Ashton Harrison wins race 2 in Misano, secures second in Lamborghini ST championship
Ashton Harrison took her third win in the championship at the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals in Misano, Italy, rounding out a stunning season – that also included a history-making win in SRO – in second place in the standings.
American racer Ashton Harrison has been one of the most interesting GT talents to leave her mark on 2021; the first ever woman to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo world finals in 2019 was back across the Atlantic for the 2021 edition of the Italian marque's season finale, where the European and American one-make series dedicated to the Lamborghini brand gathered at Misano World Circuit. Harrison, a Mazda MX-5 Cup graduate, moved to the Lamborghini series in 2019 and impressed with second place in the LB Cup. In 2020, she finished third in the Pro-Am class. sharing the Prestige Performance with Wayne Taylor Racing entry with Andrea Amici. In 2021, Harrison decided to go solo in the Am class and, with seven podiums and two wins prior to the final race meeting, she was aiming for a strong finish in Italy. An appearance at the Indianapolis 8 hour race - final round of the GT World Challenge America, ran in conjunction with the Intercontinental GT race at the capital of North American motor racing – further established Ashton as one of the drivers to watch in GT racing. At her GT3 debut, in fact, Harrison took victory in the 3-hour segment of GT World Challenge, and went on to seal the class victory in the 8 hour race as well. She thus became the first ever woman to score an overall victory in SRO. On Friday, the continental series were rounded out, with Race 1 and 2 ending the North American championship. Richard Antinucci took pole position and had a flawless run to claim victory in Race 1 – the sixth of the season – finishing in front of Dream Racing's teammate Edoardo Liberati. Ashton Harrison had a rough start of her weekend; having qualified in P12 overall and third among the AM entries, Harrison and AM rival Alan Metni made contact on the first lap at Turn 8; while Metni was out of the race, the driver of the Harrison Contracting/WTR Huracan limped back to the pits with a puncture. Antinucci pulled away and built a gap from Liberati, maintaining the lead also after the pit stop. His title chances were further helped by the retirement of Jeroen Mul and Stevan McAleer, as the Dutchman parked the Change Racing's Lamborghini with a fuel pump failure before the driver change. Mul had lost third place from Steven Aghakhani and, once Jacob Eidson stepped in, he started to hunt down Liberati/Capitanio and Antinucci in the overall leading group. Eidson would move into second when Capitanio had contact with a lapped car – and was later handed a penalty for pit stop infringement – promoting Max Weering onto the podium. Antinucci sealed his third championship title with a race to spare. Dream Racing's Luke Berkeley took the AM class honor, preceding Randy Sellari. Despite the first lap incident, Ashton Harrison was able to rejoin and take the chequered flag in third place in class. Her fortunes, though, reversed in Race 2. MCR Racing's Loris Spinelli went into the lead from pole position, followed by freshly-crowned champion Antinucci. The Italian extended his margin ahead of the pit stop - but was halted by a wheel issue. Antinucci was back in the lead, but positions were traded once again after the driver change: Jacob Eidson had significantly reduced the gap during his stint and, once behind the wheel, Steven Aghakhani leapfrogged Antinucci with a shorter pit stop. Unfortunately for the US Racetronics duo, they received a time penalty for pit infringement, once Antinucci had already made the pass on track following a mistake by Aghakhani at the final corner. The penalty would then demote Aghakhani/Eidson to third, behind Mul/McAleer. In the AM category, Harrison charged through the class field and hunted down Luke Berkeley in the lead. Under pressure, a late mistake by the class leader gave Ahston an opportunity to secure her third win of the season and, despite a few skirmishes on the final lap, she crossed the finish line in first place, 2.4 seconds ahead of Berkeley. Randy Sellari rounded out the class podium. Harrison's victory meant that she moved up to second place in the drivers' standings in the North American series. “Super excited to get the win here in Misano for Race 2." – she commented. "What a great way to end the U.S. rounds."
"It’s been a long week, but everyone has had a great attitude and everyone has been putting in great work." – she continued, praising the Wayne Taylor Racing's crew, "I’m so grateful for my car chief, Shawn, thankful for all the WTR mechanics who have busted their tails to get my car ready after having damage in Race 1 and Race 2." "They’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’m so thankful for them and for Harrison Contracting for allowing me to do this. Looking forward to the rest of the weekend.” Up next was in fact the World Finals on Saturday, where the European and American teams mingled. In the AM category, Massimo Ciglia had a great start and slotted ahead of WTR's Jordan Missig – the latter passing Andrzej Lewandowski at Turn 1. Missig tried to keep up with Ciglia's pace and, coming towards the fast section at Turn 11, he put a wheel on the grass and went off, crashing into the barriers. The Safety Car was deployed and Missig's Lamborghini was ruled out for the rest of the weekend. At the restart, Ciglia came under pressure from Gomez after the pit stop window. The action heated up with approximately 10 minutes left on the clock: Gomez found a way past Ciglia, but positions switched back at Turn 8 when the Italian fought back. The Oregon Team driver took victory – and held it despite a penalty for pit infringement. Ashton Harrison started in sixth place and, with another strong performance, she moved up the order lap after lap until making a move past Lewandowski for third place. After the race, though, both were handed a 5-second time penalty for contact with each other during the close racing – which promoted Gabriel Rindone to third. Ashton Harrison thus completed the first World Final race in P4. The second and final race on Sunday was just as closely fought. In the hectic first lap, Harrison spun at Turn 13 and dropped to the back of the pack, while Rindone, Ciglia and Gomez went three-wide for the lead at Turn 1. Rindone cut across the run off at Turn 2, which would result in a 3 second penalty. He had more troubles in the second stint when a spin put him in seventh place. Before the pit stop, Ciglia had also suffered a spin while he chased the race leader Gomez. The Change Racing driver could therefore extend his lead and win comfortably the final race at Misano, preceding Raffaele Giannoni and Massimo Ciglia.
Despite the first lap spin, Ashton Harrison put on display some outstanding racing and recovered to fourth place – the second consecutive of the weekend in the strong 15-car field. "I can't believe the season is officially over", she wrote. "Three wins, one pole, multiple podiums, fast laps and a lot of fun". A HPD driver, Harrison is training with fellow academy members and, after a remarkable season, we can expect her to move full time to some of the most prestigious GT3 championships worldwide.