22.01.2024 | News

GT4 Winter Series Portimao: Day leads Forsetti to double glory

While Schnitzelalm Racing and Forsetti Motorsport shared the sprint wins at Portimao, Forsetti’s Aston Martin got the better of Schnitzelalm’s Mercedes AMG when it came to the two-driver Sunday enduro.

Race 1

Schnitzelalm struck first, with Joel Mesch taking a fine win in Saturday’s sprint encounter.

Mesch had to work his way to the front after slotting into third place behind Tom Lebbon (Elite Motorsport McLaren Artura) and Mikey Porter in the Forsetti car. Along with Mathieu Martins (Racar Motorsport Aston Martin), this quartet briefly looked like it might swap paint all the way to the finish.

By the third run around the magnificent Portuguese circuit, however, Mesch was through into a lead he would never lose. With the Mercedes disappearing over the crests of the track’s many hills, interest shifted to watching a struggling Lebbon doing his best to keep Martins and Porter behind him.

But the young British driver couldn’t rely on his enthusiastic chasers tripping over each other for the full race distance. Despite stubborn defence, he succumbed to Martins on lap six, then Porter on lap eight. At which point his misery was compounded by a drive-through penalty for weaving after the field had lined up for the rolling start.

That was the end of any real fighting among the three leading cars. The safety car stayed away for the full duration, and Mesch’s lead topped out at over six seconds.

Martins did close up to with a few tenths of the leader by the end of the 17th and final lap, but Mesch confirmed afterwards that he’d been managing the car rather than fighting any gremlins.

Fourth overall was Charles Dawson (CV Performance), who overtook and then held off fellow Mercedes AMG driver Max Huber (NM Racing Team).

The ‘Cayman Cup’ class win went to SR Motorsport’s Thomas Rackl.

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Race 2

Jamie Day took over the Forsetti car for Sunday morning’s sprint and duly delivered a lights to flag win in the Aston.

With a full day of dry running under their belts at last, the teams and drivers appeared to have settled into their respective grooves. The race took shape early on, then held steady at the front. Leo Pichler (Razoon Porsche) grabbed second from the off and stayed there, while it only took until lap four for Marcel Marchewicz to recover from a bad start and establish Saturday’s winning Mercedes in third place.

Ivan Ekelchik (Wimmer Werk Motorsport Porsche) was a close fourth at the flag, but in reality he’d troubled Marchewicz little over the race distance.

Roberto Faria delivered fifth in the Racar Aston. Zac Meakin, now in the McLaren, was close behind at the line but had spent the race more concerned about the threat from Emil Gjerdrum in the CV Mercedes. Gjerdrum did have a good look on lap 13 but hadn’t been able to make it stick.

The battle for eighth overall between the two ‘Cayman Cup’ SR Motorsport Porsches of Emil Förderer and Rackl, along with the BMW M4s of Gianni van de Craats (FK Performance) and Richard Wolf (Razoon) did offer its fair share of action over the course of the race. Förderer prevailed over his team-mate in a drag race to the chequered flag, ahead of van de Craats and Wolf.

Race 3

With Schnitzelalm and Forsetti having split the two sprint races, the enduro set up as something of a match race between England and Germany. Two Germans would share the Mercedes as they took on two English drivers in the Aston Martin, each team testing the depth of its pairing.

While the Elite, Racar and Wimmer Werk cars (started by Lebbon, Martins and Ekelchik respectively) joined the early squabbling, it was indeed Day and Mesch who were set up at the head of the field after they took over from Porter and Marchewicz respectively. There was only just over a second in it with a few laps to go, but we never got to find out how it would have concluded. That’s because Mesch was slapped with a drive-through penalty for a pitstop that hadn’t lasted the mandatory minimum.

The penalty allowed Day to escape for a comfortable overall and Pro class victory. It also let Pichler – roaring back after Andreas Höfler’s gentlemanly first stint – take second place.

Pichler’s task may have been tougher had Martins’ partner Roberto Faria not broken down on lap 21 of 30. Elite’s McLaren would also have been in the podium reckoning, but a radio malfunction meant Lebbon had pitted after the pit window closed, which led to the second race-ruining penalty of the yellow car’s weekend.

Mesch thus brought the Schnitzelalm car home third, albeit a distant one. He slotted in behind Pro-Am winner Pichler, but ahead of Am class winners Nil Monserrat and Alberto de Martin in their NM Racing Team Mercedes.

Franz Linden celebrated a class victory on his very first race weekend, after several years spent learning the ropes at our Endless Summer track days. Having received plenty of coaching from our instructors over the years, Franz felt finally ready to go racing this weekend – at no less challenging a track than Portimao!

Having finished both sprints, Linden duly delivered a solid opening stint in the Sunday enduro. Co-driver Arne Hoffmeister then passed Rackl after a long battle in the second half of the race, before pulling away to secure ‘Cayman Cup’ honours.