The final race of the 2014 Britcar Championship took place this weekend at Donington Park. The Optimum Motorsport duo of Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc would once again form a formidable and swift partnership, to take top spot in Race 1 and a hard fought third place in Race 2.
QUALIFYING - DAY
It was a damp start at Donington Park for the ‘Day Qualifying’ session. Euan Hankey would be the first to set a time in the #38 Optimum Motorsport run Ginetta G55, negotiating the tricky conditions on wet tyres.
With his second full lap, Euan set a time of 1:21.657 to put the car P1 in Class 3, edging out the #22 Nissan GT Academy 370Z of Ricardo Sanchez and Gaetan Paletou by 0.152 seconds. Taking the decision that the track was drying too much for their wet tyres, Euan then pitted the car to allow the session to develop further, with competitors unable to set a time to trouble Optimum Motorsport.
At the halfway point of the 30 minutes session, it was the turn of the ever-improving Salih Yoluc to set the times for Optimum. Freshly clad in a set of slick tyres, Salih exited the pits to try and improve their time now the track conditions had significantly improved.
As the clock counted down with five minutes remaining, the order would stand with the #36 Century Motorsport run Ginetta G55 of Stephen Fresle and Nathan Freke on top, and Hankey/Yoluc 3 seconds back in P5. Yoluc dug deep, making a significant 1.3 seconds improvement on his time over the penultimate lap, but efforts would unfortunately be in vain however, as the rest of the field continued to improve also. As the chequered flag fell, Fresle/Freke would end the session on top with a 1:14.507, and Hankey/Yoluc would sit in P6.
QUALIFYING RESULT: HANKEY / YOLUC - P6 [Class 3]
RACE 1 - DAY
The first race of the day would be conducted in the daylight and would showcase an action packed opening few laps. As the lights went green and the cars entered Redgate, the field would be in disarray with several cars involved in an incident that would include Class 3 Pole sitter Fresle. OptimumYoluc made an exceptional start to the race, picking his way through the melee and gaining a superb P1 in class, with Anna Walewska 1.3 seconds back in P2. As the race developed, it would fast become a two-car fight for the lead of Class 3.Walewska would take the initial advantage, squeezing by Yoluc at the end of the Start/Finish straight to temporarily hold P1. However, Yoluc would respond superbly, setting a string of personal best laps to hold onto the back of Walewska.
On lap 13, Yoluc made his move and took Walewska at the end of the very same straight the pair had traded places 8 laps previously. Unfortunately fans would not get to see the pair battle it out much longer, as Walewska developed a mechanical failure, dropping several seconds a lap until she was forced to retire her car.With a healthy 24 seconds lead now to second-placed Neary, class leader Yoluc pitted from a superb P3 overall on lap 36. Seasoned professional Euan Hankey took over behind the wheel of the Optimum-prepared G55, with the remit of bringing the car home for the win courtesy of the impressive lead Yoluc had gained.It didn't take long for Hankey to settle into his groove and a string of fastest laps for the car ensued. As the chequered flag fell, Hankey capped a fine team display to take a well deserved Class 3 win, bringing the car home in fourth overall, a mighty impressive display.
RACE 1 RESULT: HANKEY / YOLUC - P1 [Class 3]
QUALIFYING - NIGHT
As darkness descended over Donington Park, the glow of the GT cars heading to the grid would set the scene for a fine send off for the 2014 Britcar Championship. Hankey once again took a provisional P1 for Optimum Motorsport with his first flying lap, both in Class 3 and for the overall field.
As the session developed further and the quicker class cars began to set their personal bests, Hankey moved down the overall order, but continued to hold P1 in class with a rapid 1:12.943 lap of the East-Midlands circuit.
As Hankey pitted and handed the car over to Yoluc, Ricardo Sanchez set a personal best of 1:13.685 to go P2 in class, but was still 0.742 seconds behind Hankey’s best. As the 30 minute session came to a close, Hankey’s time proved enough to deliver the Class 3 pole-position for the Optimum duo and a superb P4 overall.
QUALIFYING RESULT: HANKEY / YOLUC - P1 [Class 3]
RACE 2 - NIGHT
As expected, the night race delivered another action packed start, with action all over the circuit on the opening laps. On the second lap, an off for the Clarke/Walewska Intersport Racing BMW at the Old Hairpin, caused the Safety Car to be deployed.
The incident was cleared by lap 4 and normal racing resumed. Former Porsche Carrera Cup star, Hankey made a fantastic start, picking off several places to make his way up to third in class and P6 overall.
Another audacious move on lap nine moved Hankey into fifth overall with a tight 0.8 seconds separating the top three in Class 3; it was all to play for and Hankey was showing the quicker pace. However, Hankey’s charge was blunted by the deployment of the Safety Car to clear a car parked in the gravel at Coppice.
On Lap 13, the green flags were waved momentarily, only for the Safety Car to be redeployed only a lap later for the #53 car of Mark and Peter Cunningham, who had also come to grief in the gravel.
The race resumed on lap 19 and a fearless Hankey took his chance on the restart with a superb move around the outside through Redgate, passing the faster Class 1 car of Cintrano to take P3 overall and maintain P2 in Class 3.Hankey now had a 2.7 second deficit to the class leader Nathan Freke to overhaul, and the Optimum racer was reeling him in by a tenth of a second lap after lap. It wasn’t plain sailing for Hankey and shortly before the pit window opened he reported a vibration through the front of the car.Hankey brought the car into the pits as the pit window opened and ensured an extra stop was avoided. The Optimum crew quickly appraised the car and found a front tyre had worn through the canvas. A new set of rubber was bolted onto the front of the car for Yoluc to do battle with, albeit costing the Turkish racer a significant amount of time.Yoluc left the pits with a 53 second deficit to Sanchez, who held the final Class 3 podium spot. After initially finding the conditions treacherous due to the cold front tyres, Yoluc pressed on and managed to get the tyres up to temperature and the G55 up to full race speed.The race proved to still have a few more twists and turns up its sleeve however, as Fresle would begin losing several seconds a lap to his class rivals and the Class 1 BMW M3 GTR of Neary moved in to the race lead, with Sanchez promoted to second a few laps later.On lap 52, Yoluc caught and passed Fresle for third in class and eighth overall and with eight minutes left on the clock it looked like the Optimum driver might overhaul second-placed Sanchez when he suffered gearbox issues. However, the gap to second was too great for Yoluc to overcome and he took the flag third in class, eighth overall, capping yet another stylish and hard fought display with a podium appearance.RACE 2 RESULT: HANKEY / YOLUC - P3 [Class 3]
Salih Yoluc:“We came here with the target of just ensuring we finished both races, as I needed the signatures to upgrade my licence for next year. I was obviously delighted we were able to win the first race and very pleased to get a podium in the second; Euan and I’s first ever night race.“Racing in the dark was a really fun experience, but a daunting one also. A lot of the corners were very difficult to see due to how dark it was and obviously you're more open to mistakes in such conditions. However, I'm pleased to be able to have the opportunity to gain that experience and come away with a great set of results for the team.”
Euan Hankey:“I’m very pleased with the results we have come away with. Salih was superb once again, even in really difficult circumstances. The night race was extremely tough as our lights weren't at their best, so this made it twice as hard. Salih needed his signatures for successfully completing the event, so we had to manage the risks to ensure we finished the race. Overall I’m very happy to come away with a win and a podium and for Salih to get the signatures he required, which will enable him to progress in 2015.”Shaun Goff – Team Principal:“Euan set a great time in a tricky qualifying session to go quickest overall for 4 laps during the damp period. Salih did a good job to improve on Euan's time, but he was up against much more experienced pro drivers which meant we had a start position that didn’t necessarily reflect our speed. Even so, Salih made a great start to put himself P3 overall and 1st in class on the opening lap and drove a faultless stint for us to take the victory. It was true indication of how his confidence and ability has improved this year.“Night racing was a first for both drivers, as neither have ever done a race lap in the dark, but Euan had a good opening phase of the race to get us on the tail of P2 overall. The flat-spotted front tyre lost us 25 seconds to our class leader, but Salih then showed great pace to work us back up to P3 in class and P7 overall.“The whole team has excelled this weekend – both drivers and the crew. We had difficult weather and conditions to deal with, but to overcome everything and come home with a win and a third is a fantastic credit to everyone involved.”