top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureRACERS

GTWC America: Samantha Tan wins twice at COTA

Samantha Tan and teammate Neil Verhagen enjoyed a perfect race meeting at Circuit of the Americas, where the ST Racing duo swept the weekend with a pair of dominant ProAm wins at the third round of the GT World Challenge America championship.


Samantha Tan, ST Racing,, BMW M4 GT4, 2024 GT World Challenge America, Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: Fabian Lagunas / SRO

Coming off their first class win of the season at Sebring, Samantha Tan and teammate Neil Verhagen enjoyed a perfect race meeting at Circuit of the Americas, where the ST Racing duo swept the weekend with a pair of dominant ProAm wins at the third round of the GT World Challenge America championship.


At the wheel of the #38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT3, Tan and Verhagen were the absolute stars of the ProAm field and also collected two overall podiums, as they consistently ran at the top-end of the field showcasing once again the talent and competence which has characterized the Canadian squad throughout the last few years in the burgeoning world of sports car racing.


Samantha has so far stepped on the class podium in every single race of the 2024 GT World Challenge America campaign, starting from two second place finishes at Sonoma, to a win and a third place at Sebring - where she came a few seconds short of another win after recovering from an early drive through. The #38 crew has been the team to beat, and this was again on full display at COTA, where Samantha and factory driver Neil Verhagen were unchallenged in the Texas heat.


In the first practice session, Verhagen and Tan were second fastest in class, only behind the #91 Regulator Racing Mercedes driven by Philip Ellis and Jeff Burton who also led the overall classification. The second session saw extremely close gaps, with 12 cars being covered by one second: the #29 Turner Motorsport BMW topped the timing sheets and, only three tenths adrift, Tan and Verhagen followed in fifth among the ProAm entries.


It was then Samantha's turn to get behind the wheel for her qualifying session - and the driver/owner did not disappoint, setting a 2:04.699 that placed her third in the ProAm field and sixth overall. AF Corse's Riccardo Agostini took pole position, ahead of Philip Ellis - two Pro drivers that would attempt the reverse strategy in the races. Samantha was in fact the highest Am-ranked driver, having shown great speed at the 5.513 km technical circuit, home to the US GP.


In Q2, Verhagen took over driving duties and secured pole position overall - for the second time this season - with an untouchable 2:03.137, a little over 2 tenths faster than the #29 Turner Motorsport BMW driven by Robby Foley.


Samantha Tan, ST Racing,, BMW M4 GT4, 2024 GT World Challenge America, Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: Fabian Lagunas / SRO

The great qualifying efforts for both ST Racing drivers were then followed by equally impressive runs in the races.

Tan took the start in Saturday's race and was quick to seize the opportunity to climb the order at turn 1, when a multi-car contact saw pole-sitter Philip Ellis making contact with the #93 Racers Edge Acura of Luca Mars - with also George Kurtz being involved in the chaotic accident. Agostini took the inside line and could retain the overall and ProAm lead, while the two ST Racing BMWs followed closely in second and third, with Bill Auberlen leading the Pro class.


Having gained three positions with a perfect evasive action, Samantha was setting purple sectors and was a few tenths fastest than her Pro teammate ahead; Alex Udell - making his first start in the series in the DXDT Chevrolet - was trailing behind and eventually found a way past Samantha on lap 3; the #38 ST Racing BMW, however, retained second in ProAm.


Ahead, Riccardo Agostini pulled away and opened a 6 second gap over the first laps,

Tan was again glued to the back of the #63 Corvette of Udell as the battle for the Pro lead was fully underway; after a lengthy and spectacular battle, Udell grabbed the lead and Samantha now had the opportunity to leapfrog her teammate for third overall.


The Canadian was in fact almost a second per lap faster in clear air and she continued to match Udell's times, extending the gap to the closest ProAm competitor behind as soon as she cleared Auberlen.


After the first lap incident, both Kurtz and Ellis were making up ground from the back of the field; Ellis set the fastest lap by over half a second and climbed to eighth overall, having also served a drive through for the contact.

Samantha, though, kept her consistent pace and was faster than any other ProAm entry bar race leader Riccardo Agostini - some 20 second up the road - and Ellis.


The pit window opened and Kurtz pitted with 50 minutes to go; Udell, Tan and Pedersen pitted one lap later and BMW factory driver Neil Verhagen took over the #38 ST Racing BMW after a spectacular first part of the race for Samantha, the only female driver on the grid.


Ellis extended his stint and moved all the way up to second overall, before he pitted on lap 23. At that point, Verhagen was on a mission: by lapping in the 2m05, he reclaimed third overall and second in class when Agostini pitted from the lead with 40 minutes to go. The AF Corse crew endured a tricky pit stop and Custodio Toledo found himself in the lead, although with a gap now cut to only around 5 seconds.


Verhagen set purple sectors and snatched the ProAm race lead on lap 27, as Toledo had also lost the overall top spot from Tommy Milner's DXDT Chevrolet. Once ahead, Verhagen stretched his legs and also marginally closed in on Milner, although positions settled.


In the closing stages, the #19 Esses Racing Mercedes went off at turn 1, but the race remained green. With a handful of laps to go, Verhagen kept the gap stable to both Milner ahead as well as Trent Hindman (RS1 Porsche) behind, and crossed the finish line taking a controlled victory in ProAm and an overall second place.

The second win of the year promoted Samantha Tan and Neil Verhagen to the top spot in the class championship standings.


Samantha Tan, ST Racing,, BMW M4 GT4, 2024 GT World Challenge America, Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: Fabian Lagunas / SRO

After such a performance from sixth on the grid on Saturday, the mission for Sunday's race was clear: replicate the result capitalizing on Neil Verhagen's overall pole position.

The ST Racing driver had a great start at the green flag, with the Turner Motorsports' BMW of Robby Foley slotting behind at the uphill iconic first corner. Foley, though, grabbed the lead into turn 12 with a clean move on the first lap, and then set the fastest lap as he tried to pull away.


Verhagen tried to respond back one lap later and kept up with the #29 BMW M4 GT3 but couldn't quite get close enough to Foley - although he extended his gap to Colin Braun's Mercedes, third overall and in ProAm.


While Verhagen continued to lap within one tenth to his personal best, he couldn't quite challenge Robby Foley and the gap remained stable over the first ten laps of the race.

The leading duo pulled away from the rest of the pack and, one lap after the other, Verhagen was gaining a few hundredths - ultimately bringing the gap under the one second as the pit window approached.


But the second win of the weekend was now all in Samantha Tan's hands, as she took over from second and got back out on track just behind Justin Rothberg. The young woman was faster and immediately attacked the Turner Motorsport car, attempting a pass into turn 1 which she had to back out from.


But Samantha's speed was so evident that the Canadian had to quickly clear her opponent to pull away, as Adam Adelson and Alec Udell were closing in, battling between each other for the Pro win. After a few laps of close duel, Tan saw a gap and took it - climbing into the overall lead with a stunning move with 31 minutes to go.


Once ahead, Tan was one full second faster than Rothberg and drove away, also gaining over direct ProAm rival George Kurtz, fifth overall and around five seconds down the road. Samantha matched the Pro cars just behind her and, with a new personal best of 2:06.804 on lap 32, she continued to run unchallenged in the overall lead.


Udell overtook Adelson for second overall and eventually took over the overall lead, with Samantha crucially retaining the ProAm top spot: Kurtz was now 11 seconds behind, catching Rothberg for second. Samantha, however, kept up the pace, never made a mistake and ran on par with Adam Adelson; the gap to Rothberg and Kurtz continued to grow - as the two fought for position.


After another perfect stint, Samantha Tan crossed the finish line as the ProAm leader, third overall, 23 seconds clear of the closest class competitor to round out an utterly dominant weekend for ST Racing.


By battling among the pros in both race 1 and race 2, Samantha showcased once again the stellar step forward made in the last couple of seasons of GT3 racing: with the help of a competent team and an expert teammate, Tan has developed immensely and her talent was on full display at COTA. The result further cemented the duo in the ProAm lead, as they now enjoy a 18 point margin to second-placed Kurtz/Braun after three of the seven scheduled rounds.


Teams will have to wait 19-21 July for the next round, as SRO America championships return to the track at VIRginia International Raceway in two month's time.


Samantha Tan, ST Racing,, BMW M4 GT4, 2024 GT World Challenge America, Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: Fabian Lagunas / SRO

0 comments

Commentaires


bottom of page