RD Signs – Siauliai racing team has strengthened its position at the top of the GTX Teams’ standings after a recovery drive from five laps down to its first class win of the season at the recent Hankook 12H MONZA. A result thought “almost unthinkable” by Italy’s Nicola Michelon.
Words – James Gent
Images – Nico Mombaerts
Nicola Michelon has praised an “almost unthinkable” GTX-class win for RD Signs – Siauliai racing team at this past weekend’s Hankook 12H MONZA, a result that strengthened the Lithuanian squad’s position at the top of the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook GTX Teams’ standings.
The #720 Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo looked in trouble during the opening half of the Hankook 12H MONZA, suffering a left-rear puncture on lap 11 and taking Sunday’s restart five laps down on GTX class leader, 9und11 Racing. The Lamborghini’s superior pace and some misfortune for its German rival though allowed RD Signs to recover the lost ground and relinquish 9und11 Racing of the class lead heading into the final two hours of the event.
“[To win] it was almost unthinkable last night because we had to fix the car,” Nicola Michelon explained to 15min Gazas’ Žilvinas Pekarskas. “But we managed to catch up during the first two hours [on Sunday], and we maintained our position after that. Super!”
Ahead of, what would turn out to be, an unpredictable fight for GTX honours in Monza, the RD Signs Lamborghini took a comfortable GTX class pole position, 3.5 seconds faster than Vortex V8. Concerns though that puncture-related issues that had plagued the Lithuanian team during Free Practice were realized when the Lamborghini suffered its first rear-left puncture just 11 laps into Audrius Butkevicius’s opening stint on Saturday. Combining a driver switch with the tyre change, Michelon then made another, precautionary pit stop just 10 laps later.
After just one hour of competition, polesitter RD Signs had already dropped to 3rd in-class, two laps down on the class leading 9und11 Racing Porsche.
Consistent running over the next four hours – during which the Lamborghini was posting lap times four seconds quicker than 9und11 Racing – meant RD Signs resumed the lead during the fifth hour only to hit another problem less than an hour from home when the Lamborghini’s ignition failed during its final refueling of the day. Bump-started on pitroad, Paulius Paskevicius, now back behind 9und11 Racing, finished ‘part one’ of the Hankook 12H MONZA just 4.5s adrift of the Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup MR, but the Lithuanian team opted instead to serve a five-lap penalty and repair the ignition issue overnight rather than leave the Huracán in parc fermé.
The following day, RD Signs, still 2nd in-class after a collision between Vortex V8 and Red Camel-Jordans.nl at the first chicane dropped the French team out of contention, made short work of its recovery: the #720 Lamborghini gained two laps back in the first hour and a further two during the second hour before Paskevicius overtook 9und11 Racing’s Leonard Oehme to resume the lead during the ninth hour. The Lamborghini would not be led thereafter, and secured its first 24H SERIES class win of the season in the process.
Admittedly, issues for 9und11 Racing aided RD Sign’s recovery drive. The #719 Porsche was involved in a bizarre incident at the Variante della Roggia with BMW Italia Ceccato Racing early on Sunday morning, earned more than a minute in ‘refueling regulation’ time penalties, and lost half an hour in the pits when the Porsche’s battery overheated. The German did however still manage to finish 2nd in-class.
Following two 3rd place finishes in Mugello and Spa-Francorchamps, the win in Monza means RD Signs – Siauliai racing team has now extended its lead in the GTX Teams’ standings to 12 points. Hankook 12H MUGELLO class winner Vortex V8 and 9und11 Racing are now level-pegging in the standings heading into the next round of this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook – the inaugural Hankook 12H ESTORIL – on 7-8 July.