06 Sep Russell Ward wins on his GT3 debut at Zolder
Winward/HTP Motorsport driver, Russell Ward can now add a third continent and a second International win to his 2018 GT racing resume after a successful weekend in the GTC-DMV Series at Circuit Zolder in North Eastern Belgium. Partnered with his Winward/HTP Motorsport teammate, Indy Dontje, Ward drove to a seven second victory in his HTP Motorsport AMG GT3, last Friday, in Round Seven of this pan-European, multi-class series.
This was the 26 year old Texan’s first race in the GT3 category and his first visit to the former home of the Belgian Grand Prix. Friday’s one hour enduro format saw both drivers record qualifying times. Dutchman, Dontje, a recent winner for HTP Motorsport in the ADAC GT Masters Series, took pole position and after several laps battling with an LMP3 car, the man from Alkmaar took the overall lead. He pitted with just under a half an hour to go with a ten second advantage on the field. With mandatory pit stop times, the HTP AMG GT3 was in the pits longer than all of its rivals but Ward was still able to rejoin in the lead, a position he held until the chequered flag.
“I need to forget I know the car and forget I know the track, that seems to be the secret to this,” Ward joked after the race. The man from Texas was clearly excited about his GT3 class debut, “The GT3 car is flippin’ insane, that is a proper race car!” The high levels of downforce generated by the car are, however, still something of a challenge for Ward. “I’m still getting to grips with the GT3 car’s aerodynamics. When you look at the data, the slow corners are fine but I really start to lose time to Indy in the fast corners. It’s hard to feel the downforce. Having never driven a car with downforce, it really is a matter of learning to trust that the you can carry an extra 10 kmh into the corner and not carrying enough speed really does unsettle the car.”
“I’m surprised and proud that he has picked up speed so quickly,” said Dontje who was clearly impressed with how quickly Ward got to grips with the GT3 car. “Before the event, we set a marker for him and he broke that quite early and he really surprised us with his speed. His experience in GT3 type machinery in the Pirelli Drivers Cup has helped him too. His braking style from those cars works in the AMG GT3. He did a great job in the race, taking the car home for the win and his performance was terrific and the seven second gap at the end was well deserved.”
The victory has not changed Ward’s future plans and his eyes are still firmly on the the rest of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge back in the USA. “I love our GT4 car and I totally have unfinished business in IMSA at that level. There is no way I am going to drop that program and jump full-time into an AMG GT3. It is, however, fantastic to drive and race the GT3 and my experience in the GT4 car definitely helped with getting up to speed with the car.”
The Texan will be back in his usual seat for Round Nine of the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, September 8th for the Continental Tire 120. Green Flag is at 3:15 PST and you can get session-by-session updates from the Official Winward Racing Twitter and Instagram accounts at https://twitter.com/WinwardRacing and https://www.instagram.com/winwardracing/