Middleton still has eyes on GT enduro title in his maiden season
Italian GT Endurance Championship racer Stuart Middleton remains confident of becoming 2021 champion in his maiden season in the category – along with team-mates Andrea Amici and Alberto Di Folco – despite a frustrating outing at Vallelunga over the weekend.
Going into the third event of the Endurance campaign leading the points standings, off the back of a fantastic victory last time out at Mugello, the Imperiale Racing trio had to settle for eighth place and fourth in the Pro class due to a cocktail of incident, penalties and a negative Balance of Performance.
Knowing a challenging weekend was in store with a 40 second pit-stop success penalty from the previous round, 21-year-old Ashington driver Middleton and his Italian team-mates had insult added to injury when Di Folco was handed a further 10 second time penalty after a tangle with the Ferrari 488 of Daniel Mancinelli during the closing stages – while on course to finish the race fourth overall.
“It’s been a bit of an unfortunate one, not our day really, but we knew it would be tricky with the success penalty – we had to do everything we could to compensate for that”, said British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Middleton.
“We kept fighting throughout, trying to push the maximum we could, but with the BOP we had it was impossible to match the speed of the Ferraris and Audis.
“We’ll take what we’ve learnt from this weekend and keep pushing, everybody at the team did the best job they could and Andrea and Alberto did a fantastic job as always – thank you to everyone as always for their hard work.
"We’ve still got the chance to win this championship, we’re third now and five points behind so we could do with a win at Monza. That’s what we’ll be pushing for.”
In qualifying on Saturday, Middleton ran in session one and produced a best time of 1m32.107 seconds on his first flying lap to go third quickest, but ultimately had to settle for eighth overall, fifth in the Pro class.
Amici was a couple of tenths of a second slower in session two, but this was good enough for third fastest, while Di Folco was fourth overall in session three.
Resulting in the No.63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO starting Sunday afternoon’s race from third on the grid, based on combined times from the three sessions, Middleton took the opening stint and he started well to hold third and run closely behind the top two.
On lap 12 Middleton made a clean bid for second place but his opponent closed the door when he was alongside, tipping the Lamborghini into a spin.
Recovering well, the Briton rejoined the track in seventh going on to finish his stint in sixth.
His team-mates were unable to hold the position, however, and they eventually finished eighth.
The final race of the Italian GT Endurance Championship will take place on Sunday, October 31, at Monza.
Three weeks earlier, Middleton will partner with Mateo Llarena for the fourth and final race of the sister Italian GT Sprint Championship on Sunday, October 10, at Mugello.