Winter and Armannsson End Season in Style With Suzuka Win

Chris Winter and Einar Armannsson rounded out the 2018 Rolex GT Super Series season by winning their fourth race of the season at the Suzuka Circuit.

Winter would be a part of a five way battle for the lead for the duration of the first stint. Matteo Rossi and Fabian Rei would lead the charge in part to their front row starting positions, but behind them would be Championship runner-up Evgeny Restov, Winter and Paul Travesen in a see-saw battle for third that would get resolved once the first round of pit stops arrived. Fabian Rei would take the lead at the start of the race and maintain control at the front of the lead breakaway, with Rossi’s best attempt to regain the lead coming at the end of the first lap as he exited the Hitachi Chicane side by side with the Factory Lister driver.

Winter would be the first of the leaders to pit, one lap before Rossi and Restov would come in. But the undercut didn’t work as well as it had previously in the season, with Einar Armannsson only able to jump ahead of James James Davies, taking over for Restov. Crucially for the three that had already pitted, the other two cars from the opening battle elected to pit much later in the pit window, which left them all alone to battle for the podium. Roland Davidson, in the Gulf Aston, maintained control of the lead for most of the second stint as Einar and Davies would battle for second overall, even with their championship battle ending in Zhuahi. Davies would start to struggle on worn tires as the stint would wind to a close, giving the Icelandic driver a chance to close the gap to the leader and launch an attack. But as the attack would start, the Solvalou Lamborghini would be called in for its final pit stop of the race.

Einar would exit the pits five seconds away from a pack of cars still battling for position, which prompted the Gulf Racing team to delay bringing in Davidson by one lap to see how much time the Lamborghini would lose battling through the cars yet to pit. The strategists at BMS Scuderia Italia chose not to defer bringing in Davies with the Brit struggling on the worn Pirelli tires. It would prove vital as they both jumped the Gulf Aston Martin after it pitted at the end of lap forty-seven. Three laps later Matteo Rossi caught and muscled by Davies coming out of the S-Bends to take a defacto second place, now five seconds behind Armannsson. It would take Matteo three more laps to catch and then pass the Lamborghini, doing so at the Hitachi Chicane with fifteen minutes remaining. With Davies unable to keep up, Armannsson and Rossi would be by themselves for the race for the victory.

With ten minutes remaining Armannsson would get a run on the exit of Spoon corner and would use that momentum to get side by side with Matteo Rossi under braking for the Hitachi Chicane. The Solvalou driver would make the pass stick and not look back, giving him and Chris Winter their fourth overall victory of the season, capping off their championship run at one hundred, twenty-eight points. It would also help secure the Team’s Championship for Racing Team Solvalou,  and the Manufacture’s Championship for Lamborghini. Rossi and Davidson’s second place result allowed them to overhaul the pair of Fabian Rei and Ryota Wong to end up finishing third in the championship.

Rei and Wong found themselves in the hard-fought battle for fourth after the first round of pit stops, their teammate Shane Sparks held up Wong with the Japanese driver unable to pass. They would eventually be joined by an additional ten cars all vying for points paying positions, including some battling for the Independents Class victory. Wong would get past Sparks late in the second stint before Travesen, taking over for Sparks in the pit stop, would regain fourth place through the pit stops. The flood gates would open when Travesen spun at the second Degner on lap fifty three. It would allow Joey Alliot, who started to climb through the pack and ended up fifth before the spin, to run into the distance securing fourth. Rei and Wong would finish in fifth.

Taking their maiden Independent’s Class victory was the pair of Sam Winton and Natsuki Yaname, finishing eighth overall. After starting third in class, twelfth overall, Winton would storm to the class lead at the start of the race. Sam would then pass Morgan Le Fay and Paul Travesen to give him a buffer between him and Sepang winner Ai Tsukimura. But before Ai could launch an attack on the customer Lister, she had a uncharacteristic spin at Turn 1, dropping her out of the top ten; she and Shouta Sakai would finish nineteenth after having to do an unscheduled pit stop. The main competition to the Winton Lister would be the Euromotor Lister of Helena Bertinelli and Patrick Feldhoffer, which even saw Feldhoffer pass Yaname to take the lead momentarily during the second stint of the race. After Travesen’s spin in the final stint, Winton would take advantage and carve through some of the people in the battlepack to secure class victory.

The other big benefactors of the battlepack were the 24 Pagani of Amato Agostini and Felix Horvath and the Falken Aston Martin of John Magnus and Olivia Geiszler. The Pagani crew would use the undercut to their advantage to move forward in the group, resulting in a sixth place finish overall and one place off their season best from Zhuhai. The Falken Tire duo fought their way from their twenty-seventh starting position into a points paying position after they joined the battle pack late in the second stint. They would be one of the main beneficiaries from Travesen’s spun and a struggling Oliver Jones in his Carson Corvette and would finish in ninth place overall.

Race Results – After 61 Laps

328MRestov/DaviesScuderia Italia+2.200
514MRei/WongGerald Pereria+1:11.089
703MLe Fay/FazioSolvalou+1:13.438
9007MMagnus/GeiszlerFalken Tire+1:19.202
1141MTravesen/SparksGerald Pereria+1:20.154
1356IOlder Jr./KozarCommonwealth+1:21.325
142IKikkawa/GauthierBoutsen Ginion+1:23.050
15555IA.+V. Reyna-SanchezTom Douglas+1:25.225
1621IVan Dycke/SeronBelgio+1:25.941
1755IDouglas/MelroseTom Douglas+1:26.825
183IBourne/TuckerBoutsen Ginion+1:27.375
2105IKremnicky/LuisaAoi Formula+1:30.778
2209IMelvanov/KabirovChris Short+1:31.425
2311ISetou/JafferBest In The World+1:32.263
2499IEinfeldt/von SchweigerPeople's Republic+1 Lap
3027Mvan Walwijk/ConstantiniScuderia ItaliaAccident

Fastest Lap – Car 6 (Gulf Aston Martin – Rossi/Davidson) – 1:53.224

Infinite Improbability Drive of the Race – John Magnus and Olivia Geiszler – A good way to round out the year with a strong showing and their home race.

Reject of the Race: Redur Jaffer – Failed to make up time after an unscheduled pit stop and was stuck behind Daniel Von Schweiger for a long time leaving Koyomi’s good work to be for nothing.