SUCCESSFUL GTWCE SEASON CLOSING AT PAUL RICARD FOR LEONID MACHITSKI
Leonid Machitski finishes the 2020 season finale at Paul Ricard in 2nd place after a thrilling fight to the very end, whilst also claiming 3rd place in the overall Pro-Am Championship with his Vimetco Extrusion #77 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.
The chequered flag waved for the final time this weekend as the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS drew to a close for the 8th and final race of the 2020 season. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the 2020 season was the most compact GTWCE season ever with just 80 days between the season opener at Imola and the finale at Paul Ricard.
The GTWCE finale began at Circuit Paul Ricard in darkness, a little after 18.30 CET with the Bronze Test session on Friday. The one-hour session gave all bronze-graded drivers a chance to familiarise themselves with the French venue ahead of the weekend’s race.
It was a bright and early start to the second day of the busy race weekend, which started with a 90-minute session in misty conditions making it a very tricky session for the drivers. However, Sandy Mitchell put the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini sixth overall and at the top of the Pro-Am standings, the young Scot lapping a little over half a second shy of Boccolacci’s benchmark.
Having led the way in the morning’s Free Practice session the Barwell Motorsport squad qualified in P3 under the lights in the evening session.
The season-ending Endurance Cup race was scheduled to go green at 11.45 CET on Sunday morning and run for 1,000km or a max. of six hours. The adrenaline was building up when the lights went out to signal the start of the 6 hour race. 40 cars accelerated off the line to get the race underway on a dry track. Rob Collard started the race from P27 overall and showed clear intentions, gaining 3 positions at the beginning of the race.
On Lap 31 Rob handed over the #77 Lamborghini to Sandy when the Pit Window was open. The young Scot, who just secured the overall British GT Drivers Championship crown, brilliantly overtook the #93 Ferrari (Hui) and led the Pro-Am class.
Mitchell pitted under the FCY period and Machitski took over at the wheel. There was just half-way to go in the race when the weather conditions worsened and it started to get very tricky out on track. A lot of cars lost grip and as a result spun around on the very slippery track. One mistake could change the destination of the championship, but the Russian driver finished his solid stint and passed the #77 back to Rob Collard.
Two hours before the race finished, Mitchell got back behind the wheel for his final stint to overtake the main competitor, the #188 Aston Martin (West) to gain the lead position back. The track soon dried with only one-hour remaining, Leonid jumped into the car for the final stint of the 2020 season.
After an intense battle with the #188 (Kirchhöfer), Machitski did everything he could to keep the position, however P2 was the maximum possible in the end of such a hard race.
Leonid Machitski, Rob Collard and Sandy Mitchell finished the 2020 season third in the overall standings of the very competitive Pro-Am cup. With a little bit more luck, things could have been better. Still, it was a brilliant team performance.
Leonid Machitski: “It was a great season in a highly competitive championship. We were always the car to beat and led every race – we won Spa 24h which we can only be happy about and the last two races we finished on the podium. Unfortunately, we got taken out by the Porsche at the Nürburgring, if we didn’t I think we could have won the championship. Overall, I’m very happy. The team did an amazing job and we all can be very proud of this result! Thank you also to the championship and race organisers for their strong efforts which enabled us to complete the season despite the global circumstances, and to the fans for their continuing support of endurance racing.”
Sandy Mitchell: “We have had a very successful last two races this season with a 1st at Spa and a 2nd place this weekend. It’s a great way to end the championship. We delivered a strong performance today and in the end P2 is the best result we could have done and is one we are happy with. It was a very exciting race and we often lead the race for long periods of time. It’s been a fantastic season and I’d like to say a big thank you to Leo and to Barwell Motorsport for the opportunity to race in Pro-Am this year.”
Mark Lemmer, Team Principal: “What a fantastic way to end 2020, to finish in second place in this famous Ricard six-hour race. Leo drove a fantastic last stint to keep pro driver Cheever behind in the Ferrari. We have to thank the marshals the organisers and everybody who helped get us through this difficult season safely, we have to be thankful.”