GT Open: Janine Shoffner escapes injuries after Monza shunt
Janine Shoffner's chances to score big points in Monza were crushed in a nasty accident in race 1, where Janine's GetSpeed Mercedes AMG GT3 was collected in a violent crash at the first chicane. Luckily, the Anglo-American was unhurt.
GT Open has seen its female participation significantly growing in 2022, after the debut of Saudi up-and-coming star Reema Juffali, as well as VLN-veteran Janine Shoffner. The last woman to have entered the popular GT3 championship prior to this season had in fact been Beitske Visser, who raced in three events in 2019 alongside her runner-up campaign in W Series. Juffali's switch from single-seater to GT3 has been a success so far, as her own Theeba Motorsport has claimed Pro-Am wins in four occasions and is in contention for the class title. The Austrian round at Red Bull Ring, though was a bittersweet weekend for the Saudi team, as Juffali/Christodolou won race 1 but were crashed out of Sunday's race when another driver plowed into the back of the #18 Mercedes AMG GT3 Evo, which sustained enough damage to rule it out from the next round in Monza. Shoffner, a driver with immense experience of the most challenging racetrack in the world - the Nürburgring Nordschleife - is sharing the #9 Mercedes operated by GetSpeed Performance with Moritz Kranz and is also having a remarkable campaign in International GT Open. The British-American driver took 6 class victories out of 8 races at the Nürburgring-based NLS in GT3 machinery in 2021, and decided to step up to a bigger program in GT Open: her efforts have so far been rewarded, as the duo has claimed four ProAm podiums and were three times in the overall top five, which put the GetSpeed Mercedes in third place in the class standings ahead of the Monza round. With a strong qualifying in difficult weather conditions on Saturday morning, Moritz Kranz qualified fourth - third in ProAm - for the first race of the weekend, as Yannick Mettler (SPS automotive performance) took overall pole position, ahead of Leonardo Pulcini (Oregon Team Lamborghini) and Axcil Jefferies (Kessel Racing Ferrari). The rain continued on throughout the day and at the start of Race 1, conditions were extremely tricky at the Temple of Speed. As lights went out, the Dinamic Motorspot Porsche of Riccardo Cazzaniga - at the team's first outing of the season in GT Open - straight-lined the first chicane, while the #8 Lamborghini driven by Giuseppe Cipriani made contact with Adam Osieka (#786 GetSpeed Performance Mercedes) at turn 1. Both cars had to be retrieved from the gravel trap and the Safety Car was soon deployed. Also championship leader Kevin Gilardoni hit trouble, as he was tagged into a spin by Kranz at the first chicane. Kranz lost two places, but could continue the race.
Mettler led Pulcini and Cazzaniga at the restart, while Kranz traded places with Karol Basz (#777 Olimp Racing Audi), in a heated duel for third in ProAm. Also involved in the battle was the Pro entry of James Roe (Imperiale Racing Lamborghini). A second Safety Car was required when the NovaRace Honda of Liangbo Yao ended its race stuck in the gravel at the second chicane, 40 seconds away from the pit window opening. The pit lane remained closed during the neutralization - and it meant further trouble for the Oregon Lamborghini of Kevin Gilardoni, who picked up a puncture for debris and thus had to pit twice. The green flag with 32 minutes to go saw the leading drivers extending their stints, while others pitted: the leaders were in with 23 minutes to go: Dexter Müller inherited the leading Mercedes, Hites was behind the wheel of the Oregon Team Lambo and Cazzaniga handed over to Klaus Bachler in the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche. After the pit stops, though, it would be the Kessel Racing Ferrari of Roman Ziemian to emerge in front, due to the success penalties. Janine Shoffner got behind the wheel of the #9 GetSpeed Performance Mercedes AMG GT3 Evo and rejoined in P5 overall, fourth in ProAm. Soon after, though, Alberto Di Folco went off at Parabolica, triggering the third Safety Car of the day. Conditions had worsened, as a spin under Safety car by Leo Loucas proved. The race resumed for the final 12 minutes - and it was yet another messy restart: David Fumanelli, who had taken over from a very solid Murat Cuhadaroglu in the #133 Kessel Ferrari, emerged from the chaos and charged from seventh to fourth overall. Shoffner went deep into La Roggia chicane - rejoining ninth - as Bachler attacked Ziemian for the overall lead at Ascari. The experienced German had just cleared the Ferrari, when a big crash at Turn 1 halted the action: Marcin Jedlinski (#777 Olimp Racing Audi) crashed heavily into the side of the #9 Mercedes of Janine Shoffner, then also collecting the Lamborghini of Glenn Van Berlo. The red flag was immediately deployed and the race called. Shoffner walked out unassisted at first, but was then brought to the medical centre. She would be transferred to the local hospital for further checks and released in the evening. While the car was damaged beyond repair, Janine was luckily okay and was present in the team's garage on Sunday.
The #9 crew, though, could not enter the second race, as the chassis will have to be scrapped.
"I am okay, a bit sore but okay" - Janine Shoffner told us on Sunday. "It was a big hit", she continued. "I went to the hospital for checks, as my vision blacked out for a moment after the crash."
"The chassis is done, but at least I'm alive", she summed up.
Bachler/Cazzaniga won at debut for Dinamic Motorsport, while Osborne/Moss were back on the highest step of the podium in Sunday's race 2, when the Optimum McLaren returned to victory and in the championship fight following further drama for the Oregon Lamborghini of Van Berlo.
After a tough weekend for Janine Shoffner and Moritz Kranz, the drivers of the #9 GetSpeed Mercedes now drop to fourth in the ProAm championship standings - with Juffali/Christodolou going from second to fifth in the points' table.
Both teams are mathematically still in contention for the class championship title ahead of the final double-header: hopefully, both cars will be back on the grid at Barcelona, on 15-16 October.