The SRO Fanatec GT World Challenge series traveled to the NOLA Motorsports Park this past weekend for a pair of races. Located just outside of New Orleans, the NOLA circuit was put on the calendar last year and made it back for this year’s schedule. It’s a 2.75-mile course with sixteen turns, and has been well-received by the drivers.
BMW has two teams competing in the series: The BimmerWorld duo of Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull drive the #94 M4 GT3 in the Pro class, and the ST Racing team of Samantha Tan and John Edwards drive the #38 car in the Pro-Am class. The SRO holds two qualifying sessions for the two races, with each driver taking a turn. The BMW teams and drivers performed well, with Chandler Hull taking fourth in Pro and just a second off the pole time in the first qualifying session, and Samantha Tan placing sixth in Pro-Am, but just four-tenths off the pole. In the second qualifying session, Bill Auberlen was third fastest in Pro, and John Edwards was third fastest in Pro-Am and third fastest overall.
The first race of the weekend on Saturday was delayed for several hours as heavy rain fell and there were puddles all over the track. Once they got underway, both Hull and Tan fell back, but Hull worked his way back into fifth overall and fourth in the Pro class with about an hour left in the race. Once Auberlen took over, he worked his way into third with around twenty minutes left and that’s where he finished the race, behind the winning RS1 Porsche and the second-place Ferrari. There was a great battle between Auberlen, Porsche driver Steven McAleer, and Ferrari driver Alessandro Balzan in the final twenty minutes. In the Pro-Am class, John Edwards put in a great drive to bring the car back up into fourth in class.
Race two on Sunday was held under sunny skies, and John Edwards started the race in the ST Racing BMW. He moved into second at the start and was hounding the leading Aston Martin for first place during most of his stint before handing off to Samantha Tan. Auberlen started the race in the BimmerWorld car and fell back after being forced off track early in the race. Both Samantha Tan and Chandler Hull put in fantastic drives once they took over. Tan was running second overall and in class and holding off the Aston Martin in third. She was set to finish in that position when the car came to a dead stop on the final lap, which was a heartbreaker after the drive that both she and Edwards put in. There has been no word on the cause.
Chandler Hull also put in a great drive, taking the #94 car to the front of the field and getting past the leading Porsche driven by Eric Filgueiras in the closing laps to take the win. “I knew we had a fast BMW, so I used that to my advantage,” said Hull after the race. “On the first restart behind Eric, I couldn’t get close enough in the last corner to make the move going into turn one, so I was determined that if I had another chance to do that, that I was absolutely going to get him going into [turn] one. That’s where we’ve been strongest all weekend.”
The next rounds of the SRO Fanatec GT World Challenge are on the weekend of May 19th-21st at the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy SRO]