Double class Top-10 for Taylor Hagler in GT4 Europe's finale
Updated: Oct 4
"I feel like I gained a lot of knowledge." - Taylor Hagler completed her first European campaign in the continental GT4 Championship with two top-10 finishes in the ProAm class, making the most out of an unlucky season finale at Barcelona with convincing pace.
Taylor Hagler completed her first international racing campaign with the final round of the 2023 GT4 European Championship at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, where the young Texan collected two more top ten finishes in the ProAm class to end the season on a positive note.
Hagler, a two time IMSA TCR champion - already had GT racing experience, thanks to a remarkable season in GT World Challenge America in 2021, at the wheel of the Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo. After finishing second in the ProAm standings as a GT3 rookie, Hagler returned to the Michelin Pilot Challenge, where she continued to battle at the front of the TCR field with the Bryan Herta Autosport squad.
A series of appearances in the German NLS series as part of the preparation for the legendary 24 Hours of the NürburgringNordschleife resulted in Taylor's first double program overseas. Having finished second in class at the Nürburgring in a Hyundai factory effort, Hagler's European commitment expanded to a new opportunity: she would join W&S Motorsport for a partial GT4 Europe season. From the Paul Ricard round, Hagler partnered Gustavo Xavier at the wheel of the #442 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4: in a positive debut, the duo marginally missed out on a first top-five in class after a hectic second race, marked by changing weather conditions.
The 27-year-old talent, though, had shown big improvements at the wheel of the new car and continued her learning process at the extremely challenging Spa Francorchamps circuit, where she would claim another top ten in class.
The improvement was noticeable and at Misano - a circuit where she quickly adapted to - Hagler secured her first top-5 in ProAm - in a performance that suggested that a first podium was on the table.
With the return of Charles Dawson - who was injured in a qualifying crash at Monza - Hagler moved to the #32 machine from the Hockenheimring round, where she welcomed new teammate Dakota Dickerson. The fellow US American had in fact already shared the Racers Edge Acura NSX GT3 with Hagler and the duo immediately proved to be highly competitive in GT4 machinery as well. By running in the overall top 10 and with podium-worthy pace, Taylor and Dakota aimed to step on the podium for the first time - but two unfortunate races meant that they were hit by a competitor in race 1 and had their weekend cut short by a technical issue in race 2.
Strong of that progress, though, Hagler and Dickerson headed to Barcelona with high hopes to top their best finish at the season finale.
The weekend was off to a promising start, as the drivers of the #32 W&S Motorsport Porsche were immediately in the ProAm top-10 in the official test session and kept shortening the gaps in practice. Hagler was particularly impressive, as she showed very promising pace that resulted in a fourth place in pre-qualifying.
On Saturday morning, though, a challenging qualifying session saw Dickerson having to settle for P11 in Q1 after he couldn't improve in the final runs; it was a stronger run for Hagler in Q2, as she set the eighth fastest time in a shortened session ended by a red flag with 1 minute left on the clock.
The 43-car field of one of the most competitive GT field in the world was led by the two Elite Motorsport McLarens, which cleared the second-placed Speedcar Audi at the start, before a multi car accident took out Gustavo Xavier's #442 W&S Motorsport Porsche and the #13 Overdrive Porsche of Tzonev, bringing out the safety car. From P11 on the grid in ProAm, Dickerson held position in class and 30th overall.
The race resumed with 42 minutes to go: Dickerson continued to follow Anthony Beltoise's Sainteloc Junior Audi for the ProAm class top 10, and was then able to move up to P10 when Jim Pla dropped down the order for a technical issue that eventually forced the driver of the Speedcar Audi R8 to pit and retire on lap 11.
As the first cars started to pit midway through the race, Dickerson stayed out and picked up P8 after a contact between Hendrik Still and Denis Bulatov; the driver of the #32 W&S Motorsport Porsche would hand over to Taylor Hagler with 27 minutes to go.
With a strong out lap, Hagler was up to seventh in class after the pit window had closed; she immediately logged good laps and made up ground on the #67 Sainteloc Junior Audi, now with Gregory Faessel behind the wheel.
Hagler continued to set her personal best laps but, as she closed in on Patrick Hofmann, she had to defend from Jordan Wallace's Porsche and dropped one position. They eventually both cleared Hofmann, before a full course yellow neutralized the race with 7 minutes to go, when a crash took out the #93 Porsche of Sergio Paulet and the #72 Aston Martin of Florent Grizaud.
With not enough time left on the clock, Elite Motorsport's Tom Emson took victory ahead of the #3 Speedcar Audi and the #36 ProAm Alpine. Her strong performance in race 1 gained Taylor Hagler sixth in ProAm, in a very positive result that saw the #32 machine moving up five places in class from their starting position.
After a positive qualifying, Hagler had another chance to build upon her pace on Sunday - but her streak of bad luck continued: on the first lap, she was hit by a competitor and ended in the gravel at turn 5. The safety car was deployed, with Piana (Hofor Racing by Bonk BMW) leading the pack from the McLaren of Alex Denning and the Autosport GP Alpine of Simon Tirman. Hagler managed to free herself from the gravel trap, but the #32 Porsche had at this point lost two laps. At the restart, Hagler settled in her rhythm and ran at a good pace until the driver change midway through the race, when she handed over to Dakota Dickerson. Meanwhile, the leading duo had pulled away and, when the pit window opened, the top ten stayed out. Micheal Schrey emerged on top of the overall classification after the pit sequence and the Hofor Racing BMW continued to lead the McLaren Artura GT4 with Scott Mitchell now behind the wheel. Michael Schrey took victory in race 2 as well as the 2023 GT4 European Championship title, after a dominant season finale. Dakota Dickerson set good lap times and made up some ground, but had little chances to catch back the pack. He nevertheless capitalized on opportunities and made it across the finish line in P9 in class, still completing the season with a top ten in ProAm despite the first lap incident. "Our car was very well prepared in all races, and we had the pace to get good results. But unfortunately, we had some bad luck" - Dickerson commented. "We just finished our last race - I've done the last five race weekends and it's been a very eye-opening experience I want to say", Hagler summed up. "Definitely European tracks are something different and the competition level is more than we have in the States." "So it was a very good experience for me, and I feel like I gained a lot of knowledge." "I really enjoyed working with W&S Motorsport and everything's been really great", she continued. "It was a learning experience, I learned a new car and new tracks and I'm really looking forward to possibly doing it next year." "Taylor has developed very positively and done a great job", echoed Daniel Schellhaas, Team Principal W&S Motorsport. "In just five race weekends in the GT4 car, she has consistently improved, which makes us look forward to more!" Her busy schedule is not over yet though, as she will head back to the US where she will wrap up the 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season at Road Atlanta, with the Fox Factory 120 race on October 11–14.