Oregon Sweeps Estoril Event on GT Open Debut
Benjamin Hites and Leonardo Pulcini gave Super Trofeo graduate Oregon Team the ideal start to its maiden International GT Open season by winning both races at Estoril.
The drivers of the No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo swept the weekend in Portugal, while Nick Moss and Joe Osborne twice finished second in their Optimum Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.
The opening 70-minute race started in a dramatic way as a multi-car accident on the opening lap resulted in a lengthy red flag and five retirements in the field.
When racing resumed, Kessel Racing Ferrari driver David Fumanelli led with pressure from Osborne, but the Italian kept ahead of the Brit through to the driver swaps.
Moss assumed the lead ahead of Fumanelli’s co-driver Murat Cuhadaroglu during the pit window, while Hites rose to second in the best of the Oregon Lamborghinis.
Hites then pulled off an overtake down the inside of Moss at Curva VIP, the McLaren skirting out onto the gravel and leaving the Oregon driver with a comfortable advantage.
Pulcini and Hites completed their weekend sweep with another come-from-behind drive that started with Hites running in the top five behind the battling Pro-Am leaders.
Pulcini was third at the start of the closing stint, behind leader Roman Ziemian – whose co-driver Axcil Jefferies battled pole-sitter Karol Basz for the lead early on – and Reema Juffali in Theeba Motorsport’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
Pulcini found a way past both Pro-Am competitors to take the overall victory, while Moss produced a strong second stint to reach second ahead of Juffali, who was a two-time Pro-Am class winner at Estoril alongside Adam Christodoulou.
News & Notes
***Another Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo has joined the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour grid, with the charitable aim of raising money for the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Sony Foundation’s You Can Stay program, which provides emergency accommodation to young cancer patients and their families. Marcel Zalloua, Sergio Pires and Duvashen Padayachee will drive for Valmont Racing in the Australian enduro next month. The team has already raised $30,000 AUD ($21,123 US).
***Garage 59 has committed to this weekend’s Silverstone 500 with a McLaren 720S GT3 for Alexander West and factory driver Marvin Kirchhofer. West previously entered British GT’s headline round in 2020 when Garage 59 ran Aston Martins, while Kirchhofer is poised for his series debut.
***Team GMB will make its awaited Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS debut this year with a Mercedes-AMG GT4. The Japanese squad first announced its plans for the series in 2019 but came up against two canceled seasons. Team owner Hiroaki Hatano will share the wheel with two-time Super GT runner-up Shinya Hosokawa.
***Team Uematsu has committed to the four-round Japan Cup element of GTWC Asia with a McLaren 720S GT3. The former Super GT squad last raced as its own entity 12 years ago and will compete with team owner Tadao Uematsu and Yudai Uchida sharing the wheel.
***Singer and five-time 24 Hours of Le Mans participant David Hallyday formed part of the winning lineup in the four-hour GT endurance race that featured on the Ultimate Cup Series bill at Paul Ricard. Hallyday co-drove a Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 to victory with Jean-Paul Pagny and Jean-Bernard Bouvet. Graff won the three-hour prototype enduro with a Ligier JS P320 Nissan, while four-time FIA World Touring Car champion Yvan Muller finished second driving for M Racing. GT / Proto
***British driver Stuart Middleton last week returned home to Northumberland where he will continue his recovery from injuries sustained in a pit lane incident during last weekend’s Italian GT round. Middleton was about to jump into the Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo when he was struck by a BMW M4 GT3 entering the pit stall in front.
***Middleton said last week: “I fractured my left wrist, right big toe and it’s messed up the ligaments in my left leg – it got quite badly twisted as I turned to try and get out of the way. I don’t know what’ll happen in terms of how long I’ll need to heal and whether we’ll be OK for the next round. I’ve got to have an MRI now, hopefully I’ll be back in action as soon as possible.”
***ORECA is building a new manufacturing center at its Signes headquarters in the south of France. Construction started in January 2022 and the facility is projected to open in mid-2023. The 8,000 square meter space will house ORECA’s racing car manufacturing and assembly work, as well as its engineering, R&D and design activities.
On this week: Super GT (Fuji); On this weekend: FIA World Endurance Championship (Spa-Francorchamps), Intelligent Money British GT Championship (Silverstone), Nürburgring 24 Qualifier (Nürburgring)