Hutchison, McKay take P4
British GT4 Championship driver Finlay Hutchison posted a season best fourth place in the Silver class during the first two-hour race of 2018 at Rockingham on Sunday, 29th April, but rued missing out on a potential maiden outright GT4 podium.
Racing very strongly, and delivering excellent pace throughout, the Dundee 18-year-old and Equipe Verschuur team-mate Daniel McKay certainly deserved some silverware from the third race of the campaign but lost out during a very hectic final portion of the 120-minute contest.
Having qualified a somewhat unrepresentative eighth fastest for the race, a wet qualifying session impacting the potential of the No.10 McLaren 570S, Hutchison and McKay were determined to battle for the podium. Delays when being lapped by some GT3 class cars late on, though, and some especially defensive driving from some of the GT4 competition stymied Hutchison’s attack.
“Unfortunately, near the end of the race, the faster GT3 cars got in between the GT4 cars and disrupted the natural flow and outcome of the GT4 race”, Hutchison said, “Also, the driver in the No.4 McLaren in front of me was certainly determined not to allow another McLaren to pass. I tried everything I could to overcome the attempts to block and defend against me, anything more would have been too much of a risk though. It’s quite frustrating as we definitely had the pace for the podium. Over the first two weekends in the dry we’ve shown we’re the quickest McLaren, we probably need to do a little bit of work for the wet set-up but I’m fairly satisfied with how the weekend went overall. There are plenty of positives to take away, it’s just a shame we don’t have the points we should have taken from this weekend and also from the first rounds at Oulton.”
Day one at Rockingham started very much how the opening race meeting of the British GT season at Oulton Park finished, with persistent rain and a very wet track. Both practice sessions on Saturday, 28th April, were rain-affected and qualifying also took place in the wet.
McKay took the opening GT4 qualification session, which was affected by an early red flag stoppage, and went on to produce a lap of 1m39.166 seconds to end the run eighth fastest overall. Hutchison ran in session two and delivered a lap of 1m36.761 seconds which, when combined with McKay’s best, resulted in eighth on the overall GT4 grid for round three and sixth in the Silver class.
Taking the first stint of Sunday’s race, McKay made a good start by quickly moving up into seventh in GT4, still sixth in Silver, and he then climbed into the overall top six on lap six. As the action approached the end of the first quarter of an hour the Safety Car was deployed, with racing resuming around the 20-minute mark.
McKay made an excellent re-start and after running tight behind the No.62 Aston Martin he soon passed for fifth and also grabbed fourth from the McLaren of Lewis Proctor. Soon enough, though, the Safety Car made a reappearance due to cars stranded in the gravel – as light rain started to fall.
The action got back underway around the 40-minute mark and McKay moved up into third in GT4 after a spin for the No.42 Mercedes at Deene Hairpin. Then closing on the GT4 cars ahead, a three-way battle developed and he took second before pitting as the race duration reached the end of the first hour to hand over to Hutchison.
Entering the race with around 55 minutes to run, the Dundee driver quickly got into his rhythm and when all of the pit stops were complete he held fourth in GT4 and third in Silver. Closing onto the tail of the McLaren of Ben Barnicoat, he was just 0.7 seconds shy when the Safety Car re-appeared.
Racing got back underway with just over 40 minutes to run but inside a couple of laps the action once again fell under caution, this time due to a GT3 Nissan in the gravel trap at Tarzan. With just under 35 minutes to go the action went live with Hutchison still fourth in GT4, third in Silver.
Problems for Barnicoat opened the chance of an outright GT4 podium for Hutchison, but he was edged back to fourth by the Pro-Am car of Jesse Antilla. With half an hour to go the Scotsman ran within two seconds of the third placed car and after Antilla moved into second, Hutchison’s target became Michael O’Brien in the No.4 McLaren.
Closing down his rival at a swift rate, with 20 minutes to run Hutchison was within just 0.6 seconds of O’Brien but, at the same time, the No.62 Aston closed in. As GT3 cars lapped the GT4 runners, the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson and In Home Displays-backed driver was robbed of fourth in GT4 by the aforementioned Aston at Yentwood but he remained in touch.
With fantastic opportunism a couple of laps later into Brook Chicane, Hutchison followed one of the GT3 cars through as it lapped the No.62 car and so retook fourth in GT4 and third in Silver. That wasn’t the end of the battle, though, with the Aston moving back through shortly after as the scrap over third in GT4 intensified even further.
With nothing between the three cars yet again, the Aston took third with little over five minutes to run and Hutchison tried everything to unsettle the O’Brien McLaren but Martin Plowman’s Nissan took advantage and grabbed fifth at Tarzan.
Undeterred, Hutchison stuck like glue to the rear of the Nissan and when Plowman went slightly wide at Tarzan the Scotsman moved alongside. The Nissan, though, had the inside line for Brook and so Hutchison had to tuck back in to sixth in GT4. Trying everything, he momentarily got ahead of the Nissan through the infield but the rival car again had the line for the next corner.
Into the last lap of the race, Hutchison threw absolutely everything at trying to pass the No.4 McLaren. Looking like he had the move done on the brakes into Yentwood, Hutchison was squeezed at the apex and so again had to back out before taking the flag sixth in GT4, fourth in Silver.
Hutchison returns to the track just a few days from now with the second event of the GT4 European Series taking place at Brands Hatch in Kent on 5th/6th May, where he will reunite with Ricardo van der Ende. The next British GT event with McKay will take place over the weekend 26th/27th May at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.