The first weekend of British GT 2020 is now behind us and the best way to describe it would be to say it was fun, infuriating, sweltering, disappointing, lucky, unlucky and tiring, all together. It was also a great experience to be part of although somewhat weird as a result of the Covid measures put in place. I believe we did have 4000 spectators on Sunday and half that on Saturday though and hope that they all had a great time watching.
It all started on the Friday when the sun was beaming down on us and it must have been more than 50 degrees in the car. I got out of the car after the second session and my race suit was ringing wet. Both Gus (my co-driver) and I struggled with the balance of the car from the start of first practice and found ourselves off the pace that we had showed in pre-season testing. It was impacting our ability to get through the corners in the way that we wanted to, and largely stayed with us both through the weekend. Reviewing the data showed that our time loss was linear across the lap compared against the sister car in the garage, and while we and the team tried a number of changes we were unable to recover the time that we were loosing to the sister car and the other lead competitors.
Chin up and into Saturday for qualifying. Unfortunately I made one significant mistake on my qualifying run which cost me a lot of time and dropped me into 6th on the grid for race 1 – a bit of a rookie mistake that resulted from not having been comfortable the day before. Gus unfortunately had his best qualifying lap time deleted due to a track limits infringement we had to settle for 8th on the grid for race 2.
Race 1 came and went in a flash on Sunday afternoon. On the left hand side of the grid the cars in front of me did not get away as well as those on the right and I came out of the first corner maintaining my 6th position. The problem of being just a little off the pace had not gone away though and I was not able to stick on the back of the car’s in front long enough to make a great race of it. The BMW directly behind me was pushing hard and continually became closer as we crossed the line only for me to pull away again through the back of the circuit. Letting the GT3 cars come through to lap us brought the leading GT4 cars back to me a little and allowed me to pull away from those behind, and we were fundamentally holding our positions going into the mandatory pit stop and driver change. I handed over to Gus who had an ongoing race to the line with the BMW behind us, holding him off by a 1 tenth of a second at the line. An off for the Mustang in front of us meant that we had came home in 5th place.
We decided to roll the dice for the second race and the team made a significant car set-up change for us. Gus’s turn to take the start and hand over to myself half way through. There were more crashes in this race with one major one resulting in a GT3 Bentley colliding with a GT4 Aston, whose wheel flew into a following GT3 McLaren, taking all three cars out and leaving them in dangerous positions just off three different corners of the track. This happened just as I got in the car for my stint in the race, 25 minutes to go and I was in the safety car train with 4 GT4 cars in front of me and the rest behind. Frustratingly we followed the safety car for the remainder of the race as the recovery vehicles were unable to clear all of the stricken cars, without my having had the chance to complete a single flying lap. 5th again. It is a result we have to take happily all things considered, but is not what Gus and I were looking for going into the weekend.
A massive thanks to Core Modular, Hills Group and The RaceHut for supporting me this year. Time to regroup now and look forward to Donnington Park on 15th and 16th August, where we can build on what we learnt from last weekend.