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Byrne Battles Through Misfortune to Claim Junior Win at Spa Francorchamps

Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the Year Jack Byrne returned to the top step of the podium in the latest round of the European Clio Cup Championship at the famous Spa Francorchamps circuit.

After a difficult weekend last time out in Misano, Byrne was looking to bounce back in the final round before the summer break. His GPA Racing team had also traced a faulty intercooler pipe which had hampered his progress in Misano and testing on Friday seen Byrne post top 5 times and he felt that he had dialled the setup in perfectly ahead of the first qualifying session.

However, the famous Spa weather would play its part across the weekend and qualifying one was held in damp conditions on Saturday morning. Getting a lap in early would turn out to be crucial as the track dried just enough to start overheating the wet tyres but it was still too wet to gamble on slick tyres. A jumbled up grid order was the result at the end of qualifying, and the Wexford man was on the wrong end of the shuffle, finding himself back in 30th place for the first race of the weekend.

With 55 cars on the grid, the organisers decided to start both races behind the safety car to ease any potential first corner incidents. This proved to be a bit more of a handicap for Byrne as the pack was much more spread out at the start but he duly got the head down and started fighting his way forward. Aided by the huge slipstream on offer around the track, Byrne soon moved into the top 20 and was lapping at a similar pace to the leaders as he caught up to the train of cars battling for 10th place. Unfortunately all his hard work would soon turn to nothing as when attempting to overtake another car, he was left totally unsighted of a spun car stuck stationary in the middle of the result. Heavy contact ensued and the result was an immediate retirement with substantial front end damage to his Clio.

When the car was recovered back to the paddock, the GPA Racing crew set about a full on front end rebuild to enable Byrne to take part in the rest of the weekend and they duly restored the car to full health ahead of the second qualifying session on Sunday morning.

Heading into qualifying two, Byrne was hoping to use the early laps to shake the car down and ensure all was good after the crash in race one but the weather situation was almost identical to Saturday’s session and Byrne felt he left a bit more on the table on his optimum lap but was happy to line up in 16th place, confident that the car was back to full health and he could race from there.

As the pack was released at the start of race two, Byrne began yet another charge up through the pack and he was soon battling on the fringes of the top 10 and reeling in European Junior rivals Damiano Puccetti and Mauro Polderman. Having displaced Pucetti, he set off in pursuit of his Dutch rival and soon passed Polderman for 8th place before a late race safety car seen the race come to a premature end. Byrne collected maximum Junior points in both the European and Mid Europe Clio Cup Series and is just three points off the lead of the European Junior Series ahead of the summer break. The championship returns in late August at the Magny Cours Circuit in France.

Jack Byrne #86 GPA Racing

“Spa is an absolute rollercoaster of a track and the weekends results certainly reflect that. To take home a Junior win after the crash on Saturday is a perfect comeback and a massive thanks to everyone at GPA Racing for getting me back on the grid for Sunday. I feel we have really turned a corner on the setup of the car and I’m really looking forward to getting back at it after the summer break. For now it’s time to put plenty of hours in on the sim and into training to be in the best possible position to take home this Junior championship. Again a massive thanks to all my corporate partners who make it all possible and to all my supporters who kept backing me after a couple of tough weekends.”

Jack Byrne is supported by Motorsport Ireland | Sport Ireland | O’Brien Cement | West Wales Rally Spares | David Byrne Auto Repairs | Slaney View Motors | Ignite Training and Consultancy | ProtoFab

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