Buggyra ZM Racing is looking for a strong race at the Hankook 12H MONZA to retain, if not strengthen, its position at the top of this year’s 24H SERIES GT4 Teams’ standings, despite two of its drivers having never previously competed at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Words – James Gent
Images – Buggyra ZM Racing / Nico Mombaerts
Buggyra ZM Racing is keen to retain its GT4 Teams’ championship lead, and potentially move up the order in the overall GT European Trophy standings, at this weekend’s Hankook 12H MONZA, the first event at the ‘temple of speed’ for both Aliyyah Koloc and David Vršecký.
The Czech team, running this year under an Emirati license, heads into the third European round of this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook with a 12-point lead in the GT4 Teams’ standings – 76 to nearest rival Atlas BX Motorsport’s 64 – following a second class win of the year for the #416 Mercedes-AMG GT4 at Spa-Francorchamps. The win, plus a podium finish at the season-opening Hankook 12H MUGELLO in March, means Buggyra ZM Racing also lies 3rd in overall GT European Trophy standings, just four points off the top spot.
Though deservedly buoyed by their most recent performance, both David Vršecký and Aliyyah Koloc – the latter of whom recently completed South Africa’s Sugarbelt 400 off-road rally at her first attempt – nevertheless remain cautious ahead of their respective race debuts at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
“I'm really excited about Monza,” Vršecký explains. “It's a high-speed track, but that doesn't mean it's easy. You have to drive flawlessly, as there's less room for capitalizing on your rivals' mistakes or gaining an advantage. That's what will make the on-track battles even more challenging.
“We are still newcomers in the world of endurance racing, so I would consider a podium finish to be a success. However, I wouldn't be disappointed at all if we were able to move up to second place in the overall standings.”
“Monza will be another new track for me,” Koloc continues. “I didn’t get to train on the simulator as much as I would have liked because of my recent traveling schedule and also testing the T1 in Namibia a week before the race. But we will have some training sessions before the race weekend, so I will make the most out of those days. Even though it will be the first time in Monza for me and even David, we will aim to get the best position possible to try and keep the lead in the GT4 championship.”
As in Abu Dhabi, Mugello and Spa-Francorchamps, both Vršecký and Koloc will team with Adam Lacko (like Vršecký, a former European Truck Racing champion) who has previously competed at Monza in both the World Touring Car Championship in 2005 and the FIA GT1 World Championship in 2008. The trio, who are also on top in the 24H SERIES’ GT4 Drivers’ standings, are set to compete against South Korea’s Atlas BX Motorsport, Italy’s Autorlando Sport, and reigning GT4 Teams’ ‘Europe’ champion Team ACP – Tangerine Associates for GT4 honours at this weekend’s Hankook 12H MONZA.
Following a disappointing, clutch-related end to their race in Mugello (an event that, nevertheless, ended with 2nd in-class), poor fortune followed Buggyra ZM Racing during qualifying for last month’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS. On slick tyres in wet conditions, Vršecký was unable to set a fast lap during his allotted 15-minute session, condemning the #416 Mercedes to the back of the grid.
“The incidents at Spa-Francorchamps, where I lost my timed lap, taught me that it's better to be cautious during qualifying.” – Vršecký. – “However, it's of course always preferable to start from a higher position.”
Though Vršecký and Lacko their way carefully up to 4th in-class way across the first three hours, Vršecký was lucky to escape a frightening moment early on: following the first of several heavy rainstorms during the opening hour, the #416 Mercedes aquaplaned off the road heading down the hill to Eau Rouge, and was lucky to avoid hitting the barriers before coming to a stop on the grass. Despite that heart-in-mouth moment, and though conditions continued to change throughout the afternoon, Vršecký, Lacko and Koloc had worked their way into the class lead come the end of ‘part one.’
Sunnier climes after the restart meant Buggyra ZM Racing stayed in the top two during Sunday’s opening hour, and with an unfortunately timed Code 60 dropping Lionspeed GP by SRS Team Sorg Rennsport back into the chasing pack, the #416 Mercedes led the GT4 class for the remainder of the afternoon en-route to its second win of the year, after Abu Dhabi, by an impressive three laps. Sadly, alternator problems early on Sunday afternoon ended up dropping nearest title rival Atlas BX Motorsport to 5th in-class, 11 laps behind.
“It’s only the second [European] race of the season and there is a lot of racing still to go, but so far, we are feeling good,” Aliyyah Koloc explained after Spa. “The weather has been so difficult, it’s been raining on and off [this weekend], so this caused a lot of issues with knowing which tyres to put on and then driving in the wet on slicks, but we managed it well.
“Adam and David drove really well; I drove the last stint [on the Saturday], so I waited all day, so it was really nerve-wracking to wait almost five hours to get in the car. The strategy in these long races is really important, especially in these weather conditions because there were a lot of Code 60s, so refuelling was always full. It was all about surviving… and not getting a track limits’ penalty, which three cars in front of us did” – Atlas BX, Lionspeed GP, and the debuting Xwift Racing Events Toyota Supra GT4. – “So, we stayed safe today and we got the first position.”
After two hours of Free Practice that morning, Qualifying for the 2023 Hankook 12H MONZA will begin at 15.00 hrs local time on Friday 9 June ahead of the race start at 12.00 hrs on Saturday 10 June. Following CREVENTIC’s traditional overnight intervention, the Hankook 12H MONZA will resume at 10.30 hrs on Sunday 11 June and will run uninterrupted until the chequered flag is flown at 16.00 hrs later that afternoon. Further event details HERE