 Ginetta of the CWS Engineering team went off in the gravel at Turn 11, causing another code 60.

After the long stop, finally Sandra Van Der Sloot’s teammate was ready to rejoin the action, following an impressive work by the JR Motorsport mechanics.

“We got a lot of problems with the steering and we lost I think an hour.” – said Van Der Sloot. “That’s too much I think for the race, but the guys did a very good job and worked very hard to put us back on track and we’ll see tomorrow what the remaining eight hours will bring”.

The race was very much alive throughout the classes. The Samantha Tan Racing BMW suffered yet another puncture and returned to the pits; Hull left the steering wheel to Samantha, in a last minute call.

The Canadian lady was quick to jump in the car and proved to be ready to fight back for the top position in GT4. From the opening laps of her stint, Tan found a good rhythm and lapped around two seconds faster than Fogliani in the leading 718 Cayman GT4 by Centri Porsche Ticino.

Fogliani pitted with 50 minutes to go and Samantha clinched the top spot – but her convincing run saw an unexpected turning point a few minutes later.

Reporting vibrations, she pitted with almost 30 minutes left on the clock to Part 1 of the race, but a few corners later, her BMW came to a dramatic stop at Turn 2 and ending an otherwise strong charging drive.

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“We were running in P1 for a good amount of time.” – explained Samantha. “I started to feel a vibration 20 minutes into my stint I guess, as I was the last one in the car. I came in thinking it was a flat, but they put fuel and checked the tires and nothing was wrong, I was said it was pickup. But I felt a really big vibration, so coming out of the pits there was a GT3 Porsche that was coming by and I thought he hit me, because my car snapped. Turns out it was the hub that sheared.”

“I’m just glad that it happened when I was going slow, coming out of the pit and not down the straight because I could have ended up like that Lamborghini.” – she added.

“The car’s good, the crew is working hard tonight to get it all fixed up for tomorrow and anything can happen – it’s endurance racing, so we’re still hoping to win obviously, we’re gonna do our best.”

Karen Gaillard and the Vortex Team were P3 in GTX and will restart tomorrow in a good position to battle for a podium finish.

“The race was good, I took the start and I think the pace was also good.” – said Gaillard.

“We finished the first part in third place in GTX and I hope we can finish on the podium tomorrow.”

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The Gostner-family Mercedes also had a troubled first part of the race, as Thomas Gostner ended in the gravel and brought out a Code 60 with 15 minutes left.

“We had a lot of fun today, unfortunately we ended up in the gravel towards the end, but luckily there was not much damage so we could rejoin, that’s the important thing” – explained Corinna.

They were P10 in GT3-Am and P12 overall.

After the first 4 Hours of the 12 Hours of Mugello, a Porsche 1-2 commands the overall classify, with the #91 Herberth Motorsport leading the #7 Dinamic Motorsport crew. Miroslav Vyboh ended his Friday in third place in the #11 MiddleCap Racing Ferrari.

The final 8 hours of action will see the cars hitting the track again tomorrow, with the start scheduled to 9.30 am CET.

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