Impressive GT4 European Series challengers Stuart Middleton and team mate Will Tregurtha had to watch their 2018 title bid, quite literally, go up in flames at Germany’s Nurburgring on Sunday, 16th September, when a dramatic car fire ended their dream of title glory.
Going into the season finale second in the standings, just two points shy of the top of the table, a strong fourth place in race one on Saturday, 15th September, set the scene for a mouth-watering final round with the HHC Motorsport team-mates tied on points with Simon Knap and Max Koebolt.
Although starting Sunday morning’s race from 17th on the grid, a long way behind their rivals, things looked increasingly positive just a couple of corners into the encounter when Middleton was able to avoid being caught-up in a collision which did account for Koebolt’s BMW.
At that point of the race, the Ginetta Driver Development Programme duo held an advantage of three points over the Audi pairing of Nicolaj Moller-Madsen and Milan Dontje but things unravelled for HHC shortly after the mid-race pit stops as a result of unseen damage sustained on lap one.
With Tregurtha running just outside the top 10, smoke began to fill the car and, soon after, flames were visible underneath the left-hand side. Managing to get back to the pitlane, Tregurtha bailed out of the Ginetta as soon as he could as marshals worked to put out the fire – extinguishing the title hopes of the 18-year-old team-mates in the process.
With Moller-Madsen and Dontje going on to end the race in fifth, and the Tregurtha and Middleton and Knap and Koebolt pairings failing to score, all three crews concluded the event tied on 143 points. Therefore, Moller-Madsen and Dontje only won the crown on countback from Tregurtha and Middleton with more wins over the course of the year than the BRDC Rising Stars, three versus two.
“As a team we’re happy with everything we’ve done this year and, from my point of view, it’s been such an enjoyable season. I can’t fault any of the guys, everyone involved has done a fantastic job and Will has been a fantastic team-mate again this year. Drawing on points with two other teams, and two other manufacturers, is pretty crazy really. We’ve been up against some of the best teams in Europe and we’ve taken the fight to them with our Ginetta, we have to be happy about that.
“The contact at the start was quite a significant hit, I thought the tow-link or something might have been broken but the car felt OK. I stayed well clear on the right side of the accident, but one of the cars trying to jump out of the way clattered into us. After the race we realised it bent the exhaust up, and that’s what caused the fire in the end on the bodywork.”