In typical fashion, the famous Spa-Francorchamps F1 circuit in Belgium has produced an up and down weekend for Melbourne racing driver Dylan Young during the Ligier European Series round from September 22-23.
Young, the 2019/20 MRF Challenge Formula 3 Vice Champion, was piloting the Smart Driving Team Ligier JS P4 (LMP4) for the first time since Paul Ricard back in July after making the crossover from a successful open-wheeler career.
Young (PRO), as the only Aussie in the field, teamed up to share the car with Italian Davide Amaduzzi (AM) in the Pro-Am Class amongst a 16 car grid.
Young and Amaduzzi went into Free Practice 1 without any testing behind them unlike most of the field and it would also be Dylan's first time driving the legendary circuit. Dylan took the wheel at the start of the session on a wet track. A full course yellow due to another car in the barriers meant Young was limited to just 4 flying laps in slippery conditions before handing the car over to Amaduzzi as the circuit began to dry. The duo finished the session in P7.
Dylan was finally able to get some dry laps in FP2 but on his 5th flying lap an oil pressure gremlin impacted the rest of his session so Dylan was heading into qualifying with only a handful of laps to his name.
Spa is renowned for its changing weather conditions and as the field circulated on their out lap in qualifying on dry tyres, the rain began to fall. The first lap was likely to be the quickest as the track conditions worsened and so Young pushed extremely hard on his first flying lap but was caught out under braking and ran wide where the marshals ordered him to switch off the engine. It meant the #5 Smart Driving entry would have to start both races at the rear of the grid but Young and Amaduzzi were excited to fight through the field.
In Race 1, Young took the start again in slippery conditions due to overnight rain. He had a strong first stint and managed to move his way from 16th up to 8th before the mid race driver change. Young handed the car over to Amaduzzi who kept the car in 8th place until the chequered flag but unfortunately incurred a post race penalty for track limits on the final laps which dropped them to 9th.
In Race 2, Amaduzzi took the wheel for the start and had a good first stint before handing the car over to Dylan at the mid way point of the race. Amaduzzi had reported braking issues and understeer so Young had to nurse the car for the first few laps before entering a fight with two other cars for 7th place. Showing great fight and pace to climb from the rear of the field again, it led to some very close racing. But one of the cars then turned in on Young and made contact at high speed to which the commentators felt should have been a penalty for the other driver. As Young went to make a move again on the car ahead he was then vulnerable from behind and contact was made at Turn 1 which dropped Young to 8th at the chequered flag and 2nd in the Pro-Am class, just missing out on the win.
"Spa is an absolutely incredible circuit, probably my all time favourite now! It's an absolute rollercoaster both from a driving perspective, to the weather and how your weekend can pan out. There was definitely a lot of ups and downs this weekend but I think we showed great pace given basically the entire field had been testing here recently or had driven here before. Had we not had the issue in qualifying I think we would have been pushing much closer to the front and taking the win in Pro-Am. But sometimes that's racing and it doesn't always go to plan."
"I want to thank all of my partners for their amazing support along with the Smart Driving Team who have been amazing to work with and Davide for being a great team mate. We are now starting to turn our attention to 2024 and I hope we can announce some plans shortly!"