The 2019 Dubai 24 Hours was hosted at the well-regarded and impeccably maintained Dubai International Autodrome, in the centre of Dubai’s fittingly-named “Motor City”. For me, it was my first ever international race and entering the event on the morning of Wednesday 9 January was a hugely exciting, and slightly intimidating prospect. Spending the next 4 days thrashing around the 5.39 km circuit at speeds touching 150mph in both day and night conditions would mean I had a huge amount to learn but I was revelling in the idea of getting out on track. The quality and quantity of cars was unbelievable, enough to make any petrolhead drool, with a total of 84 cars starting the race. This race is seen by manufacturers as an opportunity to test out their new, updated race cars for the approaching season. A key example of this being the first glimpse of the new Audi R8 GT3-Evo which was raced by 3-4 teams that weekend. In addition to this we had some smaller, “happy-go-lucky” racers turning up with their own home-made race cars with the pure intention to compete whilst enjoying themselves, a mindset I admire hugely. Examples of these cars ranged from a modified Lotus Exige to highly kitted-out E36 BMW M3s and a Silhouette, mid-engine, rear wheel drive Volkswagen Scirocco.
Then there was us, team CWS. Our car of choice was the Ginetta G55 GT4, a car I knew well from 2018’s Ginetta GT4 Supercup Series but with modifications to help with both its speed and reliability; wider tyres, uprated suspension, exhaust, brakes and cooling. These changes made the car an absolute monster to drive with upwards of 400BHP in a car only weighing just over 1000 kg. To put it in perspective for you, this car had a comparable power/weight ratio to Ferrari’s idea of the ultimate track car, the Ferrari FXX which costs approximately £2 million.
My first time driving out of the pit lane was a jaw dropping moment as this was by far the most professional track I’d ever been on but immediately I learned that the track had it all; slow corners, fast corners, long straights followed by very heavy braking zones, you get my point. It was great fun to drive and an experience I’ll never forget. However, I only had around 20 laps in the car before I was sent out to push the car to its maximum in qualifying. With a new set of tyres bolted on I loved pushing the car around this track and set a time of 2:09.395, within 0.4 of a second of my teammate putting us both fastest in our class (SP3) and P1 in the overall TCE class which combined the SP3, TCR, Cup 1 and Class A competitors. Pole Position! Awesome!
One day later, the race started at 3pm local time and under the blistering sun, my teammate Colin White started the race and pulled a gap as leader in TCE and SP3. Two hours later, Colin came back in to swap drivers and the race continued into the night. As dawn emerged, I’d had two challenging stints in the night with some unfortunate mechanical issues impeding our progress but nevertheless I was thoroughly enjoying my first endurance race experience! As the clock ticked on, I jumped in for my last stint at 9am and put in probably one of my best drives for 2 full hours of mistake-less, consistent driving with strong lap times. Unfortunately, our mechanical challenges in the night had put us out of overall TCE contention and 15 laps behind the leader of SP3, but I knuckled down and in my two-hour stint, claimed back 5 laps on the class leaders. When I jumped out of the car, my work was done. 6 hours total of flat-out driving and I’d never felt better! What an experience! In the 4 hours until the end of the race I had ample time to reflect on this amazing experience and how proud I felt to have been a part of it.
As the race finished, we’d clawed our way back to just a lap off the SP3 leaders, but the clock beat us in the end as we crossed the line P2 in class and P10 in TCE. In honesty, even if we’d retired in the final hours of the race, I knew I could have left Dubai with my head held high as I know I did all I could on track.
To summarise, this experience proved to me that I have what it takes to be a successful endurance racing driver. For my first time there I came away having learned so much, not just about myself but about teamwork and how to prepare and apply myself in tense and relentless situations. I can’t thank enough everyone who’s helped me to get to this stage in my career, especially my main sponsors Cambridge and Counties Bank. Together we make a great team!