Agony as race contact denies Middleton Imola sprint victory
Imperiale Racing’s Stuart Middleton experienced a frustrating outing during the third round of the Italian GT Sprint Championship at Imola last weekend, when an all-but guaranteed Pro-Am class victory was stolen from his grasp following late race contact from a rival.
Ashington racer Middleton, making his second appearance of the year in the shorter format Sprint series, delivered an outstanding drive from 10th on the overall grid in race one on Saturday to put the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO he shares with Mateo Llarena in with a chance of class success.
Scything his way through the order into the Pro-Am lead and the outright top four before handing the No.19 car over to Llarena at the mid-race pit stop, with just two laps to go the Guatemalan driver was barged off the circuit into the gravel – and retirement – by the Honda NSX of Jacopo Guidetti.
In race two on Sunday afternoon, a deserved Pro-Am podium was once again on the cards but more misfortune befell the Imperiale team-mates when a luckless time penalty was applied by officials as a result of a fractionally early pit-stop. Even so, BRDC Rising Star Middleton was delighted with his pace once again.
“We delivered a mega performance all weekend”, said the North East Caravans backed racer, “I’m really happy with the pace both myself and Mateo produced, super impressive, and we were just really unlucky with what happened in race one and then the penalty in race two which was harsh.
“We learnt a lot again and we go forward to the next round at Mugello very confident, I know a Pro-Am win is on the cards there and I see no reason why we can’t challenge for the outright podium as well. Our car was really good again this weekend in the races, the Imperiale guys did a great job.
“It’s such a shame we lost a win and two podiums this weekend, but we’ll be back stronger.”
Round four of Italian GT Sprint, the category finale, will take place over the weekend October 9/10 at Mugello.
Before then, Middleton will rejoin his Italian GT Endurance Championship team-mates Andrea Amici and Alberto Di Folco for the third round of its season on September 18/19 at Vallelunga.