After a stellar opening couple of rounds, Zandvoort would be our next stop as the Simsport Racing GT4 Championship Season 4 continues to gather pace and as the half-way stage approaches, there is still all to play for in the battle to crowned Champion.
With Luka Berk leading the way at the top of the standings ahead of Simsport stalwarts Aaron Walker and Stephen Haley going into Round 3, the popular Dutch circuit would once again provide a fantastic backdrop as the drivers tackled it’s famous banks.
As ever, the grid for the race would be determined by the finishing positions from the previous round, but with the top 15 reversed. This meant Daniel Handover would start the race from Pole, while Reegan Mitchell and John Munro, starting in P2 and P3, would certainly fancy their chances of a victory given their sim racing experience and prowess. Ex-F1 star Jenson Button would start from seventh while Championship candidates Berk and Walker would be the ones to keep an eye on sitting just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.
With the formation lap finishing and the lights turning to green, the cars hurtled towards the famous Tarzan corner. It was Handover who held his lines well and maintained his lead from Pole, doing a great job in holding the fast-starting Reegan Mitchell at bay, who soon found himself under pressure from John Munro’s Mercedes.
As the race settled down, Detollenaere got a tap from Will Dendy and was lucky not to have been spun round as they battled three-wide with Ross McGregor into Tarzan in a hardly fought battle amidst the midfield. Just slightly ahead, Adam Isailovic and Jannick Moller went head to head in a keenly fought duel for 20th, with both drivers displaying some fantastic driving skills, awareness and mutual respect over a number of corners with Isailovic using all of the skills in his armoury to come out on top against his rival.
With the race approaching it’s half-way point, Daniel Handover was doing a fantastic job to hold onto his lead at the front, but pressure was mounting as Reegan Mitchell, John Munro, Jenson Button and Imola winner Berk, who had made a stunning start to the race, began to close in. There was however key drama when Aaron Walker, who had made his way into eighth and into the top 10, fell victim to a failed overtake by Zentalis which left innocent bystander Haffendon in the gravel. Also caught up in the drama was David Marshall, who could do nothing to avoid the strewn cars. Dave Hedges would be the main beneficiary and was gifted a free run into seventh position. As commentator Alex Goldschmidt declared, Hedges would certainly be ‘grinning like the Cheshire cat’ as he took advantage of his unexpected gift.
Tarzan would again be the scene of some fine overtaking as Luka Berk made a text-book move on the Porsche of 15-time Grand Prix winner Jenson Button for fourth and had the top three firmly in the cross-hairs and he sensed a second victory of an impressive campaign so far by the Team Zansho driver.
With twenty minutes left on the clock, one of the most spectacular moments of the race occurred as Dave Hedges pulled off the undoubted save of the season so far. Following a tag from behind by David Marshall, Hedges was somehow able to wrestle his seemingly out of control Mercedes away from the barriers and still facing in the right direction as everybody watching took a breath in disbelief of what they had just seen. Definitely a moment to savour in the highlights reel!
As the race entered it’s final stages, Munro was leading the race having finally got past the dogged Handover. Despite Handover’s battling display so far, he could do nothing to stop the marauding Luka Berk from diving down the inside as the pair went into Tarzan side-by-side and he would soon have Jenson Button breathing down his neck for company as the F1 star set his sights on a first Podium of the season.
It wouldn’t be long until Button made his move, streaking past Handover on the start/finish straight to move into third place and just a second behind the leading pair of Munro and Berk who were enjoyed a fierce battle of their own as both protagonists sensed the victory. It was an intriguing battle which would come to and end when a rare mistake by the under-pressure Munro caused his Mercedes to run wide and left the door open for Berk to move past and into the lead of the race.
Having got clean air ahead of him, it was Berk who streaked ahead of his rivals and took the chequered flag to complete another impressive victory and with it, his second of the season. John Munro would have been disappointed to come home in second, although Jenson Button crossed the line in third to take his first podium of the season in a fine, consistent display in his Jenson Team Rocket Porsche
Daniel Handover, a deserved contender for driver of the day, finished in a fine fifth place just behind Reegan Mitchell, while Aaron Walker put his early-race dramas behind him to take ninth ahead of former Simsport Racing GT4 Champion Stephen Haley. Reigning Champion Karolis Sipavicius could only cross the line in 20th in another race to forget, with his chances of retaining his crown sadly drifting away.
The all-important fifteenth place was taken by real-World racer Michael O’Brien who will now start from Pole for the next round. He will be joined by Kieran Vidago and Aiden Browe at the front in what will no doubt prove to be a blockbuster start and certainly a battle to look out for as the cars attack the tight and twisty opening turns of Misano.
Remember to give the highlights video a watch and to subscribe to the Simsport Racing Youtube page to ensure you’re never too far away from the action! With just three rounds remaining and the momentum firmly in favour of Luka Berk, be sure to tune in to see if anybody can stop his ever-impressive assault on the title.
Driver and Team Standings after Round 3:
Picture courtesy of Denise Pope