Middleton just misses out on GT title in maiden season in Italy
Ashington racing driver Stuart Middleton just missed out on bringing the Italian GT Endurance Championship title back home to British shores on Sunday after finishing second in the final three-hour race of the season at a rain-hit Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
Ending his maiden year at GT3 level as Italian GT Endurance Vice-Champion, along with Imperiale Racing team-mates Andrea Amici and Alberto Di Folco, 22-year-old Middleton couldn’t have done any more after a stunning middle stint of the race – where he built a lead of more than 42 seconds.
Rain during the final hour, when Di Folco was at the wheel of the No.63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO, worked against the Imperiale drivers when a late pit-stop for wet-weather Pirelli tyres didn’t work in their favour. The title-winning Audi R8 gambled by staying on slicks, and it proved decisive.
Even so, the 2021 season has been nothing short of outstanding for British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Middleton with one race victory at Mugello and two further podiums from the four Endurance races contested – one during the season-opener at Pergusa, the other this weekend.
Going into the Monza season finale with it all to do, third in the championship and five points behind the No.12 Audi squad, Middleton, Amici and Di Folco came painfully close to achieving their dream of winning the crown and certainly gave it their all.
“I’m a bit gutted to be honest, but we gave it absolutely everything and it’s been a fantastic first season for me in GT3”, said the North East Caravans-supported Northumberland sportsman, “The car felt really good, we had to be a bit cautious of a bit of oversteer from the rear but I knew what I had to do and I was really dialled-in with the car in my stint.
“It was a tough call at the end with the pit-stop to change Alberto onto wets, it’s a difficult way to lose the race and the championship but if the Audi had finished second we couldn’t have won the title anyway. In hindsight, if we’d waited for them to pull the trigger with a decision on changing tyres it would have been better, but it makes no difference to the outcome.”
He added: “It is frustrating being so close to winning the championship, but the performance of the car and the team has been absolutely mega. Some very small things haven’t gone our way this year, and they made the difference. There are so many positives though, I have to say a massive, massive thank you to Lamborghini, Imperiale and to Andrea and Alberto too – they’ve done a fantastic job.”