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GT4 Winter Series Valencia: Elite McLaren beats sprint winner Forsetti

The new Forsetti Aston Martin team kept up its strong GT4 Winter Series form with a pair of sprint race victories at Circuit Ricard Tormo in Valencia last weekend.

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But its pair of Vantages played second fiddle in the hour-long endurance race to Elite Motorsport’s McLaren Artura. The battle between the two British teams capped a scintillating weekend of close-fought GT4 racing on the tight 4.005km Spanish track.

Race 1

Mikey Porter and Joel Mesch put on a thrilling battle to kick off the GT4WS racing action in front of a large crowd on a warm Saturday afternoon. The Forsetti Aston Martin and the Schnitzelalm Racing Mercedes AMG were tied together throughout the 30-minute race, never more than a second apart. But Porter just clung on to deliver Forsetti its fifth win of the GT4WS campaign, by 0.489s.

“It’s always good to pick up a win, my first for the team individually,” said a delighted Porter. “It’s not easy having someone right on your bumper for the whole half an hour. Fair play to him, he stuck with me and put on immense pressure. I was looking in my mirrors the whole time.”

“If I had a few more laps then I might have been a bit closer, but he was insanely fast,” said Mesch with a big smile. “There was nothing more I could do in that half hour. It was the same distance between us all the way. Hats off to him.”

Mesch had demoted front row starter Tom Lebbon on the opening lap, but the Elite Motorsport McLaren driver was satisfied with a podium ahead of the second Forsetti Aston driven by Matt George.

Behind the leading quartet, another epic fight played out for Pro/Am class honours, as veteran British driver Nigel Greensall took the victory and fifth overall on his series debut. Greensall’s Toyota Supra lost out to Markus Eichele’s BMW M4 in the early stages, before he fought his way back past – then put up a rear guard defence from Linus Hahne’s BMW and the Mercedes of Charles Dawson. A rash of track limit warnings and penalties created further uncertainty, but Greensall – in a one-off appearance for the Barton Racing Team in GT4WS – used all of his vast experience to bring the Supra home just clear of Hahne.

“That was mega!” he said. “I kept getting attacked by BMWs, two of them hit me at the start and round the first corner. It calmed down a little bit, but then I had a moment half way through the race and that slowed me down for a couple of corners. One of them ran into the back of me, I guess he missed his brake pedal. But then after that it was just a case of driving flat out, qualifying laps all the way. I was watching the track limits, took it up to three which is the maximum you’re allowed and thought that’s fine. It’s a first win for the Barton Racing Supra.”

Race 2

Jamie Day added another victory for Forsetti on Sunday morning, but only after another thrilling dice with the Schnitzelalm Mercedes, this time driven by Marcel Marchewicz. Day converted pole position into a narrow lead, then briefly eased away only for Marchewicz to come back at him in a tense chase that lasted for the duration of the 30-minute sprint.

On the last lap Marchewicz gave it everything to find a way past Day, the bright green Mercedes nosing up alongside the Aston on more than one occasion. Day ran his rival out and off the circuit on one occasion in a marginal move and made a small mistake at the final corner, but just held on to claim victory by 0.154s.

“It was hard, a lot of pressure from the Schnitzelalm guys and they pushed me to the end,” said Day. “It was nice to have a battle. We had to fight hard, he was pushing on the inside and the outside. But I stayed composed and knew where to place the car at the perfect time and we came out on top. I made a little mistake at the last corner, so it was a close run to the line. It’s been close the whole season and it’s only getting closer. We have two rounds after this one so there will be more battles to come.”

At the start, Race 1 winner Porter – racing the second #7 Forsetti Aston this time – was squeezed into a spin by the Elite McLaren of Zac Meakin, who went unpunished for the incident. The Artura completed the podium as it had in Race 1, with a frustrated Porter recovering to climb back to fifth overall by the chequered flag.

Pro/Am honours were claimed this time by Philip Wiskirchen in his ME Motorsport BMW M4, but only after an entertaining fight with the CV Performance Mercedes of Emil Gjerdrum. Both were among those on the receiving end of five-second penalties for violating track limits, keeping up a common trend in Valencia. Wiskirchen remained fourth overall despite the addition of five seconds to his race time, but Gjerdrum copped 10 seconds and dropped three places at the chequered flag, behind Porter and SR Motorsport Porsche pairing Enrico Forderer and Tim Neuser.

Nil Montserrat won the amateur class in his NM Racing Mercedes, after some terrific racing with Onder Erdem’s BMW and Tim Peeters’ Mercedes.

Race 3

The Elite McLaren squad made up for its defeats in the sprints with victory in the hour-long endurance race on Sunday afternoon. The key was a strong start from Lebbon who went door to door with Porter in the #19 Forsetti Aston from the rolling start, ran out wide at Turn 1 but returned to the track in the lead by Turn 2.

Porter tracked Lebbon through the first stint before handing over to Day, while Lebbon passed the Artura over to Meakin who maintained the lead to win by 2.592s. “I knew we were going to struggle off the line as we have all weekend,” said Lebbon, “but I managed to get a pretty good start and thought ‘I’ve only really got one chance, make the most of it’. I knew the pace was there so I built a gap and maintained it, then Zac held on at the end. It makes up for the sprints, winning what we’d say is the main event.”

Lebbon also revealed he was in fear of vomiting during his stint. “We have no air conditioning in the McLaren which makes it quite difficult, but I kept pushing,” he said. Meakin was grateful to inherit a clean cockpit.

Behind the top two, Matt George started the #7 Forsetti Aston and in the early laps backed up a frustrated Mesch in the Schnitzelalm Mercedes. Mesch hit the back of the Aston – “one or 10 times,” according to George – and the contact appeared to lead to his demise. Just before the pitstop window opened the green Mercedes suddenly went straight on under braking and lost power with a suspected alternator belt failure.

Porter switched from the #19 car and took over from George in the #7 following Forsetti’s slick pitwork, so contrived to finish both second and third after a heroic double-stint effort. But during his opener George had picked up two lots of time penalties for track limits violations, which knocked the Vantage off the podium. The ME Motorsport BMW M4 of Eichele and Wiskirchen thus picked up an overall third place to go with victory in Pro/Am.

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