"We're excited to continue learning the Ferrari 488 GT3 and continue building on all the learning experiences we got this weekend." - Despite an early DNF after being hit by a competitor at the start, Samantha Tan and her ST Racing teammates were quickly up to speed in an unbelievably competitive 55 car field.
Samantha Tan made her debut in SRO Europe in 2022, as she took the start in her first 24 Hours of Spa. It was her first GT3 competition at the top-end level of the sport, and at only her first season of GT3 following a very successful campaign in GT4. Nevertheless, Tan and her Samantha Tan Racing team had a strong race at the GT World Challenge Europe flagship event, claiming a solid ninth place in the silver class. Tan returned for a full-season in GTWC America, at the wheel of her beautiful BMW M4 GT3 that she brought to a first global success for the brand new model in March 2022 at the 12H of Mugello. In 2023, she is partnering factory driver John Edwards - and the duo claimed pole position at the season opener at Sonoma. But the Canadian driver/owner also announced a return to the European championship, thanks to a partnership with Rinaldi Racing: Samantha would drive the #38 Ferrari 488 GT3 alongside Jon Miller and Isaac Tutumlu Lopez in the Endurance Cup. While Tan had raced - and won - in Ferrari machinery in the Ferrari Challenge North American series, the Monza season opener was a complete debut at the helm of the 488 GT3 machine, which she had only tested once at the Prologue. "This was our first time in Monza - and only my second time in the car. I had one test day at Paul Ricard one month ago", Samantha told us. Due to a technical issue, the mileage at Le Castellet turned out to be quite limited and the Samantha Tan Racing by Rinaldi crew had a big task to get up to speed at the 3-hour race in Monza, in a 55 car field on one of the fastest circuits in the world. Tan and her teammates - a long-time part of the ST Racing family as well as a new member - progressively made big improvements through the sessions: they got up to speed on the technical Monza circuit and, after the Pre-Qualifying session on Saturday, the drivers of the #38 Ferrari sat in fourth place among the ProAm class. Qualifying was scheduled for Sunday morning but power outages at the track initially delayed the session and then caused the cancellation of Q3. Still, Q1 and Q2 went underway, with Tutumlu Lopez setting the second fastest lap in class in Q1 and Samantha Tan the fourth time in Q2, in an incredibly close category where the top four were separated by thousands of a second. The grid was set on the combined lap times of the two qualifying sessions and ST Racing lined up P4 in ProAm. Tan was the elected driver to start the race in the first stint and, when the lights went out, she had a good getaway on the run towards the tricky Prima Variante. Unfortunately, the #38 Ferrari 488 GT3 did not even make it to turn 1, having been pushed onto the grass on the left side of the straight, before being hit and sent into the wall by the #3 Getspeed Mercedes. While the car sustained big damage at the front, Samantha was luckily unharmed but out of the race. Albeit a disappointing start of the season - and with no fault of her own - there were still positive takeaways from the first round of 2023 European season. "The positives of the weekend were that we got up to speed quite quickly", she told us. "We have a new teammate, Isaac [Tutumlu Lopez] and he's been amazing and a great addition to the team. Overall we were all pretty close in times, so I think we got our bearings pretty quickly." "We still have a little more to learn, but overall I think it's an absolute privilege to be racing in this series and to be able to race against the top teams and the top drivers in the world basically. It's a very competitive field and, even though we were not able to really start the 3 hours of Monza we're very excited for the rest of the season." Tan's impressive racing schedule means that she is already looking ahead to the second round of the GTWC America season, held at NOLA Motorsports Park next weekend. At the same time, she is also set to take the start in selected NLS races at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Tan will be back at the second round of the GTWC Europe Endurance Cup on 2-4 June, at Circuit Paul Ricard. "We're excited to continue learning the Ferrari 488 GT3 and continue building on all the learning experiences we got this weekend."