Pic: Copyright 2017 LOU JOHNSON / SPACESUIT MEDIA
We managed to bring the car home to score points after a hard fought race at Silverstone in what was ultimately a damage limitation exercise. After a good test at Monza, in Free Practice on Thursday afternoon, the car felt very different and difficult to drive in the colder UK temperatures. Some changes were made overnight and the car was improved in Friday morning's session but there was still work to do. Rory did a good job in qualifying but the deficit to the other, mainly new generation GTE cars, was too much to breach and we qualified sixth.
We were several seconds off the Aston Martins, so the aim was to score as many points as we could and hope that the BOP would be more favourable from Monza onwards. Race day was sunny but still quite cold and I started the race. I spent the first few laps settling down and looking for a way past Andrew Howard's Beechdean Aston Martin. He was defending, and the Aston is quick, so I bided my time and took advantage amongst the LMP2 traffic with a move up the inside into Vale. The next car up the road was the No 77 Porsche and after 5 laps I had caught and passed it and was up into third place after the Roda Ferrari had been delayed. I set off after the TF Sport Aston Martin which I caught and passed, again in traffic, into Village corner. So I was into second with a 10 second gap to the Aaron Scott Ferrari 488 and that's how it stayed until I handed over to Rob Smith around the hour mark. With Silverstone having mainly right hand corners, the team elected to change only the left hand tyres which saves time at the pit stop. Rob fought hard but was overhauled by the faster Astons and after a battle with the Ferrari 488 of Duncan Cameron handed back over to Rory in fifth place. Rory put in a great stint and handed back over to me with less than an hour to go in fifth. We gained time at the pit stop by once again changing two tyres and I came out of the pits behind Matt Griffin in the Spirit of Race 488 but slowly drifted away from him and with a big gap to sixth place settled down to bring the car home.
I was happy with my introduction to the ELMS, particularly the first stint, but hope that we are closer to the rest of the field for the next round at Monza in 3 weeks time. Everyone at JMW Motorsport did a fantastic job and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.
Jody Fannin has joined JMW Motorsport in their Ferrari 458 Italia in the GTE class of the European Le Mans Series for the 2017 season. After two years in the GT3 class of the British GT Championship this marks a step up for Fannin to the GTE class. "Since the moment I stepped into a kart, I have always been aiming at endurance racing and this is a further step in that direction. The ELMS is a well established multi-class endurance racing championship and I'm really looking forward to working with JMW Motorsport who have a fantastic heritage in the sport."
After narrowly missing out on the ELMS GTE title in 2016, JMW Motorsport are back with their Ferrari 458 to mix it against the Ferrari 488's, Aston Martin V8 Vantages and Porsche 911 RSR's. "It's a quality field with several factory drivers in it and I can't wait to get going at the first round at Silverstone." commented Fannin. After showing good pace at the ELMS Prologue at Monza, the 23 year old forms a strong partnership with Rob Smith and Rory Butcher. "I'd like to thank Jim McWhirter for adding me to the lineup. I've known Rory for a while, having raced against him in British GT and know how quick he is and Rob is very focussed on winning, so we'll hopefully form a good combination."
The European Le Mans Series kicks off at Silverstone over the Easter weekend where it forms part of the World Endurance Championship package and travels to Monza, The Red Bull Ring, Paul Ricard, Spa and closes with the final round at Portimao in Portugal in October.
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.