Lamborghini ST: Charlie Martin second in North American championship standings
At her debut season in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America, Charlie Martin was second in the LB Class championship standings, rounding out an excellent season with two more pole positions and two podiums at the final weekend in Portimao.
British racer Charlie Martin's debut season in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America was wrapped up last weekend at the Lamborghini World Finals at Portimao, Portugal, in an event that put together all the best teams and drivers from the regional Lamborghini single-make series and culminated in the two world finals on Saturday and Sunday, after the American and European campaigns were completed on Thursday and Friday.
In 2022, Martin shared the Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO2 with rookie teammate Jason Gagne-Keats, at his very first season in motor racing.
Despite the learning curve, Martin and Keats had a very strong season in the LB Cup Championship, collecting several podium finishes in class – and entered the final round of the season in third place in the points' standings.
“I’m excited to take on the world finals at Portimão this weekend" – Charlie commented before the Portuguese weekend. "Our form recently has been great and going into the final race weekend third in the championship means it is all still to play for."
"I couldn't have done this without Jason, so huge thanks to him for such a fantastic season. The goal is to continue pushing to the limit and end this season on a high" – she continued.
Thursday's qualifying saw Patrick Kujala claiming overall pole position, ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr, Loris Spinelli and Danny Formal. In LB Cup, Charlie Martin's weekend was off to a great start, as she set her fourth pole position in class with another outstanding performance on single-lap pace. Keats was equally strong in Q2, securing P3 on the grid for race 2.
In still damp and extremely tricky conditions, Patrick Kujala had the perfect getaway at the start, but the Finn collided with Luke Berkeley – handing the lead of the race at Turn 1 to Nelson Piquet, who had a slow start but took advantage from the drama at the first corner. A few other cars spun in the opening lap, leaving Piquet, Kujala, Spinelli, Johnson and O'Brian in the top five.
Charlie Martin had a good start and started to make up positions in the overall classification.
Loris Spinelli – already champion in the European series – clinched back the lead of the race on lap 4 after forcing his way past Piquet Jr, who could not keep up the pace with the Italian and soon Spinelli pulled away.
After the hectic opening laps, positions settled ahead of the driver change when the clock approached the 20 minute mark.
Spinelli and Piquet were again battling side-by-side after the Brazilian completed his pit stop and rejoined just ahead of the race leader – effectively dropping one lap down. Spinelli, though, would receive a 5 second penalty for abusing track limits. The driver of the #188 Taurino Racing Huracan pitted with 20 minutes to go, as Giano Taurino took over the wheel.
After the round of pit stops, Taurino managed to keep the top spot despite a small mistake on cold tyres, with Piquet losing second to Edoardo Piscopo. Tom Long chased Bryan Ortiz for the ProAm lead, but had 11 seconds to make up for.
Charlie Martin extended her stint to the limits of the pit window, when Jason Gagne-Keats took over in P2 in LB Cup. Keats lost second in class to Slade Stewart and tried to hang on for a class podium.
Second-placed Edoardo Piscopo tumbled down the order with 10 minutes to go – allowing past Piquet Jr and Kyle Marcelli for the overall podium.
Amidst an avalanche of time penalties, Taurino had to keep his gap to Piquet over the 5 second margin. The Brazilian former F1 racer managed to gain a few crucial tenths of a second that resulted in his second win of the season, ahead of Giano Taurino and Kyle Marcelli.
In Pro-Am, Sebastian Carazo/Bryan Ortiz took class honors, preceding Ashton Harrison/Tom Long, with Patrick Liddy/Damon Ockey in third.
When Stewart slipped down in the final laps, Jason Gagne-Keats was able to reclaim second in LB Cup – as Dream Racing Motorsport's duo kicked off the weekend with a class podium, as they brought down the point deficit from 11 to just 3 points ahead of the final race of the North American season.
First race winner Nelson Piquet Jr shared the front row of the grid with Kyle Marcelli. Following a positive Q2 for Jason Gagne-Keats, Charlie Martin's teammate slotted in 23rd place, third in class.
After a damp race 1, the afternoon race that rounded out the North American championship was a fully dry one; Nelson Piquet was quicker on the throttle than in Race 1 and led the pack at Turn 1. Another contact at the hairpin saw Taurino making contact with another car, but everyone completed the first lap mostly unscathed.
Jordan Missig hit trouble with 41 minutes to go, as his #153 WTR came to a halt in the first sector. The race, though, remained green.
Jason Keats had meanwhile made great progress up to second in LB Cup when the #154 Dream Racing Motorsport was spotted limping back to the pits with a tyre puncture that dropped him one lap down.
With 36 minutes to go and with the pit window approaching, Levy Ofir (#113 WTR) spun out and into the tyre barriers. The incident triggered the safety car, but Levy could rejoin the race after a pit stop under caution.
The action was back underway with 22 minutes to go - as the pit window was delayed. Giano Taurino gave way to the fast Loris Spinelli. Most of the field also took the way of the pit lane, including race leader Nelson Piquet Jr. The top 3 in Pro-Am stayed out, just like Kyle Marcelli in the #101 WTR.
After Richard Antinucci – the last of the leading group to pit – had stopped, Loris Spinelli led Danny Formal and Nelson Piquet in the overall classification; from the very back of the pack, Charlie Martin gave it her all to make up ground and was able to charge back to fifth.
Piquet and Kujala battled for the last step of the podium in the closing five minutes of the race, with the Finn having the upper hand on lap 23. Loris Spinelli was unchallenged for the overall victory - as the top three order changed after Patrick Kujala received a track limits penalty that promoted Nelson Piquet Jr back on the podium, behind Danny Formal.
John Dubets crossed the line to take class victory and championship title in ProAm, followed by Carazo and Harrison.
With fifth place in LB Cup, it was ultimately not enough for Charlie Martin and Jason Keats in their title chase; having collected 111 points, Martin/Keats were still able to clinch second place in the LB Cup championship standings, 7 points behind champion Slade Stewart.
A really solid result for both drivers' first season in the series.
"This weekend was a rollercoaster from start to finish." – Charlie Martin commented.
"We gave it everything and took the title fight right to the wire but it wasn't to be as the puncture in Race Two spoiled our chances."
"Nonetheless, achieving P2 in the championship is a great achievement and we couldn't have done it without our amazing team."
GRAND FINALS: Race 1
It was then time to focus on the coveted Grand Finals, with AM and LC class entries from both the North American and European series.
And Charlie Martin delivered once again, with one of the most impressive qualifying sessions of the season that gave the driver of the #154 Huracan ST EVO2 a dominant pole position by over half a second on the closest competitor in class – and eighth overall.
Jordan O'Brien took overall pole in race 1 of the Grand Finals for AM and LC Cup entries, sharing the front row with Gabriel Rindone. Rindone, though, spun at Turn 1, leaving O'Brien, Staab and Chandrasoma in a 1-2-3 for the American entries. Lewandowski quickly made up a position, before the safety car was brought out for the stricken car of Claude Senhoreti, who also had a difficult final races of the North American season.
Charlie Martin held eighth overall and the class lead ahead of Donovan Privitelio and North American class champion Slade Stewart, as the race went back underway with 43 minutes left on the clock. Martin's mission was in fact to open as much gap as possible to the second placed LC class car before the driver change – but the safety car made her task a bit more difficult.
Lewandowski had a great restart and dived on the inside of Turn 4 to grab second place from David Staab. Meanwhile, Jordan O'Brien increased the gap and pulled away.
Fred Roberts and Audrius Butkevicius made contact at Turn 1, with the former being tagged and spun. Both cars could rejoin without neutralization – as overall race leader O'Brien continued to extend his gap before the pit window.
All the front runners in class stretched their stints to the maximum before pitting midway through the race; Charlie Martin handed over to Jason Gagne-Keats from fourth overall, keeping class position. Ron Atapattu also took over from Jordan O'Brien – but despite the big gap, Lewandowski managed to leapfrog his competitor for the overall lead after the round of pit stops.
After a slow stop, Atapattu dropped to sixth, as Nikko Reger and Shehan Chandrasoma moved into podium positions. The action was then neutralized for a big crash involving Bart Collins and Cedric Leimer; after a contact with Gagne-Keats, Leimer spun and was collected by Collins, scattering debris all across the track. While Privitelio - leading LC Cup - was handed a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane, Gagne-Keats had unfortunately slipped to P19 a third in class.
The race was ultimately red flagged to allow the crashed cars to be retrieved, with over 75% of the racing distance being completed.
Andrzej Lewandowski took victory, ahead of Staab/Reger and Shehan Chandrasoma in the AM class. In LC, Privitelio/Privitelio crossed the line as class winners, but a time penalty for not serving the drive through would demote them to P6, behind Slade Stewart.
Martin/Keats finished the first race of the Grand Finals on the podium.
"On a personal level, I was really pleased to achieve two more pole positions to sign the year off - particularly in the World Finals on Saturday." – summed up the British racer.
"Jason drove brilliantly all weekend and we've really come on leaps and bounds as a pairing this year - there's no one else I would have rather have gone through this crazy season with."
Grand Finals: Race 2
The final race of the year – the one that would assign the world titles – saw Jason Gagne-Keats taking the start from P8 in class, 30th overall.
At the final rolling start of the season, Reger had a great getaway, with Lewandowksi making up second place after a good move around the outside on Au, also passed by Chandrasoma. Keats had a cautious start and avoided chaos.
Martin Ryba found the barriers after dropping a wheel on the gravel at Turn 8, but the race remained green.
Despite Lewandowski's fast pace, Reger held a safe 2.5 second gap – which was not under threat even after more off-track excursions by Ryba, Levy and Dvoracek, in a caution-free first stint.
Jason Gagne-Keats, meanwhile, recovered to sixth in LC class – before pitting on lap 12 as soon as the pit window opened. Charlie Martin took over for the final stint of the season.
Lewandowski completed his pit stop on lap 14 and, once Reger pitted one lap later, David Staab had retained the lead, albeit with a smaller gap.
Charlie Martin's charge in LC was underway; the British driver gained a few positions at the start of her stint, moving into fifth in the class led by Gerard Van der Horst.
With 15 minutes to go, the overall leading duo were separated by half a second, starting a battle for the top position that culminated in a brilliant series of position changes. Taking advantage of lapped traffic, Staab managed to gain a bit of breathing space. Lewandowski was back for one last assault on the final lap, but David Staab held off the attack and took victory in Race 2 for Precision Performance Motorsport. Second was enough, though, for the Polish driver to secure the win of the Grand Finals on points. Shehan Chandrasoma had a clean run to finish third in AM.
In the closing minutes, Benoit Semoulin found a way past Van der Horst for the victory in LC Cup – and the title in the Finals – preceding Roberts, Stewart and Charlie Martin. Despite being almost 1 second per lap faster than the cars ahead, Martin couldn't make up more positions and ended the Grand Finals in P5. The OSOM-sponsored Lamborghini Huracan was fourth in the points of the world finals – another important result for the driver pairing, that rounded out an excellent debut season.
"I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Dream Racing, to Jason and the OSOM team, and to all my personal partners" – Charlie commented. "I cannot remember a season I have enjoyed quite as much as this one."