First pole position and first podium for W&S Motorsport on GT4 European Series debut

First pole position and first podium for W&S; Motorsport on GT4 European Series debut

04.04.2022: 3rd place in the first race of the GT4 European Series for Andrey Solukovtsev (l.) and Mikhail Loboda (r.) and W&S; Motorsport Ofterdingen/Imola: W&S; Motorsport kicked off the GT4 European Series season at Imola this weekend. The squad of Patrick Wag

 

3rd place in the first race of the GT4 European Series for Andrey Solukovtsev (l.) and Mikhail Loboda (r.) and W&S Motorsport

 

Ofterdingen/Imola: W&S Motorsport kicked off the GT4 European Series season at Imola this weekend. The squad of Patrick Wagner and Daniel Schellhaas started with two Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in a field of 48 cars.



The cockpits were shared by Max Kronberg and Hendrik Still in the #38 car in the Pro-Am class and Andrey Solukovtsev and Mikhail Loboda (#37) in the Am class. The pairing of Kronberg/Still finished both races in fourth place in class and eighth overall. Solukovtsev/Loboda fought their way to second place in the Am classification on Saturday, but struggled with technical problems in Sunday's race.



Team Principal Daniel Schellhaas summed up: "Our first weekend in the series is over and there were two exciting races. Our drivers performed very strongly in the fiercely competitive field. The podium finish of Andrey and Mikhail in the first race of the season is particularly noteworthy. Max and Hendrik also did well and fought for the podium in both races. We can definitely build on this and we will attack again in France."



On Friday, during the first free practice session, there was heavy traffic on the legendary race track in the Emilia-Romagna region and both W&S Motorsport Caymans were in the top 20. This performance was followed up in the afternoon during the second free practice session and 16th (#38) and 17th (#37) places stood on the board after the session.


On Saturday, the two qualifying sessions, each lasting 20 minutes, were on the agenda. Hendrik Still as Pro driver set the first time of 1:49.758 minutes, which meant 13th on the grid (7th place Pro-Am class). Only 0.9 seconds separated him from the fastest lap time in the tight field and Still was on a quick lap when, shortly before the time expired, qualifying was interrupted by the red flag and did not resume.



Am driver Mikhail Loboda put the #37 W&S Motorsport Porsche 24th overall for the first race in the afternoon, taking pole position as the fastest driver in the amateur classification. In the second session, Max Kronberg qualified 20th (7th in the Pro-Am class). Andrey Solukovtsev finished the second qualifying session as the fifth best Am driver (34th overall), which was interrupted in the meantime due to an accident and no time improvement was possible in the remaining seven minutes because of the cooling tyres.





FIRST RACE AND FIRST PODIUM



The first race over one hour went underway at 17:25 on Saturday with a rolling start. In the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport #38 Hendrik Still took over the first stint until the mandatory pit stop and made up three positions already in the first lap. In the Cayman GT4 #37, Mikhail Loboda maintained a solid position in the tight field, which remained remarkably disciplined throughout the first 15 minutes of racing without incident on the 4.9-kilometre circuit.



In 20th place overall and third in the Am class, Loboda then handed over the wheel to Andrey Solukovtsev after 15 laps. On lap 17, Max Kronberg took over the #38 from Still and settled into eleventh position. In the further course of the race, two full-course yellow periods followed after accidents, so that further fights for positions were not possible.



In the end, the duo Kronberg/Still finished eighth overall and crossed the finish line in fourth place in the Pro-Am, narrowly missing out on a spot in the top 3. Loboda and Solukovtsev finished second in the Am classification and claimed their first podium finish of the season. In the overall standings, they ranked 21st.



SECOND RACE WITH UNEXPECTED FINISH



The second 60-minute sprint race started at 13:10 on Sunday. A total of 47 GT4 cars were on the grid. There was a safety car period on the first lap after an accident, but Kronberg had already made up five positions and was 15th overall behind the safety car. Meanwhile, Solukovtsev was struggling with gearbox problems and dropped down to 45th position, but was then able to quickly regain places after the restart after eight laps.



Kronberg drove steady and set consistently fast lap times. He headed for the pits in 13th position after twelve laps to hand over to Hendrik Still. Solukovtsev stayed out for two more laps before Loboda climbed into the #37 Porsche.



After all teams had completed their mandatory pitstop, Still was already in eleventh position and was fighting hard but fair for positions. Then, on lap 24, there were again accidents on the track and the gaps were frozen under full-course yellow.




The field finished the remaining nine minutes in these conditions, so further position gains were not possible. With another fourth place in the Pro-Am and eighth overall, Kronberg and Still again just missed the podium. For Solukovtsev and Loboda, the race concluded on Sunday in eighth place in the Am classification.



"It was a successful start to such a hard-fought championship for us!" said Max Kronberg, who has mainly gained experience in endurance racing so far. The German from Berlin adds: "Many thanks to W&S Motorsport for the perfect preparation and support of our car. Hendrik did a mega job in both races and provided plenty of excitement. We will attack again in eight weeks on the high-speed circuit in France. After our test drives on the track in February, I am very confident."



Andrey Solukovtsev reflected with mixed feelings: "Yesterday was a very successful start for us drivers and the W&S Motorsport team in the European GT4 Series and we are very happy about our first podium.



The car was excellent and the strategy was right, for which we were rewarded with second place. In the second race we wanted to build on this result, but gearbox problems thwarted our plans. We will learn from this and come back stronger for the next race to fight for the podium again."



The next round of the GT4 European Series will be staged at Circuit Paul Ricard in France from 3rd to 5th June.


 

Julia Spacek, Gruppe-C Photography
 

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/first-pole-podium-ws-motorsport-gt4-european-series-debut---235877.html

04.04.2022 / MaP

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