It was in glorious spring sunshine that our 2021 race season kicked off at Silverstone on the 24th April, with the first two rounds of the Britcar Endurance Championship. With 34 cars having lined up on the grid for the opening race, we were comfortably leading with 10 minutes of the one hour race left to go when we lost use of the electronic gear shift. Stuck in 4th gear and suddenly losing 4 or 5 seconds a lap, we fell back to bring the car home on the podium in 3rd place overall, second in class. While incredibly frustrating on one hand, we had showed that we are there to fight at the front and can look forward to the races to come.
Having said “we”, let me explain. I have set-up a new team this year, running a 2021 Praga R1 prototype category car primarily in the Britcar Endurance series, with Richard Morris sharing the drive with me. In keeping with most Endurance or GT Race series we have mandatory pit stops and driver changes in each race. We race, win and lose together with it very much being a team effort for myself, Richard and our three man support team.
To say that both of the races at Silverstone were dramatic would not be an overstatement. Significant crashes in the early laps, thankfully behind us in both cases, led to 13 and 18 minutes of safety car periods respectively in each race. We had qualified in fifth place for race one and with Richard doing the first stint, and doing a great job he had put us into third place (first in class) when the safety car came out. We pitted 20 minutes in and saved ourselves some time on all bar two other cars in the field by virtue of them pitting a few laps after us. I had a battle with one of the other Praga’s that pitted at the same time as us, he took me, I took him back and pulled a healthy gap from there. When all the pit stops unwound, we were leading the race by 10 seconds from a Lamborghini GT3 with 20 minutes remaining. 10 minutes to go and we led by 8 seconds when the electronics decided to ignore me. I was stuck in 4th gear, two laps later the Lambo passed me, one of the factory Praga’s passed me four laps after. And as though the car I was driving wanted to teasing me a little, the gear change started responding for one lap before locking me into 6th gear for the remainder of the race. In the end I brought the car home in third place overall, second in the dedicated Praga class.
Race 2 unfortunately followed a similar pattern although this time the gear shift gremlin raised its head during Richard’s first stint leaving him stuck in second gear. We pulled him in and swapped the steering wheel to try to resolve the issue but then retired the car a short while after that. Unfortunately these things happen in racing and we will brush it off and move on to the next two races at Snetterton on the 8th May. Regards what caused the issue, Praga engineers were on hand to diagnose the problem, and we believe that we had an electrical fault in the data logger that was sending spurious signals to the car’s electronic control unit – computers – unfortunately they really can hinder us sometimes.
I would very much like to thank Core Modular, Hills Group and Webcetera for their ongoing support this year, and look forward to the next round and hopefully two clean and complete races. It is certainly going to be a competitive and exciting year on the track.