Samantha Tan takes class win at 24H of Barcelona, podiums for Preisig and Clark
The 24H Series spectacle was back with the 24 Hours of Barcelona: Samantha Tan continues her impressive season with yet another class victory, as Jasmin Preisig and Lisa Clark scored podiums in TCR and GT4.
Over three and a half months after the last championship round at Hockenheim, the 24H Series returned to the track for the 24 Hours of Barcelona - the first 24h race after the season opener in Dubai and fifth round of the championship for the spectacular endurance series. As often is the case in the CREVENTIC-promoted championship, several talented women lined up on the field of the Spanish race across the categories. Canadian driver-owner Samantha Tan, at her first international season outside North America, was back behind the wheel of her #438 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4, which she has driven to the 24H of Dubai and in the non-championship race of the 6H of Abu Dhabi, together with co-drivers Chandler Hull, Jon Miller and Nick Wittmer. Strong of a victory and two second places - with an unfortunate retirement at Circuit Paul Ricard - Samantha Tan Racing was third in the GT standings. Joining Tan in the GT4 field at Barcelona was American Lisa Clark. A Ferrari Challenge specialist in North America, where she races a Gulf-liveried Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo from Ferrari Beverly Hills, Clark made the trip to Europe to race in the Ferrari Challenge Europe round at Nurburgring, before heading to Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, for her first appearance in the 24H Series. It was certainly a learning-oriented event for Clark, who also stepped for the first time in the #499 Audi R8 LMS GT4 by Car Collection Motorsport, in her first endurance race, on a never-seen-before racetrack. To make a welcome return in the 24H Series was also Swiss driver Karen Gaillard. The young driver had raced at the two opening races of the 2021 season for French manufacturer Vortex V8, securing a second and a third place at Dubai and Mugello in the GTX category. Gaillard then wasn't back in the Vortex 1.0 car until Barcelona, where she competed alongside Lionel Amrouche, Philippe Gruau and Franck Leone-Provost in the #701 entry. Among the protagonists of the TCR class, Jasmin Preisig started the season in the #112 VW Golf GTI TCR by Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing. After a second place at Dubai, Preisig headed to Mugello with high hopes, but a testing accident by one of her co-drivers ruled out the car for the rest of the weekend. Jasmin - who is also racing in the TCR category of the Nurburgring-based NLS series this year - returned to the grid of the 24H Series at Barcelona, this time in the #1 sister car, together with Emil Heyerdahl, Constantin Kletzer and Roberto Ferri. During Friday qualifying, ST Racing claimed their sixth pole position of the season in GT4, followed in class by the #450 BMW M4 run by RHC Jorgensen-Strom by Century. The #499 Car Collection Motorsport's Audi of Clark-Issa-Westphal-Lechmann started third in class. Karen Gaillard's #701 Vortex didn't have the smoothest weekend and took the start from sixth in class, as the KTM X-BOW GTX cars dominated the field. In TCR, the #1 car of Preisig was second fastest in qualifying, behind the #188 AC Motorsport's Audi RS3 LMS DSG driven by Perrin-Detry-Kaye-Radermecker.
At the race start on Saturday at 12:00 CEST, the #91 Porsche by Herberth Motorsport held the overall lead into Turn 1, ahead of the #22 WTM Racing Ferrari and the #18 Rutronik Racing Audi. Nick Wittmer took the start in the #438 Samantha Tan Racing BMW and held the starting position, as did the other crews with female drivers. Amrouche, behind the wheel of the #701 Vortex, moved up to fifth in GTX. The first plot twist came approximately 30 minutes into the race, with the third-placed #85 CP Racing Mercedes GT3 pushing off the #1 VW Golf Autorama Motorsport of Constantin Kletzer, who ended in the gravel and had to be recovered. It was the first blow to their chances in TCR, as Preisig's team dropped all the way down the order but rejoined. The second Code60 was triggered by the accident of the #16 PCR Sport Ferrari 458 Italia of Marc Carol Ybarra, who emerged unscathed. The timing of the pitstop during the caution promoted the #22 WTM Ferrari to the overall lead, overtaking the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche. The two teams would swap places once again within one hour of racing. In TCE, the pole-sitting #188 AC Motorsport Audi hit trouble in the second hour and lost almost 20 minutes in the pits, but the #112 Autorama Motorsport VW Golf continued to lead from early on in the race. The sister #1 car was then back in the garage with issues, before heading back out after a troubled start. There was drama also for the recovering #701 Vortex: as soon as Leone-Provost got behind the wheel, the French car spun and limped back to the pits, where Gaillard's crew dropped back to seventh in GTX having moved up to third during the first stints. The sister #712 Vortex also spun soon after, tagged by the #85 CP Racing Mercedes. Having caused two collisions, the GT3 car received a 10 second penalty. A third Code60 saw the #978 SpeedLover Porsche being recovered from the gravel at Turn 7 at the end of the second hour. At the end of the third hour, the #1 Autorama Motorsport Golf managed to recover to third place in TCR, with Jasmin Preisig starting her first stint of the day. Lisa Clark was also in the #499 Car Collection Motorsport Audi for the first driving shift, running third in GT4. The overall leaders battled out for position once again, with the #22 WTM Ferrari moving at the top of the leaderboard, before Ralf Bohn attempted to win back the position but Daniel Keilwitz held on. The Herberth Motorsport Porsche would regain the lead during a Code 60 pitstop. Into the fifth hour, a curious caution was brought out by the #278 CWS Engineering Ginetta, that struck a kerb and broke the front left wheel. Track repairs followed. During Jasmin Preisig's stint, the #1 Autorama Motorsport entry made it back to second place, behind the sister #112 car that was having a smooth run in TCR class. Samantha Tan had meanwhile taken over the ST Racing BMW M4; the Canadian continued the flawless run in the class lead, now with almost a 2 lap margin over the second placed #450 RHC Jorgensen-Strom BMW. 8 hours in, the overall lead changed again, as the #22 Ferrari moved past the #92 Porsche, followed by the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche advancing into third place in GT3. After the next round of pit stops, positions were restored and the #85 CP Racing Mercedes reclaimed third. When darkness came onto the Catalan circuit, the #701 Vortex car of Karen Gaillard was back into sixth position in GTX, having gained a few laps to the sister car; the Samantha Tan Racing BMW retained the lead, having extended their gap to 7 laps to the #499 Car Collection Motorsport - temporarily in second - and Preisig, at her diving shift, had brought the #1 Autorama Motorsport Golf to first in TCR during the round of pit stops.
During the always tricky night conditions, the #978 SpeedLover Porsche had another big off at Turn 4, as several cars hit braking issues. Soon after, the #989 MRS GT Racing Porsche of Saif Alamer was off at speed under braking at Turn 1 and impacted with the inside barriers before coming to a halt in the gravel in the run-off. The car was collected with a lot of front-end damage and had to be retired from second place in 991 class, but the driver was uninjured. Another big hit occurred to the #125 Bas Koeten Cupra TCR of Martin van der Berge, who was off and into the tyre wall at Turn 7. The shaken Dutchman emerged from the battered car, luckily unharmed. The night was also a dramatic turn of events for the battle for overall victory: the #22 WTM Ferrari GT3 was wheeled back into the garage with gearbox issues, where it effectively ended its run. Similarly, the #7 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche also retired due to a broken radiator, opening the door to the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche in the lead, followed by the #85 CP Racing Mercedes and the second Herberth Porsche (#92). After 15 hours of racing, ST Racing continued a faultless run in the lead of GT4, 5 laps ahead of the #450 RCH Jorgensen-Strom BMW - hampered by a series of tyre punctures - and 10 laps ahead of the #499 Car Collection Motorsport Audi. The #701 Vortex had moved into 5th place in GTX, and the #1 Autorama Motorsport Golf settled in second place in TCR. In the 16th hour, a change at the lead of GTX saw the #716 True Racing KTM X-Bow stopping on track and handing over class honors to the #724 Reiter Engineering KTM. After a 35 minute stop, the #716 rejoined in third place, having also promoted the #999 RedCamel Racing Porsche. As the race approached the final hours, the #85 CP Racing Mercedes also dropped back, leaving a Herberth Motorsport 1-2 in GT3, almost 3 laps clear of the closest competitor - the #18 Rutronik Racing Audi. Positions in GT4 and TCR were consolidated. With 2 hours and a half to go, Samantha Tan completed her final stint in the #438 ST Racing BMW, before handing over to Jon Miller, left with the task of bringing the car across the line. After 24 intense hours of racing, Herberth Motorsport scored a 1-2, with the #91 of Allemann-Bohn-Renauer-Renauer finishing 6 laps clear of the #92 of Häring-Gonzales-Triller-Seefried-Müller. The #18 Rutronik Audi (Doppelmayr-Kaffer-Erhart-Herberger) was a solid third. Despite a trip to the gravel in the closing 10 minutes, the #17 IDEC Mercedes AMG of Lafargue-Lafargue-Chatin-Minassian was fourth overall.
Reiter Engineering brought home the victory in GTX, ahead of #716 True Racing and the #999 RedCamel Porsche. After an unfortunate race, the #701 Vortex 1.0 of Karen Gaillard was fifth in class. "I am very happy to have received this opportunity", wrote Gaillard, thanking the Vortex Team. "P21 overall and P5 in GTX. This is not the result I wanted but I am happy with my performance", she added. Miller, Hull, Wittmer and Tan had a perfect race to win the GT4 class with an impressive 12 laps gap to the second placed #450 RHC BMW. "An incredible effort by every single person on this team to execute the essentially flawless 24H run here at Barcelona!" - wrote Tan. "Feels so good to get back onto that top step of the podium with my racing family." With two wins and two second places, ST Racing is now back in contention for the overall championship and sits second in the team's GT division - first in GT4. With a second place in the 991 class, the #909 DUWO Racing crew maintained the championship lead. Lisa Clark was third in class at her first 24H Series outing. Jasmin Preisig got behind the wheel of the #1 VW Golf after a stunning recovery and took the chequered flag to finish second in TCR for Autorama Motorsport. The result grants them second place in the championship standings in the TCE division, one point behind the #278 CWS Engineering team and the lead in TCR. With now two rounds to go in the 2021 24H Series championship, the endurance series will move to Sicily for the Coppa Florio 12H at Autodromo di Pergusa. A proper old-style circuit around a lake, Pergusa alternates very fast straights to chicanes - reminiscent of the old Hockenheim layout. The season finale will then see the teams battling out on one of North American most iconic venues, Sebring, for the 24-hour race in mid-November.