ENCOURAGING DEBUT FOR ST RACING’S DUO OF BMW M4 GT3S IN DUBAIadmin
ST Racing’s defense of the 24H SERIES Overall GT Teams’ and Drivers’ championships got off to a positive start at the 2022 Hankook 24H DUBAI, despite some character-building complications to contend with during the Dubai Autodrome’s annual 24-hour endurance event.
For 2022, ST Racing makes the step up from GT4, in which the Canadian team also secured class honours in the drivers’ and teams’ ranks in a successful maiden campaign, to GT3 with two brand-new BMW M4 GT3s. While some mechanical and on-track stumbling blocks for the still-very-new M4s meant ST Racing ultimately could not continue its phenomenal podium streak in the 24H SERIES, the positives far outweighed the negatives for Samantha Tan’s eponymous outfit at the Hankook 24H DUBAI. A race at which ST Racing secured its first 24H SERIES class win in 2021.
Having posted consistent lap times in the event’s official free practice sessions, ST Racing’s pair of M4 GT3s hinted further at the pace of which they are capable during Wednesday afternoon’s qualifying session. In the very first 15-minute ‘wave’, Harry Gottsacker, a former title winner with the team in the Pirelli World Challenge, posted comfortably the fastest hot lap of any GT3-PRO/AM runner: a 2m 00.201s. Similarly impressive runs from 17-year-old Bryson Morris and two-time TC America champion Tyler Maxson during their own 15-minute slots helped secure the #1 entry the third fastest aggregate time in GT3-PRO/AM.
The sister #28 meanwhile continued its focus on race-optimized setup during qualifying, with the team debutant Louis-Philippe Montour steadily building up speed under the tutelage of team stalwarts Nick Wittmer, Jon Miller and Chandler Hull, the latter two as reigning Overall GT Drivers’ champions in the 24H SERIES alongside Samantha.
A mechanical hiccup at the start of the race that prevented Harry putting the BMW into gear meant the #1 had to begin its Dubai odyssey from the pitlane. Unfortunately, momentary confusion saw the M4 inadvertently re-enter the track under a red light. A two-lap penalty was handed down shortly thereafter. Despite this, metronomic running meant the #1, at one stage dead last in the 80-car field, was already back up to 21st overall by the second hour. Incredibly, ST Racing’s #1 BMW even ended up leading its class for six of the opening nine hours.
BMW Motorsport’s habitually bullet-proof reliability was offset only by a puncture during the night, a dislodged carbon diffuser on Sunday morning, and momentary power loss. All a hallmark of the Hankook 24H DUBAI’s notoriously high attrition nature. Bouncing back from this in inimitable ST Racing fashion, Samantha, Bryson, Harry, Tyler and American sports car ace Anthony Lazzaro continued to lap consistently and ever-quicker en-route to a hard-earned 5th in GT3-PRO/AM, in spite of their earlier pitlane penalty.
The team’s #28 entry meanwhile overcame its own difficulties to charge to an overall finish on the cusp of the overall top 20 – no easy task in Dubai – and a solid 9th in the GT3 class, as well as the highest position for a BMW M4 GT3 in the field. Only a rear axle defect and an assisted run through one of the Dubai Autodrome’s polystyrene marker boards prevented a more representative finish for the M4 GT3 in the UAE, the splintered debris causing overheating problems for the BMW’s mighty TwinPower Turbo straight-six.
Kenneth Tan, team principal: “First, I have to say that I am very proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish during the Dubai 24 hour race. I am also satisfied with the results given the situation. Okay, it would have been nice to podium, especially when Car #1 ran within the top 10 cars for most of the race until the minor mechanical troubles on Saturday morning slowed us down. But what is more important is that we have proven our potential as a team and it was very exciting to see that. In the end, we have to be realistic and the results accurately reflects our current status – that this was our first ever race in GT3 as a team and we lacked a lot of valuable experience with the cars. They were practically delivered straight to the Dubai track from BMW Motorsport’s factory in Garching just a day before private unofficial practice started on Monday. That gave our crew just two days to learn a totally brand new race car and make adjustments! So to see both cars run competitively and relatively flawlessly over a 24-hour period is impressive. Nevertheless, our team learned a tremendous amount about the car this week and that was our main objective. We have some time to carry out the improvements we would like to make and I cannot wait to see the outcome of that during our next race in Mugello. Stay tuned!”
Samantha Tan, co-owner/driver: “We finished P5 in Pro/Am and our #28 sister car finished P9 in Pro at the 24H DUBAI! We achieved what we came here to do: learn the new car and finish the race (which was a feat in itself considering there were 79 cars on track!). Harry, Tyler, and Bryson all did stellar jobs during qualifying to put the car P3 in class and P15 overall. We had a really strong start to the race and great pace throughout, but unfortunately, due to a few minor mechanical gremlins, it took us out of contention for the win. The car is potentially very competitive, but it needs more testing and development on our end. Since we only received the car on Monday (straight from the factory), it was unable to reach that potential. That being said, the learning experiences we collectively gained were invaluable. I’m honoured to have been one of the first drivers in the world to officially race the BMW M4 GT3 and compete against LeMans winners, factory teams and factory drivers this weekend. Most importantly, I’m so proud of everyone on my little Canadian team (maybe we aren’t so little anymore) and how far we’ve come. We know we had the pace and in true ST Racing spirit, we’ll come back stronger than ever to push for those wins. Until next time, see you at the 12H MUGELLO!”
Harry Gottsacker, driver (#1): “It was great to be a part of ST Racing’s GT3 debut at the 24H Dubai. We went into the race with a learning mindset and to try and finish the race. We accomplished that and ended up leading some laps in our class before we had a few setbacks that pushed us down the order. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity as we work to be a contender in the GT3 class!”
Chandler Hull, driver (#28): “It was great to be in Dubai again this year! After winning the GT4 class in 2021, the team stepped up to GT3 this year with the all new BMW M4 GT3. Being its first official race, we were tasked with seeing how the car performs. After a few days of practice, we got a better understanding of the car and were able to have both cars finish the 24 hours with very few issues. This is a testament to BMW and their ability to build a quality race car that looks to have great potential down the line. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again. A huge thank you to the ST Racing family for having me along again and to all of our partners and supporters.”
Nick Wittmer, driver (#28): “Very proud to run with ST Racing again in the 24H DUBAI with the new BMW M4 GT3. The car was very good to drive and race with, it just needs some more testing and a little tweaking to get it set up to a very high performance level. This car will be very fast and will reach its potential soon. Apart from that, we had a very good race, clean racing without banging up the car and we finished the full 24 hours with my co-drivers who all did a superb job.”
Jon Miller, driver (#28): “What a special honor, to debut a new race car for BMW Motorsport with ST Racing. We deserve to be proud of our efforts, proud to bring both cars to the checkered flag and proud of the amount of information we’ve generated during this race week. We’re extremely excited about the potential of this car and looking forward to the next outing, to continue developing and pushing for results. Thank you to the whole ST Racing crew, which grew in the off-season to accommodate our step up to 2 GT3 cars. While our core crew remained constant, the additions have only strengthened the team. The pit crew, mechanics, engineers and nine drivers brought their A-game to Dubai – none more so than Samantha Tan herself. She continues to work extremely hard on and off the track, her pace this weekend was truly impressive.”
With an encouraging first competitive outing for the BMW M4 GT3 already under its belts at one of the toughest 24-hour races on the planet, reigning series champion ST Racing is already looking ahead to its next outing which will take place on 25-26 March at the vaunted Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello. Across in North America meanwhile, ST Racing is already gearing up for its first GT World Challenge America event at Sonoma Raceway on 15-16-17 April.