GT4 Europe: Podium-worthy pace goes unrewarded for Taylor Hagler in Hockenheim
Taylor Hagler was on course to claim her best finish to date in GT4 Europe at Hockenheim but was crashed out from race 1 in the closing minutes while in fourth place and not far away from a potential first ProAm podium. Despite the unfortunate round, Hagler has progressed significantly round after round in one of the world's most competitive GT series.
Taylor Hagler's first international campaign in GT racing has certainly been a promising one – showing impressive adaptability to a new car and all new tracks, as well as speed to continuously climb the order round after round.
After her first top-10 in the ProAm class in one of the most competitive GT series in the world, Hagler secured her first top three in Misano, at only her third appearance in GT4 Europe.
Returning to Europe after the summer break, Hagler was ready to tackle the Hockenheimring – a circuit with a fast first sector and technical final section which soon proved to fit well the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4.
Having partnered Gustavo Xavier in the previous rounds – replacing the injured Charles Dawson after the Monza season opener – Hagler returned to W&S Motorsport for the final two rounds in an all-new line up after the return of Dawson at Hockenheim. Alongside the young Texan would be fellow US American Dakota Dickerson, for his debut in the series. Dickerson – who also has single seater experience in the States – returns as Taylor's teammate after their highly successful campaign in 2021, when they shared the Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 in GT World Challenge America ultimately finishing Vice-Champions in the ProAm standings.
The all-American duo alternated behind the wheel of the #32 W&S Motorsport Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 at Hockenheim, in a quest to improve on Taylor's top five at the previous round in Misano. And, after the practice session, the target seemed like a very realistic possibility.
Following a not very representative wet practice 1, a 1:48.048 lap in pre-qualifying resulted in a fifth place in class – as well as a highly positive P11 overall – which was a further step forward ahead of qualifying on Saturday morning.
Dickerson contested the first session and managed to finish an outstanding second fastest in ProAm, with a 1:47.581 lap that again put the #32 Porsche Cayman on the doorsteps of the overall top ten in a 44-car field. While Dickerson couldn't maximise his performance on the first qualifying run, a red flag could have potentially been a hurdle for the series rookie – but he could improve in the final minutes claiming second, in a W&S Motorsport 1-2 in class.
In Q2, Hagler was P11 in class, as she would take the start of the second race on Sunday.
Hendrik Still led the pack on the opening lap, on top of both the ProAm and overall classifications. In charge of the start, Dakota Dickerson gained one position overall, settling in P11 and second in ProAm after a hectic but incident-free first lap.
Dickerson had to defend from the #67 Sainteloc Audi of Paul Petit, but was then able to open a small gap and continued to chase the overall top 10 once settled in his rhythm: he gained another place when Ivan Jacoma went off at turn 8, promoting both Dickerson and Ekelchik.
The pit window opened with 35 minutes to go and Dickerson stayed out but eventually lost second in class to the recovering Denis Bulatov on lap 15. The overall and ProAm leader Hendrik Still handed over to Max Kronberg – just as Dickerson pitted and Taylor Hagler took over the #32 W&S Motorsport Porsche 718 Cayman GT4, who rejoined fourth in class and in a superb 15th overall.
Hagler set competitive lap times – among her best from the whole weekend, before the full course yellow was deployed with 18 minutes to go, when Robert Consani tried to find a gap at turn 11 but hit Dante Rappange's Chevrolet Camaro. The race resumed with 12 minutes left on the clock as Max Kronberg held the lead in the #30 W&S Motorsport Porsche.
Hagler defended well and kept fourth in class, followed by the NM Racing Team Mercedes of Aleksandr Vaintrub and Tom Edgar. The driver of the #12 Borusan Otomotiv BMW made an overly optimistic move at turn 8 and hit Taylor Hagler, unfortunately ending her race while she was running a couple of seconds from third place in ProAm.
It was surely a disappointing end to an otherwise hugely positive first race for Hagler and Dickerson, who were looking strong to finish at arm's length from a potential first class podium.
The race then ended under red flag conditions after a big accident in the final sector took out five cars, whose drivers were all unharmed. Max Kronberg and Hendrik Still claimed victory overall as well as in ProAm, ahead of the #22 Allied Racing Porsche and the #110 Autosport GP Alpine.
Dante Rappange tried to bounce back from a disappointing Saturday and started from pole position overall in race 2, while Christiphe Hamon sat on ProAm pole. The whole 40 car field made it unscathed at the infamous Spitzkehre Hairpin, with drivers keeping it clean through the first stages.
Hagler overtook Lukas Mayer for P10 in class on the second lap, then hunted down and passed both Bolting's Overdrive Racing Porsche and the ProAm entry of Jakub Knoll (#16 NM Racing Team Mercedes), showing good racecraft and impressive speed in the first laps.
Taylor continued her progression by passing the #14 Sainteloc Junior Audi of Saleilles and the silver-class Elite Motorsport Mclaren. Now seventh in class, the young American closed in on Vaintrub and Gillion but, on lap 8, she unfortunately saw her race come to a premature end once again when a technical issue first dropped her down the order, then forced her to pit and retire the #32 W&S Motorsport Porsche.
The #22 Allied Racing Porsche took victory in Hockenheim's second race, as Alexander Hartvig and Nathan Schaap preceded Benjamin Lariche/Robert Consani (#3 Team Speedcar Audi) and Hendrik Still/Max Kronberg (#30 W&S Motorsport Porsche) at the chequered flag.
In ProAm, Sainteloc Racing's Gregory Guilvert and Christophe Hamon converted class pole position into victory and secured the class title with one round to spare.
In a season marred by misfortunes, two-time IMSA TCR champion Taylor Hagler has nevertheless progressed significantly in a very short time in her first international campaign and, with one round to go at Circuit de Catalunya on 30 September–1 October, she will be aiming to round out the championship on a high, capitalizing on the improvements made at Hockenheim. Up next, though, it will be the IMSA Battle On The Bricks, a 4-hour contest and penultimate round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season.