SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM – With the checkered flag waving for McLaren MP4-12C GT3 driver Brian Irby last week at Sebring, the cars and stars of the Red Sox Racing League have already completed the first quarter of the season and now set their sights on the next round of the GT Class Battle Championship. Kicking off the first of two international trips scheduled this season, Round 4, the Eau Rouge 45 will be anything but overlooked as the race takes place at the venerable Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. While advances in aerodynamics, technology like traction control, and the venue’s own changes (Prior to 1981, laps on the Formula One circuit were over twice as long, and used public roads) have taken some of the edge off the intimidating racetrack, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps still demands the respect of every driver the visits the 4.352 mile, 20-turn track. “Auto racing has never been the safest of sports, but this place simply demands your attention from the word go,” said Caribbean Food Delights/TeamLTD BMW Z4 driver James Prostell Jr. to a reporter before the week’s race. “Almost every corner here challenges you to push for more and more speed. I mean, we’re going through Eau Rouge at over 140 miles an hour, and much of the lap we’re running through sweeping corners where your brain wants you to let off the throttle, but you know you can’t or else you’ll just lose too much ground.”
Without fear of losing ground, thanks to an extra drop week awarded to all participants due to widespread issues in last week’s race, heavy hitters from the early part of the season like Team THM teammates Troy Harder and Paul Hesla were nowhere to be found on the reduced 16-car field. While some may find the lacking attendance in the paddock to be a concern, others like BMW Z4 drivers John Koscielniak and Les Turner saw their opportunity to steal the show and wasted no time battling for the spotlight. Earning his first Wil-Trans Pole Position award of the season, Storm Front Racing driver Koscielniak posted a qualifying time of 2:20.963, besting iRacing.com sponsored Turner’s time by less than a tenth of a second, .084 to be exact. The second row was occupied by the fastest qualifying RUFs, driven by Dave Hoffman and Reed Rundell, followed by Joseph Jordan in the fastest of three McLaren MP4 machines, and Brian Irby in another RUF. The close times and long drafting straights meant no lead was safe. At all.
With the drop of the green flag, Koscielniak sprinted into the lead, but after only two laps at the point, Turner hounded the leader and slipped into the top spot with a pass into turn three on lap three. Determined to stay atop the leaderboard, Turner cemented his lead further on the following lap, turning in the fastest lap of the race while Koscielniak and Dave Hoffman in his RUF battled for second. Turner lead the race for 11 laps, maintaining his lead through lap 13, with everything up to this point running to plan as he headed to pitlane for fuel and tires.
His team having calculated its fuel strategy down the last drop, Turner hit pitlane full of confidence, but empty on fuel. “We were sputtering coming into the pits, and the engine even shut off before we got to the box, but I wasn’t worried at all at that point,” recalled Turner. “I knew we’d be able to get the car fired again before the work was done anyway, so I was still happy with where we were.” It was right then that disaster struck for the Toronto native. A week removed from a last lap crash that took away a potential class win, Turner stopped a bit too far forward in his pit stall, and the fuel hose would not reach! The mistake, and the scrambling involved in fixing the situation, resulted in a 37 second stop. “Ouch! Threw away my best chance for a win this season. Whoever said racing isn’t a game of inches!”
Turner’s gaffe was not the only miscue for the day. On a track like Spa, challengers get tripped up early and often. Surprisingly, Eau Rouge didn’t claim any victims this time around, but the first hairpin, La Source, was the source of trouble early for Andrew Gantman. Here, his #07 RUF gets sandwiched between the BMW Z4s of #23 Dennis Griffen and #65 Kevin Kyle.
Griffen’s day would still get a little hairier. A lap later, he found himself under heavy braking for the bus stop chicane, but unfortunately, that wouldn’t be enough. Griffen made heavy contact with Scott Husted’s RUF machine, sending the latter on two wheels before crashing back down on all fours. The incident sent both straight to pitlane. Griffen suffered only minor bodywork damage and could rejoin the fray, but Husted suffered too much suspension damage to continue, classified seventh in class.
With Turner’s pitlane woes and a good pace of his own, RUF Rt-12 Track driver Dave Hoffman found himself inheriting the lead after the pit cycles. The Ohioan showed intention of returning his gift, leading the final six laps on his way to the overall victory. Brian Irby followed in another RUF, while John Koscielniak rounded out the overall podium, taking top honors for the BMW drivers in the process. Joseph Jordan finished fourth overall to take the win for the McLaren MP4 class while Les Turner would round out the overall top 5.
RUF RT-12R Track
1. Dave Hoffman
2. Brian Irby
3. Reed Rundell
4. Andrew Gantman
5. Ed Sutcliff
6. Ronnie Potts
7. Scott Husted
BMW Z4 GT3
1. John Koscielniak
2. Les Turner
3. Dennis Griffen
4. James Prostell Jr.
5. Kevin Kyle
6. William Kabela (Did Not Start)
McLaren MP4-12C GT3
1. Joseph Jordan
2. Divina Galica
3. Brad Vincent (Did Not Start)
Next up, the Red Sox Racing League visits Canada’s Circuit Gilles Villenueve for Round 5 of the GT Class Battle Championship, the Notre Dame 45.