Everyone at ST Racing was elated to be back in action this past weekend after a 4-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite a few mishaps and some extreme heat, all four ST Racing drivers put on a great show for Rounds 3-4-5 of the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX Championship at VIRginia International Raceway. Of course, with the safety measures in place, wearing masks and observing the required distance were the order of the day.
In Friday’s qualifying, Samantha Tan had great pace during the whole session, and both she and Jon Miller put down some really good qualifying laps.
Teammate Nick Wittmer recorded two Fastest Laps during the session giving him pole position for the first and last race of the weekend, with talented young co-driver Harry Gottsacker also clocking in some great lap times.
Friday afternoon, the 20-car field took the green flag at 4:30 pm with temperatures in the high 90’s. Wittmer was on fire and drove impeccably keeping the overall lead throughout his stint.
When his partner Gottsacker hopped into the car at half-time, he kept the #28 BMW M4 GT4 in the lead until the very last lap, when just a few feet from the checker, the car slowed down to a trickle. He had run out of fuel, and barely made it to the finish. ST Racing lost the overall win, but still managed to secure 1st place in the Silver Division.
Meanwhile, Samantha Tan was showing some great driving skills while charging up the field as soon as the green flag flew. Then co-driver Jon Miller took over at mid-race and wasted no time to move up the field to 6th place overall, 2nd in class, when he too, ran out of fuel on the last lap. At that moment, many other cars experienced the same problem, and, the #38 car of Tan / Miller managed to keep 2nd place in Silver Division.
Post-race comments from all 4 drivers said it all.
Samantha Tan (#38 BMW M4 GT4): “That was probably the most unusual race ending I’ve ever experienced in my entire career. Jon (Miller) and I ran an amazing race. I had a great start, passing quite a few cars over the course of my stint, running into the Top 10. The car setup was perfect and I thank my team for that. I was confident I could give it my best. Jon had an incredible stint and pushed the car into P2 in class. Unfortunately, on the last lap, both ST Racing cars ran out of fuel, and it was a struggle to get the cars to pass the finish line. I think five other cars ran out of fuel too. It might be due to the extremely hot weather. Still, it was a great return to racing with both cars in the Top 2.”
Jon Miller (#38 BMW M4 GT4): “Well, that was different! I’ve never run out of gas and still left the track with a trophy before. Our car was on absolute rails today, and Samantha backed up a fantastic qualifying with a super strong race performance. In Turn 3 on the last lap, I felt a sputter, and two corners later, I was out of gas. I managed to roll the car halfway down the back straight before it came to rest. The hot weather and humidity and that extra pace lap must have played a part in our fuel issues because our sister car (#28) had the same problem, as did a few other cars in the field. We’ve never burned this much fuel in a one-hour race! Finishing 2nd feels a little strange, but we’ll take it and learn from it. The major positive takeaways were Samantha’s stellar driving and the handling of our #38 BMW M4 GT4.”
Nick Wittmer (#28 BMW M4 GT4): “The most important thing was to get the class win, and we did that. We did not expect a full green race and we’ve never been in really hot conditions like this, where the computer re-maps itself. We have no control on how much fuel the car takes. We all did our job. It’s just the computer that didn’t save the fuel on the car. There were many of us out there who ran out of gas. Maybe someone should have thrown a rabbit on the track to get a yellow. Harry did an awesome job on the car. But, racing is racing. Just bad luck I guess.”
Harry Gottsacker (#28 BMW M4 GT4): “We ran a really great race today. Nick (Wittmer) was an absolute monster in the first stint, and it was my job to just bring the car home in first place. We had a bit of drama on the last lap as we ran short of fuel, and I did everything I could to bring the car home. Unfortunately, we lost the overall win, but kept the Silver class win, and that is what matters.”
Saturday’s race started at 3:45 with the green flag being waved off, as cars were not all lined up properly. Next lap around, the ST Racing drivers Jon Miller (#38) and Harry Gottsacker went racing and started charging up the field. By Lap 4, they had already moved up to 4th overall (1st in class), and 7th overall (2nd in class) respectively. But unfortunately, Gottsacker’s car had been hit by the #47 Porsche (Jason Hart) affecting the car’s alignment.
Then, on Lap 13, during the driver change from Gottsacker to Nick Wittmer, Race Control reported a pit-lane violation on the Team, and Wittmer had to come back into the pits on Lap 22 and do a drive-thru, causing him to lose many positions. Samantha Tan took over from Miller on Lap 15, and had a great run scoring a 3rd place finish in class. Wittmer fought hard to get back up the field, but time was running out for him and so were his Pirelli P-Zero tires, as he ended the race in 10th place overall, 4th in Silver Division.
Here’s what they had to say after the race on Saturday:
Jon Miller: “We’re happy to come away with another podium and good championship points. It was another hot race and tire management was a bigger job today than it was yesterday, since we started on our used qualifying tires, while many cars around us started on stickers. After 5-6 laps, I had built a good gap on the cars behind me, and I could feel that the tires were going to be a bigger issue today. Samantha again did a fantastic job during her stint.
ST Racing prepped us some fast cars this weekend, and it’s a true privilege to be back at the track competing in SRO with this group. We get a third try tomorrow. I’m lobbying the Series hard to keep this 3-race format.”
Samantha Tan: “We finished with a solid P3 today. We used one set of tires for the entire qualifying session and continued to use the same set for this race, so by the time I got in the car, the tires already had around 50 minutes on them. I tried to push as best I could, but couldn’t carry as much speed as some of the other cars. Nonetheless, we earned some points for the Championship and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Nick Wittmer: “We should have had a great race today, but sometimes, the cookie doesn’t crumble the right way. After the real start of the race, Harry got wacked on the opening lap by the Porsche (Jason Hart), and it wacked out the alignment very hard, in the back. We had a lot of tow out in the rear left, and tow out here in the rear left when you’re doing right hand turns is not good. So, by the time I got in the car, I was having a fun drift day. Harry did a really good job of keeping the car in its position, but he couldn’t do much more because of the tow. If we hadn’t been hit, we would have been much further up the field because we had an amazing car. But hey, that’s racing. We did our best, but then, I saw a black flag and called in on the radio to find out what it was for. I was told I had a drive-thru penalty because when the Team released me during driver change, not the whole crew was behind the wall. That’s the rule. So, I did the drive-thru, kept going as best I could. We finished 3rd and 4th today in class, and that still keeps us in the Championship lead, with Samantha and Jon 2nd in the points. Tomorrow we start on pole and should be able to repeat race 1, without losing fuel.”
Harry Gottsacker: “We had a tough race today. It looked like we were going to be in a place to capitalize for a class win, but an unfortunate pit stop penalty impacted the results. We should be in another great spot tomorrow and will try to bring home a win.”
The last event of the triple-header weekend was the make-up race for Long Beach and started at 10:00 am on Sunday morning with a little less heat. ST Racing’s two Canadians, Nick Wittmer and Samantha Tan were the starting drivers.
Polesitter Wittmer kept the lead as soon as the race went green. Two laps later, a full-course caution was brought out due to a 2-car incident. On Lap 7, the race resumed, and Wittmer had a great re-start while displaying some of that raw talent of his. On Lap 15, when his co-driver Harry Gottsacker jumped in the car, he was eager to get out on track, and within minutes, he had climbed up to the head of the field. Unfortunately, the young Texan was called out for a pit speed violation and had to come into the pits for a drive-thru. Even though he fell back to 9th place overall, Gottsacker drove solidly and finished the race 4th in class.
Meanwhile, Samantha Tan who was hurting from a muscle injury in her braking leg had lost a few positions right at the start of the race. However, she did her best to hold on throughout
her stint and as soon as the half-time pit window opened, she came in for driver change and handed the car over to Jon Miller. The California driver, known for his spectacular moves, exercised a great pass on the #25 BMW M4 GT4 of Cole Ciraulo, and scored 2nd place finish in Silver Division.
Sunday driver quotes:
Samantha Tan: “Another podium for the #38 car! I had an ok stint today. Unfortunately, I hurt my braking leg and wasn’t able to get the same pressures as the past few days. I still tried to carry as much speed as I could and get good exits, but it definitely wasn’t as good as my last two runs. Jon had another incredible drive, passing Ciraulo on the last lap for P2. He absolutely killed it. We were able to get a lot of points for the overall championship this weekend with 4 podiums in total for the Team, so altogether, it was an amazing first race weekend back. I know I’m going to keep working on myself and pushing harder until the next weekend at Sonoma Raceway in August.”
Jon Miller: “3 races, 4 podiums in all! What a way to come back to racing! We had a perfect pit stop today and the last lap pass for P2 was an exciting one. The car was just fantastic all weekend. This was a breakout weekend for Samantha too. Her qualifying pace was stronger than ever, and she did a great job today driving with some muscle soreness. I’m grateful to be involved with ST Racing, and thrilled to bring them some more trophies.”
Nick Wittmer: “We had a super great race again today. The team gave us a great car. We had the best setup of all. But we got another penalty. This time it was Harry, he went over the speed limit in the pits and had to do a drive-thru. Sometimes it happens. We still had a great run, and ended up 4th. We remain positive and look forward to Sonoma. We thank Mr. Tan,
and all the sponsors (GPI, Biotech, Laurel BMW of Westmont, Liqui Molly, etc) without whom we wouldn’t be here.”
Harry Gottsacker: “The Team gave us a great car again today and we were in position for the overall win again. We were called out for a pit speeding penalty during the driver change and had to serve a drive-thru. It was a rough weekend for our #28, and I hope we’ve shaken this bad luck off our backs. Congrats to Sam and Jon for their three podium finishes. We will be back at Sonoma next month, as hungry as ever.”
CBS Sports Network coverage for SprintX races from VIR airs July 18 at 7:00 pm ET.
The next stop for ST Racing will be at Sonoma August 7-9.
Samantha Tan’s race fans can follow her on samanthatanracing.com, Instagram
(@samanthatan_racing) (samanthaatan), Facebook (STRSamantha) and on Twitter (@STR_Samantha).
About ST Racing:
ST Racing was officially launched last October (2016). A Team of highly experienced guys was put together for the 2020 Pirelli GT4 America season. ST Racing drivers, Samantha Tan and Jon Miller are driving the #38 BMW M4 GT4 in the GT4 America SprintX Silver class, while co-drivers Harry Gottsacker / Nick Wittmer will be competing in the #28 BMW M4 GT4 also in the SprintX Silver class. Kenneth Tan is the Team Principal, Ben Distaulo the team manager, Alex Dupré, team engineer, and Nic Jonnson is Samantha Tan’s coach.
About Pirelli GT4 America:
The GT4 America championship utilizes GT4 homologated race cars in two popular race formats – Sprint and SprintX. The past season has seen explosive growth in the GT4 category and has resulted in a wide range of cars that are eligible to race in the GT4 America Series, including the BMW M4 GT4, Chevy Camaro GT4.R, Audi R8 LMS GT4, Ford Mustang GT4, and the Mercedes-AMG GT4. Among other GT4-spec cars are the successful Porsche Cayman GT4 CSMR, McLaren 570S GT4, Panoz Avezzano GT4, and many others.
GT4 America offers two regional series integrated within our SprintX Championship -West & East. Each regional series is designed to offer new drivers a localized race program that is cost effective and competitive, with all the benefits of racing in a professional national championship. Each region will consist of five (5) rounds at top-tier circuits in North America in a two-driver, Bronze-rated format.
SRO Motorsports Group – The global leader in GT racing:
With more than 25 years’ experience at the forefront of a continuously evolving industry, SRO Motorsports Group is the established international leader in GT racing. Best known for the development and implementation of the GT3 and GT4 regulations, SRO promotes and organises championships that embrace professional and amateur competitors. Its portfolio of highly regarded series spans Europe, America and Asia, while its flagship Intercontinental GT Challenge features events on five different continents.