Podium start for Middleton in GT Championship in Italy
Hugely talented British racing driver Stuart Middleton produced an outstanding performance on his debut in the Italian GT Endurance Championship at Pergusa in Sicily on Sunday to take a richly deserved podium finish after challenging hard for the race victory.
Under glorious blue skies, the 21-year-old from Ashington in Northumberland helped steer Imperiale Racing’s No.63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO to a third place result in the opening three-hour race of his maiden season in the category.
Teaming with Italian racers Andrea Amici and Alberto Di Folco British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star Middleton delivered a sensational performance in qualifying on Saturday to lap quickest in his session by almost half a second.
In the race, his first at full GT3 level, he was similarly spectacular during the middle stint which he led handsomely by almost half-a-minute before an unfortunate Safety Car period. In the end, the rapid Imperiale trio had to settle for third position.
“For my first time in a GT3 car, my first time at Pergusa as well, I really can’t complain with a podium”, said a buzzing Middleton, “Qualy was really good, I was really happy with my pace and to be 0.4 seconds quicker than anyone in my session was mega.
"To be honest, we were unlucky not to get the overall P1 but Alberto [Di Folco] just couldn’t get a lap in during his session.
“Even from P4 on the grid though we had a great race and the team did a fantastic job. In my stint I was really in the zone,
"I feel I’m driving better than ever and the car is so good – it gives you so much confidence. Even after the Safety Car I built a bit of a gap again.
"There are a lot of positives to take away, we were a bit unlucky but third at such a crazy track, which is a real car killer, is a result.”
Joining the race in third, Middleton was 10 seconds behind second position but immediately started to close the gap.
He worked his way through to take the lead, but the Safety Car hampered his progress and eventually he had to settle for a creditable third position.
Next on the Italian GT Endurance Championship is a visit to Mugello in Tuscany on July 3/4 for round two.