It was really good to be back on the podium, and to achieve the result against a strong field of 25 cars made it all the more satisfying. The result was the culmination of a lot of hard work on setup which gave us a car which we could race with. I'd never been to the track before, so needed a few laps to get my head around it. Apart from the last sector it flows really well which is the sort of track I like. There were two free practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, but they were punctuated by a lot of red flags which meant we didn't get a chance to try long runs on the Michelin tyres so it took longer than usual to optimise the setup. A feature of the free practices was that the second session ended in almost complete darkness which was a lot of fun, but with less than ideal headlights, quite exciting! The driver that starts Race 1 on Saturday also does the qualifying and the same format applies for Sunday. I was starting Saturday's race so was first up for qualifying. I only had one set of new tyres, so did two laps on old rubber at the beginning of the session to check out the track which was very green from overnight rain. I went back on track with 15 minutes to go and as I started my flying lap, a yellow came out at turn 5 with a car in the gravel. I completed the lap, taking care through the yellow zone and did a time which put me in P5. It looked as though it would be a short yellow as the car was being towed out so, with not much time left, it made sense to stay out and go slowly rather than pit. In the end the yellow lasted for 4 laps, so I had time for one lap at the end. As I started the lap, I could tell that the tyres were past their best but put in a time nevertheless, about a second off the first lap time. When I got back to the pits I was told that my quickest time had been deleted due to improving under yellow even though it was my first flying lap. This meant that I dropped to P11 and would start the race from there.
The race started in bright sunshine and I passed the AKKA ASP Mercedes at the end of the back straight on the first lap into P10. I was now on the back of Miguel Ramos's BMW and spent the stint staring at the rear of it. I was quicker over a lap but couldn't get close enough in the crucial areas of the lap to pass him. The car had also developed understeer which was exacerbated by following the BMW closely. It made sense to hand over to Francesco Sini as soon as the pit window opened in the hope that he could get some clean air - our stop time included a ten second penalty for being a one off entry to the championship. Francesco too, found the car understeering badly and brought it home in tenth place after a battle with the Attempto Racing Lamborghini. We clearly had some setup work to do before Sunday!
After heavy overnight rain, qualifying started with a damp track for Francesco on Sunday morning. After fluctuating up and down the order as the track dried, and being quickest at one point, he ended up in P8 after being one of the first to cross the line at the end of the session. He started the race strongly, moving up the order in a chaotic start to the race, keeping out of trouble and was running in P3 as the pit window opened when there was contact with a Porsche back marker. He was unlucky to be pitched into a spin, losing valuable seconds, but got going again and handed over to me at the end of the lap. I got my head down and my first flying lap was the fastest race lap of the weekend for the car. Coming past the pits, I saw the Ramos BMW rejoining and my view from race one was back! The car was much improved and I was able to get very close through the slower corners, but through the long corner on to the straight I would lose out just enough to be out of range to overtake into turn one. We caught up to the Kaspersky Ferrari 488 - the BMW passed it, running off the road in the process, but kept the place. I shadowed the Ferrari for a lap and a half before getting alongside out of turn 5 and completing the move into turn 6. I was now up to P4 and set off after the BMW but a safety car intervened after a nasty accident at turn 1. At the restart an incident for the second placed BMW promoted me to P3 and I shadowed the BMW to a podium finish. It was a fantastic way to finish the year and I'd like to thank Franklin & Sons for supporting me for the weekend and the Solaris Motorsport guys for all of their hard work. I'll leave the last word to my team mate for the weekend, Francesco Sini:
"I'm very happy about this podium, we had to fight until the end to grab it! The contact in the middle of the race was very hard, I was sure I had to retire but this Vantage is very strong! Jody was incredible, very quick and smart. It's a pleasure to race with him." said Francesco Sini. "We showed we can be competitive also in international events and this is the most important thing. We improved our performance session by session, taking the podium at the end."
Jody Fannin will join Aston Martin Racing Partner Team, Solaris Motorsport for the last round of the International GT Open Championship at the Circuit De Catalunya north of Barcelona on 5/6 November alongside regular driver Francesco Sini.
The established Italian team have raced the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 in the Italian GT Championship this year, scoring three podiums in their first year with the car. Francesco Sini, the 2014 Euro V8 Series Champion and 2008 Radical Masters Champion commented "I'm excited to be back in the International GT Open. Our Aston Martin was very competitive in the Italian GT Championship and I'm confident that together with Jody we can aim at important goals." Francesco will make his third appearance in the GT Open, after taking part in the 2015 Paul Ricard and Monza rounds. "It will be the first time I drive with Jody, but I'm sure we will find the right feeling early. He knows the car very well and this can help us to find a good race pace quickly. I want to finish the season with the best result possible!"
"After the good season in the Italian GT Championship, we had the desire to face an international challenge. The GT Open round in Barcelona is the best stage we could choose because of the high level of the participants and because there will be other Aston Martins on track, two factors that will tell us how competitive we are. We will have also new Michelin tyres, instead of the usual Pirelli, and we will have to discover their behaviour." commented Roberto Sini, who is helped in managing the team by his sons Francesco and Laura. "I'm very happy to have a young and talented driver as Jody. He's just 23 but he already has a very good background in GT races. His knowledge of the Vantage GT3 will help us make another step forward."
This will be Jodyâ€™s first round of the GT Open since a win and a second place at Silverstone in 2014 alongside Darren Turner in a TF Sport Aston Martin. â€œAfter my British GT Championship finished a round early, itâ€™ll be good to get out again before the end of the year. I'm looking forward to working with Solaris Motorsport and Francesco. I havenâ€™t been to Barcelona before, but I know the GT3 Aston and am confident that we can run at the sharp end.â€
The final round of the International GT Open in Barcelona will start on Friday, November 4th, with two practice sessions, scheduled for 1:30 PM and 4:50 PM. The Saturday morning qualifying session will decide the starting grid for the 70-minute Race 1, which will start at 4:15 PM, while again on Saturday morning at 9:40 there will be a second qualifying session for the 60-minute Race 2. Both the races will be streamed live on the official International GT Open YouTube channel.
Pic Jakob Ebrey
After a long break and in spite of a far from ideal Saturday, a season's best result in Race 1 was tainted by a mechanical issue in Race 2. After a post race incident at Silverstone which left the car badly damaged, the team had worked hard to get the car ready for the race weekend having missed the Spa round. A test at Snetterton was cut short after a gearbox issue was encountered early on in the day which was traced back to the Silverstone incident, so we arrived at race weekend very short of track time but the whole team was very happy to be back racing. It was the scene of my second place last year, so I was hoping to have a good weekend! We spent FP1 doing some setup testing, making some major changes, so weren't pushing for times but made some progress and were happy with the improvements. Peter started FP2 but unfortunately lost a wheel at turn one, which caused minor damage but it was enough to curtail the session to Peter doing 3 laps right at the end, so it was straight into qualifying for me! Peter did his personal best time around Snetterton in P13 and I managed P8 in a closely packed grid in spite of not trying for a time in free practice.
We made a few changes overnight and I was P3 in the morning warmup 0.1 off the quickest, which was encouraging. Peter started race 1 and drove well to hand the car over in P10. I was 16 seconds behind the next GT3 car which I was closing down before it slowed with an issue. I found myself in P8 after some issues with rivals and I then had a 23 seconds gap to Ross Wylie in the Motorbase Aston Martin with 15 minutes to go, so didn't take any risks and finished in P7, 13 seconds behind Ross. This was PFL Motorsport's best result of the season and reward for all the hard work put in to the car in the previous weeks.
Unfortunately race two lasted half a lap before the clutch sensor went. I carried on for a few laps trying to reset things but after it made no difference, I pitted. The guys did their best to get the car back out but the damage was done and it was game over for the weekend. Looking forward to rounding off the season with a good result at Donington Park.
Pic Jakob Ebrey
We were having a really good run before a GT4 car made contact with Peter with an hour to run while in fourth place, ending our race. It was always going to be a tricky event with the European GT4 Series joining us, meaning 51 cars on track, with 33 GT4 cars.
There was an additional hour of free practice on Friday afternoon during which we tried a few things with the setup which carried over into the free practice on Saturday morning. At the end of FP1 we were sixth quickest and the car much improved. There was an awful lot of traffic with some of the European GT4 visitors learning the track and taking some unusual lines in the process. Their series is for GT4 cars only, the majority of rounds being standalone races, so they're not used to the quicker GT3 cars coming through making it a challenge all round. In FP2, Pete got most of the track time and on my laps I didn't get a clear corner, never mind a clear lap. The car felt well balanced, however, so we would see what qualifying would bring.
Pete did a good job in qualifying, once again doing his quickest lap of the track and finishing ahead of the Ultimate Speed Aston Martin Vantage GT3. I was 0.8 off the Bentley on pole but in P10 in my session in a massively competitive field.
Sunday dawned wet and grey with a forecast for showers throughout the day. We did little running in the warmup and I tried slicks as it had stopped raining. It wasn't quite dry enough, but at least I knew where we were in case we were faced with similar conditions later in the day.
The race started behind the safety car on a drenched track and Peter was holding his own passing a GT3 Ginetta and after a safety car intervention, he handed the car over to me. By the time the safety car was back in on lap 21, I was in P15 with some work to do. I had a lot of lapped GT4 cars to make my way past before I could get after the GT3 cars in front. I was up to P9 by lap 23 P8 a couple of laps later and closing on the Barwell Lamborghinis. After passing one on lap 30, I was called in for a drive through penalty as a result of a pit stop infringement. I set off after the pack again and by lap 40 was in P4 catching the Demon Tweeks Lamborghini once again. After following it through Luffield, I peeled off to pit and hand over to Peter. There was a drying line and the track was definitely ready for slicks, so Peter left the pits on dry tyres for his stint. He got as far as Stowe Corner when he was tagged at the left rear by a GT4 car and after heavy contact with the barriers, the car was retired.
It was a really frustrating end to what had been a good weekend and a great display by the team. Onwards and upwards to Spa, my favourite track!
Pic Jakob Ebrey
After a good test the previous week, we were keen to find out how the changes to the car would work over the race weekend. Having extra BOP ballast would make it difficult, but in FP1 on Saturday morning, we overcame an initial issue with the car to finish the session in P6 having tweaked the setup throughout the session. FP2 was pretty much dedicated to giving Peter time in the car and my run at the end was cut short by a red flag, so we would have to wait for qualifying to see where we were pace wise. Peter continues to climb his steep learning curve and in his session did his quickest ever lap around Oulton Park. I qualified in P7 not far off the quickest Astons and it should have been quicker as it wasn't a perfect lap. After a "rest" day on Sunday, Bank Holiday Monday dawned bright and sunny and we were greeted by a big crowd basking in the sunshine. I went out in the warmup, the car felt really good and I found myself top of the time sheets by quite a margin which was really encouraging.
There were two one hour races with Peter starting race one and me starting race two. Peter did a great job in his stint and handed the car over to me in P14. There was a gap of over 12 seconds to the next GT3 car ahead, so I started chasing them down. The Audi of Ryan Ratcliffe came out of the pits a few seconds ahead and I caught him and was looking for a way past; with Oulton Park being very narrow, it's difficult to overtake, so I was waiting for an opportunity. On lap 28, I got a run on him coming out of Cascades. He moved left to defend on the run down to Island Bend so I went to his right and managed to go around the outside of him at Island and was on the inside into the Shell Oils Hairpin, so was past and up into thirteenth, then twelfth a lap later. I was on the back of a train of cars with Mike Simpson's Ginetta in front, but he didn't make any mistakes, so I was following him to the flag when I gained another place after Ross Wylie had an incident on the last lap.
We made a small change to the car for race two and I was hoping to make up places at the start as it's very difficult to pass around the lap at the sharp end of the grid. I was close behind Jonny Adam's Aston Martin coming up Deer's Leap, keeping my eyes on the lights when his wing briefly shielded them from me - it was at that moment that they turned green, so I was fractionally late on the power, but it was enough to lose a couple of places on the run to Old Hall. As a result I spent most of my stint staring at the back of Jon Barnes's Aston's rear wing, who was in turn right on the back of Joe Osborne's BMW. It was pretty much stalemate, but I did get my nose alongside the TF Sport car on the run past the pitfall, however Jon closed the door in what was a scary moment as we touched - I had no room as I was hard against the pitwall, but we somehow survived. I was badly held up on two occasions by GT4 cars side by side, so there was no way through, but at least that gave me a bit of clear air and I was closing on the cars in front when I pitted to hand over to Peter. This was the first time I have handed the car over to Peter in the pitstops which came with its challenges, so unfortunately we lost 30 seconds in the stop and finished the race in P12.
The next race is the 3 hour at Silverstone which is a track that should suit our car . We're still improving all the time, so looking forward to the longest race of the season.