We went into last weekend in 5th place in the Championship, looking to move up and end the season on a high. With the race being broadcast on Sky Sports F1 there was an extra incentive! We finished the weekend 4th overall in the final standings – an incredibly strong result for a first year in British GT racing. We had started well on Friday, we were very fast when compared against our pre-race target, however when compared against our key rivals the McLarens appeared to be somewhat behind the pace of others. We were focussed entirely on getting a good race setup in the car however which would hopefully pay dividends on Sunday.
Saturday morning was very cold and all cars were really struggling to get any grip from their tyres. I was very confident after we completed the practice sessions having run a strong pace throughout, especially since I was on very old tyres which suggested I would have good pace ahead on new race rubber. We headed into Qualifying with my co-driver Gus going out in the first session, he put in a good run to finish P8 on the timesheets. I went out in the next session, and with a strong second of my two laps managed to elevate us on cumulative lap times to place us 5th on the starting grid, which made us the highest placed McLaren heading into the race. It was incredibly tight in the midfield and I was very happy to have been able to pull us up to the front of it.
On Sunday we arrived at the foggy track with the weather delaying the race programme just short of an hour. On the positive side this allowed us a bit more time to analyse the data from the day before and develop our strategy heading into the race. But that went out the window almost as soon as the race started. Gus started the race and got immediately squeezed into the wall preventing him from being able to make-up any places early. The safety car came out at the end of lap one, which the Aston Martins used to their advantage to immediately pit and make the first of their three mandatory pit stops Unfortunately, the McLaren has a smaller fuel tank capacity and we had to wait 3 more laps behind the safety car before we could pit for our first driver change. When we pitted we raced to try and get back out before the Safety car came around again, but with a minimum pit stop time dictated by regulation we were just unable to achieve that, which meant I had to join at the back of the safety car queue. One of the pro/am teams (which have a shorter minimum pit time that a silver/silver team such as Gus and I) was able to complete their stop and get out in front of the safety car. This meant they gained almost half a lap which they were able to use to their advantage to go on to win the race.
Once the race was restarted both Astons received penalties for pit stop infringements that as time played out did not really impact them significantly. Meanwhile I pulled away from our sister car moving us into 3rd on the road, handing the car back to Gus after an a full hour stint. Our sister McLaren managed to jump us in the second round of pit stops, and Gus would go on to hold his position for the remainder of his stint. With 35 minutes to go we did our final driver change and I went out to attempt to claw back some time from our competitors, the Astons finding themselves in front of us when the pit stop staggers all played out. Unfortunately, the Astons where just too fast for us on this weekend and I could only hold position to finish in 5th place.
I am really happy with the result though, we may have not finished on the podium but I felt that I had driven really well all weekend. Unfortunately, the BOP, temperature, and front vs mid engine balance just didn’t suit the McLaren on the day.
It has overall been an incredible season and debut into GT racing, I cannot thank the HHC team enough for making it as smooth and enjoyable as it has been. I have shown flashes of extremely strong pace all year, but between Gus and I we made a few small errors that affected two results that would have otherwise seen us on the podium more that the twice we achieved, and I believe could have otherwise given us a second win at Snetterton. I will never forget the win we did achieve at Donington in August, and I cannot wait to get into 2021 and the new challenges that it brings!
A massive thank you to all my friends, family and others that have supported me this year. And specifically, to CORE Modular, Hills Group, The RaceHut and Webcetera for sponsoring and supporting me this season. It would not have been possible without you all.