Victory for Sky Tempesta Racing at the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km
Sky Tempesta Racing claimed its first victory of the 2021 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup at the gruelling six-hour Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km race, held on 28-30 May 2021 in France.
Drivers Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever welcomed the return of team-mate Jonathan Hui for the endurance event after coronavirus travel restrictions meant he was unable to attend the season opener at Monza. The Pro-Am trio shared driving duties of the #93 Ferrari 488 GT3, with Hui showing pace straight out of the box as he set the fastest lap time during Friday’s Bronze Test. The team’s promising start continued with Froggatt topping the class timesheets during free practice, and Cheever fastest in pre-qualifying.
During qualifying for the six-hour race, the team was able to secure second on the Pro-Am grid after setting an average combined lap time of 1:55.469, putting them in strong contention in the highly-competitive field.
Froggatt took the starting stint and lined up on the grid, but as the 47-strong field jostled for position in the early stages, Froggatt ran wide and off track, gaining positions when he returned, which resulted in a drive-through penalty. The penalty put them down the order, but the determined trio focused on the task ahead.
After a strong drive, Froggatt handed the car over to Hui for a double stint, but unfortunately 20 seconds were lost in the handover, with the team slipping back two positions on track. Another later pit-stop had a further ten-second delay. At this point, Froggatt was starting his final stint of the race, and he was under pressure to improve his position from fifth.
His determination and focus won through, and Froggatt had climbed to third in class before a full course yellow was called with just two hours of the race remaining. The team pitted, with Froggatt handing over to Cheever for a final double stint. During the swift pit-stop, the team gained a position, but up ahead the class-leading #19 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini had pulled out a lead.
With Cheever at the wheel of the #93 Ferrari 488 GT3, he spent the final two hours of the race doing his best to gain ground on the Lamborghini. And, on the final lap, he had done just that and was able to make a last-minute lunge as they approached the chequered flag side-by-side. But the result was immaterial as the #19 Lamborghini had received a five-second time penalty for causing a collision in the final hour of the race, meaning that Sky Tempesta Racing claimed victory by a 4.8-second margin.
Sky Tempesta Racing secured 33 points and sits third in the Endurance Cup Pro Am Teams’ standings, with Froggatt and Cheever joint third in the Pro-Am Drivers’ Standings, while Hui is just behind in fourth after missing out on points in the first round.
Chris Froggatt: “There was so much emotion this weekend! We started the weekend strong, and unfortunately an early mistake put us under a huge amount of pressure during the race. The whole team really rallied together under those conditions and we came back fighting. It was an exceptionally testing race and the sweetness of this victory after the challenges we faced will not be forgotten. What a way to welcome Jon back and kick off the 2021 season for him!”
Eddie Cheever: “I am absolutely over the moon with this victory. We never gave up and kept pushing until the very end. It feels so good to have our line-up back and Jon back racing with us. Paul Ricard was a bit bitter last year after qualifying on pole but finishing third, so we really wanted this victory – there was no giving up.”
Jonathan Hui: “What a race! I don’t think you could have written a better script for how everything unfolded. On a personal level, this was an important race for me after being away from racing for more than six months. I felt straight at home working with the team again, and the pace was solid throughout the weekend. My double stint was tough to manage both physically and mentally, such is the relentless pace of our competitors, combined with no safety car periods whilst I was driving. I made costly some mistakes during the pitstops, and that’s a result of lacking seat time in the car. Both Chris and Eddie did a superb job to close the gap to the leaders in the final hours and that sealed the victory for us. Needless to say, I’m over the moon and hope to continue this momentum into the 24 Hours of Spa.”
The next round of the 2021 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup is the world-renowned Total 24 Hours of Spa, held on 29 July – 1 August 2021 at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. Ahead of this, Sky Tempesta Racing will compete in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Sprint Cup on 18-20 June 2021 at Zandvoort, Netherlands.