The 2018 season for Akhil Rabindra together with Belgian partner Stephane Lemeret started with the first round of the GT4 European Series at Circuit Zolder in Belgium. The pair racing for 3Y Technology completed pre-season test at the same circuit in the new BMW M4 GT4 machinery.
The first official practice session on Friday saw them finish 15th overall with Lemeret clocking the best time of 1m40.135s, while they were 10th in the Silver class. The second session saw them improve to seventh overall and fifth in class, with Lemeret doing a 1m40.149s lap.
With qualifying divided into two sessions, the Qualifying 1 saw all the Pro drivers in the slot for Race 1 grid position. Rabindra finished 29th overall against the experienced Pro drivers with a time of 1m40.239s. He was 14th in the Silver class.
The pole went to the #5 Silver class’ Phoenix Racing’s pair of Nicolas Moller-Madsen and Milan Dontje driving the Audi, with Moller-Madsen clocking a time of 1m38.047s from the #36 Silver class’ CMR pair of Jean Pierre-Alexandre and Stephane Tribaudin driving the Ginetta.
In Qualifying 2, it was Lemeret against the Am drivers. The Belgian finished fifth overall and fourth in Silver class with a time of 1m39.028s for Race 2 on Sunday. Pole went to the #55 Silver class’ HHC Motorsport’s pair of Stuart Middleton and William Tregurtha with a time of 1m38.259s in the Ginetta.
It was a short-lived first race on Saturday for the pairing of Rabindra and Lemeret as the Indian was hit from the back in the opening lap in a rolling start which forced him to bring his #37 BMW M4 in the pits. The team was unable to fix the problem in time to send it out in the race.
At the front, pole-sitter #5 Audi had a clean run with Madsen and Dontje winning by 2.882s after 33 laps of racing from the #10 Equipe Verschuur McLaren of Finlay Hutchison and Ricardo vd Ende, while the #55 Ginetta of Tregurtha and Middleton rounded out the Top 3 – all three from the Silver class.
The second race on Sunday started under slight overcast conditions, but sun was shining by the end of the one hour of racing. Surprisingly, everyone behaved well at the start with Lemeret keeping fifth despite challenges from its rivals.
But the Belgian hung on to the position until the Dontje came up to him in the #5 Audi. The Dutch driver went past Lemeret just after the safety car was pulled in and the pit window opened up.
While everyone around Lemeret pitted, the Belgian waited until the final lap of the pit window closing to dive in and hand the car to Rabindra. However, the team lost time in the ptis as it came out only in 11th position.
From then on, it was a battle for the Indian in his first competitive outing not only in the series, but also at the track. He had the #13 Porsche and the #16 Audi chasing him for track position and a second place in the Pro-Am class.
In a back and forth tussle, both managed to leapfrog Rabindra, with the Indian then keeping the #71 BMW at bay to eventually finish 15th overall and 11th in Silver class on his debut weekend in the championship.
Up front, it was a battle until the last lap with #5 Audi of Madsen and Dontje taking the chequered flag in first place, but were handed a 31 second penalty for unsafe release which dropped them to fifth.
It helped #55 Ginetta of Middleton and Tregurtha to win the race by over 20 second on Pro-Am winner #77 Racing One Audi of Csaba Mor and Patrick Zamparini, while #87 Team GT McLaren of Paul Rees and Nico Rindlisbacher completing the Top 3.
In one month's time, the field will return to action during May 5-6 weekend for Round 2 at Brands Hatch circuit in the UK - a track which Rabindra is familar with.
UPDATE: A penalty to another driver promoted Rabindra and Lemeret to 10th place in the Silver class and 14th overall.