Samantha Tan claims first ever GT World Challenge Europe victory
Showing class-leading speed throughout the weekend, Samantha Tan Racing converted their first pole position in class into a dominant victory at Circuit de Barcelona, with Samantha Tan scoring her maiden GT World Challenge Europe victory with a lights-to-flag win in Pro/Am to round out her European campaign.
Samantha Tan scored her maiden GT World Challenge Europe victory with a dominant lights-to-flag performance at Circuit de Barcelona. Leading all but one lap of the three hour contest, Tan alongside teammates Isaac Tutumlu Lopez and newcomer Lorcan Hanafin displayed impressive speed throughout the weekend and were consistently the Pro/Am team to beat.
After the ST Racing with Rinaldi team claimed their first series pole position in qualifying, the trio of drivers excelled in tough conditions to claim top honours in class by a margin of almost a minute.
Samantha has been a regular podium finisher in the Pro/Am class of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and was aiming to continue this momentum with Lorcan Hanafin making his ST Racing with Rinaldi debut, replacing Jon Miller.
With Isaac Tutumlu Lopez having recent experience of the Circuit de Barcelona in the 24H Series, it was a strong lineup in which to challenge for their maiden victory of the season. A second place result in the concluding paid test session on Friday indicated the speed of the trio and they were aiming to build upon this as the official running began on Saturday.
Saturday’s track time included two further practice sessions for the ST Racing with Rinaldi team to fine tune a setup ahead of qualifying. A pair of second place Pro/Am class results underlined the strong performance of all three drivers and translating this into one-lap pace would be the next target.
Samantha was the first driver on-track Sunday morning as she took part in Q1 for the ST Racing with Rinaldi team. A fourth place effort in the Pro/Am class was a good start, with the Canadian driver continuing to gain experience of the Circuit de Barcelona. Isaac had shown excellent speed throughout the weekend and this was replicated in Q2 where he was the fastest driver in class, lapping quicker than all but one of the Silver class drivers to underline his pace.
Debutant Hanafin was equally impressive, finishing Q3 second in the Pro/Am class, while his fastest lap placed him within the top-10 of the overall classification. This fantastic effort from all three drivers saw them claim Pro/Am pole position for the first time in the team’s history, less than two tenths of a second ahead of Barwell Motorsport.
Samantha took the start in the Ferrari 296 GT3 and did a superb job to negotiate the opening lap as drivers from other classes were keen to move through the field. Tan’s composure allowed her to maintain the Pro/Am class lead, before fighting off the challenge posed by Adam Balon in the early exchanges. Quickly finding her rhythm, Samantha held her own surrounded by bronze rated drivers and remained in the lead following a full course yellow and subsequent safety car period.
Judging the restart well, Samantha ensured the ST Racing with Rinaldi team maintained the class lead and following a second safety car period shortly after, the pit window was open for Tan to hand over to Isaac Tutumlu Lopez. Pitting at the first available opportunity, a fantastic stop allowed Tutumlu Lopez to remain in the lead of the Pro/Am class while gaining ten overall positions.
Restarting around a number of fast drivers, Isaac used his experience to maintain the class lead and even gained one further spot on lap 32. This was crucial in putting as many cars between himself and second placed Pro/Am class driver Rob Collard. Despite racing in heavy traffic during the majority of his stint, Tutumlu Lopez drove smartly and although dropping several overall positions as the next pit window closed in, he maintained the Pro/Am class lead with a sizeable advantage over the Barwell Motorsport team.
On lap 60, Isaac handed over to Lorcan Hanafin for his first stint as an ST Racing with Rinaldi driver. Hanafin’s qualifying pace was immediately replicated in the race as he came within a few tenths of a second of setting the overall fastest lap of the race. The speed shown by the team was then further rewarded when safety car period led to the team being the only Pro/Am class car on the lead lap. This was testament to the speed shown by Samantha and Isaac in the opening two stints to maintain both a fast and consistent pace.
With fluid on the track, the safety car period was extensive and with Lorcan being the only Pro/Am driver on the lead lap as the race restarted with 25 minutes remaining, his main aim would be to avoid incident finish the race strongly.
Contending with a further restart in the closing stages, the British debutant dealt with the class-leading pressure superbly, even gaining a number of overall positions as the race reached its conclusion. Claiming Pro/Am victory by almost a full minute, the ST Racing with Rinaldi team took the checkered flag in impressive fashion and rounded off a brilliant debut campaign in the GT World Challenge Endurance Cup.
Samantha’s progress throughout the 2023 season has been remarkable, with the Canadian driver showing excellent speed in both the BMW M4 GT3 and Ferrari 296 GT3. Showing class-leading speed throughout the weekend, the ST Racing with Rinaldi team converted this into a dominant victory at Circuit de Barcelona.
All three drivers played a vital role in achieving a landmark victory, with Samantha’s attention now focused on closing out the GT World Challenge America season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The final round of the championship takes place in less than a week’s time, with Tan and teammate Neil Verhagen aiming to fight for class victories.