Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe at Paul Ricard

April 8, 2024

Lamborghini Factory driver Sandy, leads Paul Ricard fightback with Barwell and Black Bull.

Sandy led a strong fightback drive by his Barwell Motorsport crew in the opening endurance round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe at Paul Ricard in Southern France. Partnered by new team-mates, American-based Englishman Till Bechtolsheimer and Frenchman Antoine Doquin in the No 78 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo 2, Sandy posted the fifth-fastest time against all 54 fellow PRO drivers in his qualifying stint. His 1min 53.208secs was the fastest lap posted in the Bronze Cup class over the whole weekend.

With the grid based on the combined times of all three of the Barwell drivers, Bechtolsheimer started the three-hour race from 10th in class and 38th overall.
“Qualifying didn’t really go our way,” Sandy, personally-backed by Huntly-based Black Bull Scotch Whisky and Tunnocks, explained. “Antoine was blocked by traffic during his fastest run, and I was on course to improve my time even further before I too was slowed by traffic.”

Early in his stint, Bechtolsheimer was tapped into a spin and forced into an unscheduled pitstop following a puncture. As a result, the trio at one stage found themselves in 51st position overall and 17th in the Bronze Cup class. At the first driver change, Doquin took over with the car 16th in class and 46th overall. The Frenchman was then able to take advantage of a Safety Car period which bunched the field up, and by the time he pitted to hand the car to Sandy the #78 car was ninth in class and 34th overall.

“Antoine delivered a super stint fighting his way back through the field,” Sandy continued. “He showed really good pace and dispatched the cars in front of him quickly and efficiently showing the true pace of the car.”

Sandy took over the car with 63 minutes remaining, but given the ultra-competitive nature of the field in what is the world’s toughest GT3 championship, when he rejoined the track the car was again 16th in class and 46th overall. The Scot set about reeling the cars ahead of him back in, and as others pitted he fought his way back through the pack setting a number of personal fastest laps in the process. With 28 minutes remaining the Scot was back up to eighth in class and 30th overall.

“The Bronze Cup is one of the most highly competitive classes in the championship,” Sandy explained, “and I found myself right on the back of a train of equally matched Bronze cars, all with their PRO drivers, battling for position,” he said. Such was the intensity that the gap from Mitchell to the second car in class was less than 12 seconds. With 20 minutes remaining he posted another personal quickest lap and eased up to seventh in class. As he closed in on the sixth-placed #74 Ferrari and with just five minutes remaining, he again improved his quickest time on the fast and sweeping 3.5-mile circuit to 1min 55.956secs.

Sandy took the chequered flag just 0.402s behind the Ferrari to finish seventh in class and 28th overall. A post-race penalty for a race infringement dropped the car back one place in class and overall to eighth and 29th respectively. “Given our misfortune in qualifying and the early spin in the race, it’s been a great fightback by all three drivers and everyone in the team,” he said. “This was the first time we’d all raced together, plus the first race for Till and Antoine in a Lamborghini. “We’ve proved the car’s fast, and both guys delivered in their stints. We’ve scored points in the championship and now we head to Spa for the 24Hrs race, the Blue Riband event in the Endurance Championship at the end of June.”

Before that Sandy, who leads the British GT Championship after a win and a podium at Oulton Park, tackles the next round, the three-hour race at Silverstone, later this month.