M2 Competition enjoyed a solid debut in the British GT Championship as they finished a thrilling race at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit and gained valuable experience.
The Brussels-based team have an enviable record of championship success in single-seater racing, with titles won by international racing stars Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Nick Cassidy, but had never previously fielded a GT car before last weekend.
Fielding a brand-new Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3, delivered just one week before the event, and Spa rookie Tony Quinn behind the wheel, the target was for driver and team to learn and to take advantage of the experience of co-driver Darren Turner.
The three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner’s speed was in evidence as he set the sixth-fastest time in Sunday warm-up; the Briton having focused on fine-tuning a race set-up during Saturday practice.
However, rain ahead of qualifying forced a cautious approach from both drivers; 13th on the grid and 11th in the pro-am category the result.
The race was a straightforward affair as starting driver Tony settled into a comfortable rhythm, gaining confidence in his machinery as his hour-long stint wore on.
The two-time Australian GT Championship runner-up handed over the controls to Darren at the half-distance mark in 14th and the Briton set about gaining time on the cars ahead of him.
Despite matching the pace of the race-leaders for around half of his stint, Darren was unable to gain many positions and was one of a number of drivers lucky to avoid incident late-on after a damaged GT4 car dropped fluid on the racing line at the tight final corner. He finished 13th.
M2 now have an ultra-quick turnaround with the next round for its Formula Renault Eurocup team getting underway back at Spa on Wednesday with free practice.
Tony Quinn said: “Spa was a circuit that had been on my bucket list for years and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The experience of driving here was sensational, though the rain just before qualifying added an extra challenge that I probably could have done without. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 ran faultlessly and that’s a real credit to the team, who did a great job, and having a driver with the CV of Darren Turner with me in the car was a big help. I’m looking forward to racing the car again, though I’m not sure where or when that will be for the time being.”
Darren Turner said: “It was very much a case of ‘in at the deep end’ for the team this weekend. They only took delivery of the car a week ago and to get everything ready to run by Saturday morning was a good achievement, but this was always going to be a learning experience. Tony’s had a positive experience of Spa and we’ve both brought the car home in one piece. The team have been extremely welcoming and it’s pretty obvious that with some testing across the rest of the year, they have the potential to do well with the Vantage V8 GT3, which is already proven race-winner in GT3 racing across the world.”
Elise Moury, Team Principal, said: “We knew this weekend was going to be a big challenge. While every individual here has experience of pitstop racing, we’ve never tackled a GT event as a team. Doing it with a brand-new car that was only delivered a week ago, and with a driver who had never raced it or the circuit before, was always going to make things even tougher, but we’ve worked together well, done a solid job with the pitstops and finished the race, so it’s mission accomplished really. Tony enjoyed his first time here and Darren’s experience of the track and of the Aston Martin has been invaluable. We’ll take away a lot of learnings from this event and use them as we form our plans for future races.”