As the first race of the Easter weekend drew nearer, I prepared for my battle at Oulton Park. Throughout the testing all was well, however, we got to the Friday before the first race and noticed the balance of the car was out of habit. After some tinkering and a bit of worry, we realised that all drivers were experiencing handling issues like our cars, regardless of their class, which was unusual but something we would all have to contend with. On Saturday, I completed the one-lap sprint placing me 9th in the Professional (Pro) qualifying session, with Andrew my teammate only being able to get the car into 12th during in the Amateur (AM) qualifying session. It was quite a shock all round as we expected to be much more competitive on our one-lap pace. Following the results, we used Easter Sunday to regroup and come up with a plan for the Monday races.
Monday arrived, and because of the qualifying races, Andrew started the car from his 12th position for the first race. We started strong, gaining two places in the first lap to run 10th in GT4 before an early safety car curtailed our charge. After this, Andrew consolidated his 10th position before handing the car over to me at the half-way point. Our driver change was slick, and I left the pits raring to get out on to the track. My exit was disrupted by a Pro GT3 Aston who to my detriment, stalled twice and then kept their pit limiter on, costing me at least 6 precious seconds. Once out of the pits, I was behind a GT4 Aston Martin who held me up further and left me to spend at least 8 laps dispatching of said Aston. Once this was done and I got into clear air, I stretched my legs catching 5 GT4 cars ahead. Had I not been held up, I’m confident I’d have passed them all, finishing a remarkable 4th in GT4 Silver. However, I ran out of laps and had to make do with a mediocre 8th in class. Not a bad result considering the struggles however, it does leave me to wonder what could have been.
The second race began later Monday, with me starting the car 9th in the GT4 class and 6th in the GT4 Silver class. With a strong start, by the end of lap 2 I was up to 7th in the GT4 and 5th in the GT4 Silver and I knew three of the cars ahead had to serve pit-stop success penalties from the previous race. If I stayed close to them, I’d be able to leapfrog them in the pits and Andrew would re-join 2nd in GT4 Silver and 3rd in GT4 overall. However, fate had a different plan as during my in-lap, I had a sudden drop in power and the throttle went numb. I crawled back to the pits and handed the car over to Andrew, but a faultless stint on my behalf yielded no reward as we had to keep the car in the pits for several extra minutes to locate the issue which was a problem with the turbo. Once fixed, Andrew re-joined the race last in class. A real shame.
On reflection, I can’t be too upset with my first weekend of the 2019 British GT Championship. Andrew and I battled with the balance of the car throughout testing but when it came to the races, we both kept our noses clean and brought home points, with the hope of a podium in the second race until a mechanical issue ruled us out. It’s a shame to miss out on such a strong result but this is as good as the competition gets in the UK and to be in the mix for podiums at a track we previously struggled at gives us confidence that we can flourish in the races which suit the car more! As always, thanks to all my sponsors, especially my main sponsor Cambridge & Counties Bank. I can’t wait for the next race at Snetterton where we’ll be coming back stronger than ever!
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