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Samantha Tan Racing fights through adversities to finish P6 in 8H of Indy

"This was a season of immense growth and development" - Samantha Tan completed her racing season with a challenging 8 Hours of Indianapolis, where her team battled with a fuel rig issue and a slow puncture that hindered the strategy; nevertheless, ST Racing fought through adversities and secured fourth in the ProAm championship.


Samantha Tan, Samantha Tan Racing BMW M4 GT3, GT World Challenge America, 2023 8 Hours of Indianapolis
Photo credits: Stephen Fisher / www.xynamic.com

Samantha Tan Racing completed its 2023 racing program by securing fourth in the GT World Challenge America ProAm championship standings - just missing out on third by one single point after a combative 8 Hours of Indianapolis.


The Canadian outfit battled through a challenging season finale - the only endurance race on the GT World Challenge America's calendar - to come home with sixth in the ProAm class, having encountered some technical issues that hampered an otherwise flawless run by its three drivers.


While an unfortunate first part of the season marked Samantha Tan Racing's second campaign in the American division of GT World Challenge, the team bounced back with superb performances in the second half, where driver/owner Samantha Tan and new addition to the team Neil Verhagen stormed to a streak of five consecutive podium finishes, including a win in class at Road America and a second place overall at VIRginia International Raceway.


Verhagen and Tan were joined at the Racing Capital of the World by series rookie Jake Walker, who contested the first race with ST Racing as well as in GT3 machinery - and soon found himself at ease behind the wheel of the #38 BMW M4 GT3.

The team was fastest among the ProAm entries and carried momentum into qualifying, where Verhagen was second fastest in class and put the #38 machine in the overall top-ten.


Samantha Tan therefore had the opportunity to contest the pole shootout session, where she shared the track with some of the fastest GT3 racers in the world.

“The weekend started off strong for us, despite a lack of testing and limited practice time due to the weather", Samantha commented. "Jake and I got up to pace pretty quickly and we made the top 10 shootout in qualifying. I qualified in the shootout for the first time, putting us 10th on the grid and 3rd in class for the start."


At lights out, Alfred Renauer kept the lead in a clean start through turn 1 and 2, but Philipp Eng managed to snatch the top spot in the #30 WRT BMW over the first lap. From third in ProAm, Samantha Tan had a smart start and avoided contacts; having been forced on the outside line for most of the first lap, she slotted behind Philip Ellis’ DXDT Mercedes and defended from the #007 Aston Martin, driven by Derek De Boer in the opening stint.


Fourth in ProAm, Samantha Tan had solid pace and always stayed out of trouble. She extended her margin to the Wright Motorsport's Porsche behind before the first round of pit stops at the one hour mark. ST Racing performed its first driver change and Jake Walker got behind the wheel after a really solid run for Tan.


Walker impressed on his debut and soon caught up with Ashton Harrison - who he would overtake for overall position while navigating traffic of both lapped cars as well as the overall leaders. Walker had made his way up to third in class when, with 6 hours and 23 minutes to go, the first and only safety car of the race was deployed for the stranded Mercedes of Jeff Burton at Turn 3: every team used the opportunity to pit for the second time.


Chandler Hull took the overall lead by staying out, while both Maxime Martin and Dries Vanthoor - now at the wheel of the #30 WRT BMW - had pitted. Vanthoor and Martin, though, both cleared Hull at the restart. With a perfect pit stop, ST Racing moved up to second in the ProAm class. While both Callum Ilott and Eddie Cheever would eventually get by, the 17-year-old driver of the #38 BMW M4 GT3 held his own at the end of the second hour.


Samantha Tan, Samantha Tan Racing BMW M4 GT3, GT World Challenge America, 2023 8 Hours of Indianapolis
Photo credits: Stephen Fisher / www.xynamic.com

As the third hour approached, Neil Verhagen took over the ST Racing BMW and the BMW factory driver soon set the team's fastest laps. After the pit cycle, Verhagen had climbed back to fourth and continued to run as one of the fastest drivers in class; unfortunately, a malfunctioning fuel rig issue started to influence the team's strategy: carrying only about half of the fuel, pit stops would need to be more frequent, sending the #38 BMW off sequence.


A 10-second penalty for an inadvertent pitlane infraction also had to be served, but the team continued to push through and Samantha Tan got back behind the wheel for her second stint of the day. Samantha ran fourth in class and solidly in the top ten overall, but a slow puncture further hindered her stint.


After another one hour stint, Samantha kept it on track and alternated behind the wheel with Jake Walker, who took over from eighth in class during the pit cycle. Walker had a solid run and made up positions, recovering to fifth in class. The team, though, continued to deal with the fuel rig issue and would need a caution to avoid exceeding Verhagen's last stint time.


Neil was in fact back onboard with a little over 2 hours to go, and attempted yet another recovery. A major development shook up the order in the overall classification: Augusto Farfus crashed out from the lead when he made contact at turn 1 with the lapped #33 Triarsi Ferrari. The accident left the sister #30 BMW in the lead, after Eng had found a way past Gounon in the previous hour. The race, though, remained green.


Verhagen was on a mission and brought back the ST Racing BMW to fourth in class, before he had to pit again with 1 hour and 10 minutes to go. The sun went down and Neil hunted down the third-placed car and clinched the overall top ten in the closing minutes.

With the caution not materializing, unfortunately the team was handed a post-race time penalty for the stint time, which dropped Tan, Verhagen and Walker to sixth in class.


"During the race, we all had great stints but didn’t quite get the result we deserved as a team", said Samantha after the proving race. "We had a few unlucky moments - a broken fuel rig and tire leaks - that led to longer pit stops and silly infringements. We crossed the finish line 6th in class."


"Nevertheless, this was a season of immense growth and development", she added. "We’ve come a really long way from last year with 1 pole, 1 win and a number of podiums, fastest laps and hard charger awards and look to continue the momentum for next year. A special thank you to our partners, BMW Motorsport, Motul and SK8 Biotech!”


It was indeed a season of many achievements for Tan, who contested a combined programme Stateside as well as in Europe, where she claimed her first class podiums and wins. With strong performances in both qualifying and races, Tan and Verhagen were arguably the driver pairing to beat in the second half of the season and, while the Canadian team missed out on the third spot in the championship for one single point, Samantha will be pleased by her immense progress and will be looking to build upon this successes as her team continues to climb the ranks of international sportscar racing.

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