Samantha Tan claims multiple 24H Series titles
After a remarkable first international campaign, Samantha Tan and her ST Racing secured a total of six championship titles in the 24H Series, including Overall Teams and Drivers championships. With second place at Sebring, Jasmin Preisig helped the #1 Autorama Motorsport's crew to TCE title.
Samantha Tan Racing's first international season in endurance racing ended with the only North American round of the 24H Series, for the first ever flag to flag 24 hour race at Sebring - one of the Meccas of American endurance racing.
Young driver-owner Samantha Tan showed impressive progress throughout the year: from a victory at the Hankook Dubai 24H in January to a series of podiums and victories overseas, until the long-awaited season finale at Sebring, Tan shared the ST Racing #438 BMW M4 GT4 with co-drivers Jon Miller, Chandler Hull and Nick Wittmer.
With victories at both the Dubai classic and the non-championship race in Abu Dhabi, ST Racing went into the 12H of Mugello targeting the overall GT division leadership - achieved with second place in the GT4 class. At Paul Ricard, Tan and teammates had their only DNF of the season due to a wheel-hub issue, but the stunning Van Gogh-inspired liveried BMW made its return to the podium at the 12H of Hockenheim, where they were again second in GT4.
The victories at the 24H of Barcelona and at the 12H of Hungaroring secured ST Racing the GT4 title - already a massive achievement for a team that had to face the extra hurdles of international travel and Covid restrictions in their first campaign overseas.
23-year-old Samantha Tan thus entered the final demanding round of the season with overall championship ambitions. The first edition of the 24H of Sebring, though, wasn't all plain sailing: following freight issues from Europe to United States - caused by adverse weather - the team's containers reached the famous Sebring Raceway few hours before start of the on-track activities, having already forced the CREVENTIC promoter to move the race one day forward and with a revised schedule.
With practice, qualifying and race in quick succession, ST Racing wasn't caught off guard and claimed their eighth pole position out of eight races this year, as Jon Miller put the #438 BMW M4 on top of the class timesheets. Overall pole position went to the Rutronik Audi of Doppelmayr-Winkelhock-Erhart-Herberger, while Autorama Motorsport - the second team featuring a female racer at Sebring - lined up in second place in the TCE division. Swiss driver Jasmin Preisig, in fact, also had her eyes set on the TCE championship, with the #1 crew in contention for the class and division teams' titles.
To make everything even more challenging, the rain began to fall just as the cars lined up on the grid of the Hankook 24H race, shuffling the team's strategies.
Markus Winkelhock retained the lead in the #18 Rutronik Racing Audi at the start, followed by Brandon Leitch (#10 Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini) and Marco Seefried (#92 Herberth Motorsport Porsche).
Jon Miller - taking the start in the #438 ST Racing BMW - pitted right at the end of the formation lap and dropped down the order, while Jasmin Preisig had a cautious start and slotted in third place in class.
The two Herberth Motorsport Porsches soon gained positions and brought themselves up into the lead - but the Rutronik Audi reclaimed the top spot after the first round of pit stops.
One hour into the race, the new #82 BMW M4 GT3 - making its racing debut - was hit and spun at the hairpin by the #499 Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 GT4, which would receive a penalty for the incident. Both cars spent a long time in the pits for repairs and had their races ultimately compromised.
Jasmin Preisig had a very solid stint in the #1 VW Golf TCR and handed over to Heyerdahl after a 1 hour and 20 minute stint, pitting from third in TCE and second in TCR.
At the same time, Jon Miller charged through the field and recovered to fourth in GT4 during his first stint. The ST Racing driver was consistently the fastest in class and continued to gain on the third placed #423 Heart of Racing Aston Martin. He pitted after 2 hours of racing, when Chandler Hull got behind the wheel during the first Code-60 of the race.
Samantha Tan herself started her first stint four hours into the race, after a double stint by Hull. Fabian Danz stepped in the #1 Autorama Motorsport Golf and rejoined in second place in class after a strong stint by Heyerdahl. The #188 Audi RS3 by AC Motorsport continued to lead in TCE. In GT4, the Nolasport Porsche recovered from an early tyre puncture to regain the class lead.
There was more trouble for the brand-new BMW M4 GT3 when it made contact with the #10 Leipert Lamborghini. Both rejoined, but the Lambo was again in trouble when Dennis Fetzer hit the wall at Turn 13. Less than one hour later, the #10 Leipert Motorsport triggered a second Code-60 when it came to a halt due to a fuel pressure issue.
Having moved into third place during the pit sequence, Tan pitted for fuel and rejoined in P4, while Costantin Kletzer got behind the wheel of the #1 Autorama Motorsport Golf.
In the overall classification, Bohn brought the #92 Porsche back in the lead, ahead of Winkelhock (#18 Rutronik Audi) and the sister Herberth Motorsport 911 GT3 R of Triller.
At the one-fourth distance, Samantha Tan ended her first stint and handed over to Bryson Morris - as the young American racer joined ST Racing for the season finale at Sebring.
During a Code-60 deployed for the #907 Krohn Porsche, Jasmin Preisig got back in the driving seat of the #1 Autorama Motorsport Golf TCR and started her second stint of the day - in a tightly fought race in TCE that saw three cars remaining in the lead lap into the night.
Drama hit the #92 Herberth Motorsport Porsche when it came to a stop at pit entry and lost several laps, handing its sister car the overall runner up position.
Jon Miller continued a determined recovery in the Samantha Tan Racing BMW and moved into P13 overall, fourth in class at the mid-race mark.
A series of Code 60 caused by the #278 CWS Engineering Ginetta TCX interrupted the race during the morning but, as the sun rose over the Florida horizon, positions remained unchanged in the lead: the #18 Rutronik Audi had opened a safe gap over the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche despite having traded positions at the top. The #955 Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors Porsche led the 911 class and moved into third overall making the most out of the Leipert Lamborghinis misfortunes. In GT4, three crew also were battling at a one-lap distance: the #470 Nolasport Porsche and the #423 Heart of Racing Aston Martin, separated by one lap from the Samantha Tan Racing's #438 BMW M4 that had managed to move into third place - and into the top10 - when the Team ACP BMW hit trouble in the early morning. The final stages of the race were defined by a second rain shower - that became a real heavy rain storm. Conditions worsened with 5 hours left on the clock and the race had to be red flagged on safety grounds. Almost one hour later, rain eased and cars hit the track for the final 4 hours of racing. The #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche was placed under the stewards' scrutiny and received a 120-second time penalty for not respecting the pit exit signal when the red flag came out. Renauer had in fact pitted for fuel just as the red flag was waved and rejoined the track. Jon Miller had a stunning restart and cleared the GT4 competition, but had to recover a one lap deficit. He was then able to move into second place with 2 hours and 40 minutes left on the clock, when a technical issue stopped the Heart of Racing Aston Martin. Alex Riberas had just cleared Alex Mayer for the class lead and the Vantage AMR GT4 had to retire from the race. After the Herberth Motorsport's penalty, the #18 Rutronik Racing Audi reclaimed the overall lead and was never challenged until the chequered flag. Doppelmayr-Winkelhock-Erhart-Herberger took a convincing victory, ahead of the #91 Porsche of Bohn-Allemann-Renauer-Renauer and the 911 entry of Broggi-Nicolae-de Castro (Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors). There was more drama in TCE, as the dominant AC Motorsport Audi slowed down in the final hour. Fabian Danz (#1 Autorama Motorsport) closed in, but the Audi was back up to speed and positions were unchanged.
Wittmer and Miller alternated again behind the wheel of the #438 Samantha Tan Racing's BMW M4 and closed the gap to under 30-second in the final minutes, but they had to complete a final stop for fuel that brought the gap back to over a minute. Nevertheless, a second place in class and seventh overall, was enough to gain Samantha Tan and her teammates both the teams and drivers' championships in the overall standings.
“We owe each and every member of our team a massive thank you for consistently working hard and putting in their best effort throughout the season to make it all happen” - Tan said, in what turned out to be an outstanding debut season for her team.
“It definitely wasn't easy and we had our fair share of disappointments, but we never gave up and thankfully it all paid off in the end. Thank you also to BMW M Motorsport and our partners.” - she added.
With three victories and three second places, Tan claimed six championship titles, which included the overall GT division, the GT4 class, the Ladies Cup and Junior Cup.
Herberth Motorsport and Rutronik Racing finished second in the overall team's standings, tied on points and 21 points behind ST Racing.
With second place in TCE, Autorama Motorsport also sealed the team's title, with Jasmin Preisig ending the season in third in the TCE drivers' championship.
As announced a few months ago, Samantha Tan Racing will step up to GT3 machinery in 2022: the Canadian outfit will run two brand-new BMW M4 GT3 in CREVENTIC's 24H Series and will expand its presence in SRO GT World Challenge America.
But it will be a short off-season, as the 24 Hours of Dubai is set to kick off the 2022 24H Series on 13-15 January 2022.