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American racing driver Chase Owen competed in the first GT race weekend of his career this weekend at the Brands Hatch round of the GT4 European Series with an outstanding drive for Brookspeed Racing alongside fellow teammate Freddie Hunt.
A last minute offer came from Brookspeed Racing to field the 25 year-old at Brands Hatch and Owen's management advised to take the opportunity for a number of factors important to Owen's career development and performance assessment. Having tested in a GT car just once prior to this weekend at Silverstone in Brookspeed's GT4 Porsche Cayman, Brands Hatch was primarily approached as a benchmarking exercise in race conditions.
Such pace and ease in driving the car was not expected from the team or Owen himself, but he shone during his outings on the track. The American commented:
"Feeling a bit nervous for my first ever race in GTs, I had no idea what to expect. I was happy to be starting on the fourth row but knew it would be a difficult fight to keep my position. After a clean start-lap, I retained my position and decided to go on the offensive. I had some great battles with some of the other drivers and was able to make it up to third place before I was called into the pits for the driver change. I was thrilled by my performance and was happy to hand the car off to Freddie with such a good position."
"In the second race, I inherited a seventeenth place position to begin the second stint of the race. Two long safety car periods early on meant that I didn't have much time to overtake. With 18 minutes remaining, the track went green and I started to get to work. I opted to drive aggressively and started making up several positions. Along the way, I had some of the best overtakes of my career and was feeling extremely confident and was able to crawl back into eleventh position before the end of the race [final classification P10 after penalties were applied to other competitors at the end of the race]."
Owen's lap times were promising from the get-go on Saturday making it into the Top 10 by the end of the second free practice session out of a total of 31 cars. Going into qualifying, Owen had garnered the confidence to push hard. Trying to find space to set a flying lap, Owen went seventh fastest with a personal best lap on his last rotation of the session – a great grid position for his first GT race.
The #40 Porsche Cayman driven by Owen and Hunt concluded both races in P10, following driver change pit stops at mid-distance of each 1-hour race and a number of successful overtaking manoeuvres by Owen in the feature race.
"Overall it was an amazing experience and I enjoyed racing very much," said Owen. "It is a completely different experience from the single-seater F3's I have been racing this year. Nevertheless, I found the Porsche GT4 a great car to drive and the competition was amazing. There is so much battling for position, it is hard not to have fun in these cars. And I really enjoyed working with the guys at Brookspeed. They brought me in on such short notice and as a team we worked really well together. I'm happy to have shown so well in my first outing in GTs and certainly hope it won't be my last!"
Owen's manager Henry James added:
"We've been thoroughly impressed with Chase's performance at Brands Hatch this weekend. His test at Silverstone was his first time in a GT car, but his F3 experience is clearly paying dividends beyond his entry in the BRDC British F3 Championship. From here I will be working with my colleagues to review future avenues that will continue to fast-track Chase's development. It is our goal to build ties with manufacturers for Chase and with performances like this weekend, he stands in a great position moving forward. We'll be reviewing options to get Chase behind the wheel of a GT again soon."
Owen heads to Snetterton on 9-10 May for F3 testing with the Hillspeed team. Most British F3 teams are expected to be in attendance and it will be essential track time in preparation of Round 3 at the same circuit on 27-28 May.