An unforgettable weekend!
That is what the second round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series was at Silverstone a couple of weekends ago. The ‘Bentley Boys’ were fantastic as we scored a dream win for Bentley at Silverstone, a place which is our spiritual racing home through the links of the original ‘Bentley Boys’ who formed the BRDC, of which I am a proud member.
The whole race weekend was sensational. I qualified the Bentley Continental GT3 4th on the grid, the same position that we started at Monza a month before, but this time we were always in contention in the race after great stints from Guy (Smith) and Andy (Meyrick) set things up nicely, despite a twenty second penalty that Guy had to serve for a yellow flag infringement.
The team were phenomenal on the pit work all weekend. The speed they turned us around at our stops really put us in contention for the win and I can’t thank them highly enough. They were just brilliant.
When I took over the number seven Bentley Continental GT3, we were just over twenty seconds adrift of the ART McLaren driven by Andy Soucek. I immediately started to hunt him down but then the safety car came out. I’m pretty sure that even without this I would have still caught Soucek engineer told us and SC helped. Even though it was a help there were still three or four lapped cars between me and the McLaren, which left plenty still to do.
The Bentley Continental GT3 was fantastic all weekend. The real difference for us was just how easy it was on the Pirelli tyres we use in the Blancpain Endurance Series. The wear rates were very impressive and ensured that we could attack pretty much as we pleased throughout all the stints.
With about twelve minutes remaining of the race I caught Soucek. Having been racing at Silverstone since 2001 and also formerly working as a former instructor there, I know the place inside out. I know all of its little secrets! There was no way I was not going to steam on through and I went for it straight away at Luffield where I knew that if I took a specific line, then the traction on the exit in to Woodcote would see me through and get the optimum line for Copse. It worked and from there I was able to control the pace very easily. It was a brilliant feeling.
At the chequered flag I just remember screaming in the radio that we had done it and it felt so good. It was all a bit of a blur but the most satisfying thing was seeing all the team at the end and the joy in their faces afterwards. Everyone had upped their game significantly since the start of the year and it was a great reward to do it on home turf. It was a weekend I will never forget for so many reasons, not least of which was the fantastic job that all the M-Sport Bentley team did and how proud I felt standing on that podium representing them.
Another eventful day at Silverstone
Just a few days after that epic weekend at Silverstone I was back in an M-Sport Bentley GT3 for the British GT Championship race there. Again it was a very eventful weekend that involved another visit to the podium. But this time there was a bit of a sting in the tail at the end.
It was another three hours race and this time I was sharing with my Dutch team mate, Rembert Berg. We alternated the stints and in my first one I had a really wild ride (see left) when I had to desperately avoid another car spinning in front of me at Becketts. That lost us a bunch of time but then after some great driving by Rembert we were in the mix for a podium position in the closing stages.
I was having a fair old dice with the BMW Z4 of Alexander Sims and for a few laps I tried to find a way through. I got a good look down the inside at Stowe and was alongside but he went for the apex which was exactly where I was and he turned in and we touched. Racing is all about opinions and in the heat of the moment it is easy to make a call on whose fault it was. What most people hadn’t seen before that was the BMW moving several times from left to right and back again down the Hangar Straight. From where I was sat I had the corner and Sims made the decision to turn in, knowing full well that I was close. In my view for him to turn in at that point all a bit unnecessary.
I was genuinely surprised to learn afterwards that I, alone, had been penalised for the incident. A thirty second penalty was added on at the end and we were classified in fourth place. I was not happy at all and our team manager less so because we all felt it was a real injustice. We will leave it up to you all to check it out on the TV this weekend and form your own opinion!
Coming up….Snetterton and Ricard
On track there is a brief lull now but as we all know, if you snooze and you lose in racing, so we have been testing this week working through lots of programmes for the up and coming races.
Snetterton is the next race weekend for British GT and then the week after we have the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Championship at Paul Ricard. We are really in the title hunt now and more points will be the order of the day before the big one at Spa at the end of July.
Oh yes and the weekend at Ricard is when our second baby is due. Anyone got a spare helicopter?
Saddling up with the ultimate bike
The day after the Silverstone British GT race I popped over to Richardsons Cycles in Huntingdon to pick up my mega new racing bike. The Militas Pro by Raleigh is a top piece of kit, most of made from carbon fibre and it weighs just 6.5kgs! That’s about the weight of a decent sized watermelon….just to put it in to perspective!
I’m looking forward now to some long training rides with my team mates at Bentley and also Matthew Wilson, who is a mad keen cyclist.
Big thanks to Richardsons and Raleigh. Especially to Adam at Richardsons of Huntingdon.