Samantha Tan leads overall after Mugello 12H Part 1
Having started from second place, Samantha Tan Racing took the lead on the first lap and managed to navigate untroubled through the first 5.5 hours of the CREVENTIC's Mugello 12H, as they lead overall at the break. Jasmin Preisig had a great recovery and led the TCE field at her first stint, ultimately bringing the #116 Audi to third in class.
On Friday, Samantha Tan Racing completed qualifying with second place overall and earned a front row start for the 12 Hours of Mugello. 24 hours later, the Canadian team is fighting for an even bigger achievement, as Samantha Tan, Nick Wittmer and Bryson Morris are leading overall after a brilliant (nearly) half race by the whole Canadian team.
Nick Wittmer was able to pass the pole-sitting #18 Phoenix Audi R8 at Turn 2 after a great getaway – the Canadian held the lead comfortably until the 30 minute mark, when Pierre Kaffer (Phoenix Audi) closed the gap and made the most out of a series of lapped cars to reclaim the first place.
Soon after, though, the first Code-60 of the day was deployed when the 703 Vortex V8 came to a halt on track. Wittmer pitted for fuel, while Kaffer opted to stay out; ST Racing’s strategy therefore went off-sequence, leading to a series of leader changes in between pit stops.
It was an unbelievably troubled race for front-runner Herberth Motorsport: the German squad saw Robert Renauer pitting with a puncture in the first minute of the race and then received a 60-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
The #91 Porsche 911 GT3 R was back in the mix when Herberth Motorsport perfectly timed a Code-60 refuelling – but it would later be involved in several contacts and trip to the gravel.
David Gostner (#58 MP Racing Mercedes AMG GT3) had started from P11 overall and fifth in GT3-Am after yesterday’s qualifying; the Italian had a good start and immediately gained a few positions, but an off-track moment on lap 2 brought him back just outside the top-ten.
At the one-hour mark, both Corinna Gostner (#58 Mercedes) and Jasmin Preisig (#116 Wolf-Power Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR) started their first stints into the race.
Preisig was by far the fastest of her crew in qualifying and managed to slot in third place on the starting grid of the TCE division. Marcus Menden got behind the wheel at the race start and Preisig inherited the #116 entry in fourth in TCR.
A second Code-60 was caused by the leading TC class car – the Hofor Racing by Bonk BMW M2 of Reiner Partl – and the #34 Car Collection Motorsport Audi driven by Elmar Grimm, who made contact and ended in the gravel at Turn 1.
During a third – albeit shorter – neutralization, Wittmer pitted from the overall lead and handed over to Bryson Morris after a few great passes on track.
Jasmin Preisig was also making up positions; the Swiss driver would eventually advance into the TCR and TCE lead. Meanwhile, Corinna Gostner had a solid run, moving into fifth place overall and fourth in GT3-Am. Unfortunately, the timing of a Code-60 revealed to be costly for the Gostners, who had a longer stop when the #912 Lorient Racing Porsche went off.
Bryson Morris (#1 Samantha Tan Racing BMW) stayed out and, once the Kessel Racing’s Ferrari pitted, he would return to the top spot.
A series of big accidents saw Bob Herber hitting the tyre barrier at Turn 15 in the #6 Bas Koeten Bentley – likely due to a ABS issue – and the #955 Ebimotors Porsche of Fabrizio Broggi, who went off at speed at Turn 13. The leading 911 class Porsche was beyond repairable and Ebimotors retired, but most importantly Broggi was unhurt.
In between, there were several other Code60 interruptions, including a few spins in the gravel by the #912 Lorient Racing Porsche, the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche and the #34 Car Collection Motorsport Audi.
With two hours left on the clock to Part 1, Samantha Tan got in the driving seat for her first stint of the day; with a flawless run, Samantha always maintained the overall lead, perfectly managed traffic and kept it clean to hand back over to Nick Wittmer for the final 45 minutes of the first part.
After her pit stop, Martin Konrad in the #25 Mann-Filter Team Landgraf Mercedes inherited the lead, followed by the #85 CP Racing Mercedes. The latter had a scare in the closing minutes when it slowed down, before getting back up to speed.
Ivars Vallers had taken over from Jasmin Preisig at Wolf-Power Racing, but the Swiss lady was back in again for the final stint as she climbed back to third in class.
Thomas Gostner and Giorgio Sernagiotto succeeded Corinna Gostner in the #58 MP Racing Mercedes AMG GT3; thanks to a clean run, the team managed to slot into seventh place overall and retained third in GT3-Am.
When the chequered flag fell on the first 5 hours and a half of racing – with the sun already behind the Tuscan hills and the night approaching – Nick Wittmer crossed the finish line to secure first place at the (almost) half-race mark.
He was followed by the #25 Mercedes AMG by Mann-Filter Team Landgraf and the Phoenix Racing Audi R8 as cars now enter parc fermé.
“Everybody today drove great stints – Nick [Wittmer], Bryson [Morris] and I just tried to keep the car clean and we just basically ran laps" – commented driver/owner Samantha Tan on Saturday evening. “We started in P2 today, but we ended in P1, so we’re just hoping to do it all again tomorrow and bring the car home in first overall.”
“I just tried to run consistent laps”, she continued. “I started on my qualifying tyres, so they degraded a bit over the course of my stint, but overall I just tried to keep it consistent and it paid off.”
In TCE, 24H of Dubai winners BBR lead in the Cupra Leon, preceding the Holmgaard Motorsport’s VW Golf GTI TCR and the #116 Wolf-Power Racing Audi of Jasmin Preisig.
The #104 NOKER Racing Team VW Golf that had led early on in the race thanks to a daring fuel strategy follows in fourth place in class.
While they stormed to class and overall title last year – at their first international campaign outside North America – Samantha Tan Racing is hunting down the overall victory for the first time in 24H Series.
The 12H of Mugello will resume for its final 6.5 hours on Sunday morning at 09:00 local.