It’s fair to say that the opening round of Season 3 of the Simsport Racing GT4 Championship certainly had it all – a bumper grid of competitors and action packed racing throughout the field with drivers rising up to the challenge of tackling the theatre of speed that is Monza.
The large roster of 38 competitors featured a number of Simsport Racing regulars, including reigning Champion Stephen Haley and a host of new faces to the Simsport grid looking to test themselves amongst some very experienced campaigners, whilst enjoying some good, clean and competitive racing.
With a number of drivers changing manufacturer from the last season and a number of eye catching custom liveries on show, all eyes were on the quick-fire ten minute qualifying session to find out who had really got to grips with their machinery around the iconic Italian circuit.
After good opening laps from Keiron Vidago and Charlie Crossland, it was Aaron Walker in the KTM who hit the top of the timesheets early on, only to be then beaten by his team mate Stephen Haley in the sister Simply Race KTM, replacing him at the top with only a few minutes left of the session. Despite the best efforts of everybody, including a fantastic late surge by Adam Isailovic’s Mercedes into third place, it was Haley who took a superb Pole Position by just .069 of a second as the two KTM team mates locked out the front row of the grid, with Haley’s title defence getting off to the very best of starts.
As the lights went green, 38 cars hurtled down towards the famous Monza Turn 1, with all drivers making it through without major incident in a clean, opening start with the two KTM’s battling it out at the front throughout the opening stages of the first lap. Despite his best defensive efforts, Haley was unable to keep Walker behind going into Ascari, with Walker’s move giving him the race lead before the end of Lap 1.
Further down the field during the opening minutes of the race, Fordzilla’s Charlie Crossland came out on top of a stunning three wide fight with Pinchbeck and Simsport new face Aiden Browe, before Crossland picked up the first of two penalties after tagging the rear of an unfortunate Marc Neutelings, spinning the popular Dutchman who had made an impressive start to the race. Meanwhile at the front, Walker continued to lead ahead of Haley, with Isailovic keeping pace with the KTM duo. There was also a good battle between seasoned campaigners Gav Uttley and Chris Pinchbeck, with the latter getting the better of his opponent going into turn 1, whilst Angus Martin and Reece Wiggin enjoyed a close, door banging duel for ninth position.
At the half way point, Walker had stretched his lead over Haley by 2.5 seconds with the top five showing how closely matched they were, only separated by just over 10 seconds. As Walker continued to gradually stretch his lead over Haley, cars all through the field continued to dice and jostle for position, with attention turning to the battle for 15th place, which would clinch Pole Position for Round 2.
Going into the final 10 minutes, with Walker continuing to lead and Crossland holding the all important 15th position, an unfortunate brake failure for Stapleford resulted in Denise Pope having to take evasive action on the exit of the Parabolica curtailing what had been a strong debut race for the Porsche driver.
As the chequered flag came down, it was Walker who took an impressive victory ahead of his team mate Haley, with Isailovic coming home in third to complete the podium.
There were many great performances throughout the field with Rich Smith, debutant Browe, Reece Wiggin and Mark Raddenbury just a few of standout performers. Meanwhile, fifteenth position and with it Pole Position for Round 2 was clinched by Sipavicius in the Maserati.
As ever, thanks to everybody who watched and interacted with our YouTube stream led by the ever superlative commentary team of Alex Goldschmidt and Steve Proudly. Once again, we experienced good viewing numbers and are really happy with our new graphics overlay as we continue to strive to give our viewers the best experience we can. We also have a number of exciting new features in the pipeline which we are testing behind the scenes including live driver timings which will add even more depth and variety to our race streams.
All eyes now turn to Suzuka for Round 2 of Season 3 of the Simsport Racing GT4 Championship, where Aaron Walker will be looking to continue his great start to the season and Stephen Haley will be going out all guns blazing to defend his crown as reigning Champion. They will however be pushed every inch of the way as the rest of the field look to break the KTM dominance on a track which due to BoP will more than likely bring another number of other manufacturers and drivers into play, with the reverse grid adding more drama to the fold as drivers look to battle their way through the pack ahead of their rivals. This will certainly be race you won’t want to miss!
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