Maiden victory for Middleton in Italian GT enduro championship
Northumberland driver Stuart Middleton produced yet another outstanding performance for Imperiale Racing during round two of the Italian GT Endurance Championship at Mugello last Sunday, to seal his maiden race victory in the category during a very hard-fought three hour contest.
Along with team-mates Alberto Di Folco and Andrea Amici, 21-year-old Ashington racer Middleton delivered the goods brilliantly to celebrate a superb – and richly deserved – win at the wheel of the No.63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO. Notably, it’s the first for Lamborghini in the Endurance series.
Starting the race from second on the grid, the British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star grabbed the lead almost immediately with a sensational move around the outside into Turn One.
Although under immense pressure during the opening hour, and beginning to suffer the effects of heat exhaustion due to blocked air vents, Middleton didn’t put a wheel wrong with a truly professional performance.
Ending the opening lap 0.7 seconds ahead of Basz, the Polish racer closed to within just 0.4 seconds the next time around but Middleton responded to open an advantage of more than a second by the end of lap three.Driving faultlessly, by lap 14 Middleton had increased the lead to almost two seconds but on lap 17 the Safety Car appeared to eliminate his hard-earned advantage. At the re-start around 40 minutes into the race Middleton handled it perfectly and soaked up major pressure from Basz’s nimble Audi.Fending off his rival expertly, despite beginning to suffer the effects of the lack of air flow and searing heat in the car, Middleton was able to stay ahead by a fraction lap after lap. When the pit-window opened at the 50-minute mark, he headed into pitlane to hand over to Amici for his stint.
Amici took the second stint, during which rain arrived at Mugello to add another variable into the mix, but a penalty for the No.14 Audi R8 ensured the Imperiale win.
“Honestly, we weren’t expecting to win at Mugello”, commented North East Caravans-backed racer Middleton.
“We struggled with our pace in practice due to the BOP [Balance of Performance], and we were also made to use a smaller restrictor which meant less power. So, we focused on making the set-up the best it could be and did the best job we could in qualifying.
“The team put me in first for the race and I did my job, took the lead and stayed ahead.
"I felt a bit strange when I got out of the car at the pit-stop and it turned out my core body temperature was 40 degrees – there was no air flow coming into the car as the vents had become blocked. I obviously want to thank the circuit medical staff for helping me, I’m completely fine now.
“It’s absolutely mega to win only my second race in the Italian GT Endurance Championship, and extra special it’s the first for Lamborghini – they’re really happy!”, added Middleton, “Andrea and Alberto did a mega job, Andrea also had an issue with the steering so credit to the guys in the team for fixing that.”