Photo Copyright JMW Motorsport

A second place at a chaotic Spa round of the European Le Mans Series means that we are just one point off the championship lead in the GTE class.

We worked hard on setup during Friday's FP1 and still had work to do, so changes were made overnight which transformed the car for Saturday's FP2. The car felt good on longer runs and race pace was good so we were looking forward to Sunday. Will Stevens has joined us for the last two rounds of the ELMS and he did a good job to qualify in P3 on Saturday afternoon.

I started the race and got as far as the first corner where I had contact to the right hand side and was pushed wide, so ended the first lap last of the GT cars. Luckily there was only minor damage to the car although the impact felt big! Midway through lap two, the TF Sport Aston Martin was damaged in contact with an LMP3 car and while it was wounded and struggling for pace was defending its position, so by the time I got past, I was over 4 seconds behind the GT pack. The first of a number of full course yellows intervened at the end of lap 7 and after 2 laps under yellow it went green again and I set off after the other GT cars in front. I chipped away at the gap and closed them down over my stint and handed over to Rob on the hour mark on the tail of the third place battle.

Rob's hour in the car was punctuated by full course yellows and safety cars, one which saw the no 77 Porsche taken out by an LMP3 car and by the time the chaos had subsided and Rob handed back to me, we were in third position behind the Beechdean Aston Martin and no 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari. During one of the many full course yellows the Beechdean car exited the pits not far in front of me in second place and after a couple of laps of green looking for a way past, another full course yellow meant I had to follow him closely waiting to pounce as soon as I could after it went green again. Andrew was defending so I decided to go around the outside and got passed him through the Fagne Chicane then concentrated on putting a gap between us. The leading no 51 Ferrari had managed a stop under full course yellow so had a big lead and barring a problem would be difficult to catch and we now had a healthy gap to the Beechdean Aston Martin in third place.

I handed over to Will Stevens with 55 minutes to go and he brought it home in a clear second place meaning a championship gap of just one point to the TF Sport Aston Martin with one round to go in Portimao on 22 October.

ELMS Paul Ricard


Photo Copyright JMW Motorsport

A third place finish less than a second behind championship rivals TF Sport after a 10 second penalty due to a pit stop infringement was a frustrating end to a hot race at Paul Ricard.
Very high temperatures and an abrasive surface meant tyre management was going to be a major factor during the 4 hours at Le Castellet. The two free practice sessions on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were spent fine tuning setup and there was a big difference in the car between FP1 and the end of FP2.
Jonny Cocker qualified in P4 on the GTE grid on Saturday afternoon but an LMP3 car had managed to slot itself between us and the Proton Competition Porsche in P3. As at the Red Bull Ring, the P3's would get in the way on a number of occasions and with a very similar top speed to the GTE cars make our lives very difficult. I started the race and held station in fourth place until lap 9 when I passed the no 77 Porsche at the double right after Signes Curve. Up until this point I had to navigate a couple of LMP3 cars which were embroiled in the GTE battle but was now clear to chase after the Beechdean Aston Martin in second. I looked after my tyres at the beginning of the race and once I was clear of the P3 cars and Porsche, I was able to chip away at the Beechdean Aston's gap towards the end of my stint before handing over to Rob.
Rob Smith was next up and he moved up to second place, passing Andrew Howard before handing over to Jonny Cocker for the third stint. Jonny maintained second, although the TF Sport Aston Martin was closing with Nicki Thiim at the wheel. The next pit stop unfortunately included a 10 second penalty for an  infringement during the previous pit stop, so when I went back on track, a comfortable margin had been reduced to under 5 seconds. I took it easy for the first few laps, staying off the kerbs, not wanting to take too much out of the tyres, so that I had something left at the end of the race but it meant that the Aston was closing and he had caught me with 35 minutes to go. The Aston got by into the chicane on the Mistral and after catching a LMP3 car at an unfortunate part of the circuit the gap grew to a couple of seconds when a full course yellow interrupted proceedings. I was confident that I would have the pace to catch the TF car in the second half of the stint but there was nothing I could do sitting on the limiter watching the Aston a little way up the road.  As soon as it went green I began to close the gap before yet another full course yellow slowed proceedings where I was held up by the LMP2 race leader whose limiter was well below the 80 kph limit, so I had to keep backing off the throttle to stay behind it! The race was finally green with 14 minutes to go and the gap to second was over 3 seconds. I was determined to get P2 back, but ran out of laps and was just a second behind at the flag - the two full course yellow periods were frustrating but that's the way it goes sometimes. We're still second in the championship with some work to do in the last two rounds.
The battle continues at the next round of the ELMS at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium on 24 September.

ELMS Red Bull Ring


Photo Copyright JMW Motorsport

A second place after a hectic round of the European Le Mans Series at the Red Bull Ring in Austria means we  have narrowed the gap to the championship leading TF Sport Aston Martin to six points at the halfway stage of the season.

After saying goodbye to the incredible JMW Ferrari 458 with the Monza win, it was my first run in the new 488 during FP1 and my first visit to the Red Bull Ring.There was a lot to take in, but at the end of my first run I was close to the pace, the 488 inspired great confidence and I really enjoyed the undulating nature of the track. I found more time as I settled in in FP2 and was looking forward to the race start after Jonny Cocker qualified in P4 during Saturday's qualifying session. My aim was to get to the sharp end of the GTE class in my opening stint but things didn't go to plan in an incident packed opening stint.

It was pretty chaotic at turn one on lap one with cars locking up all around. I was hit in the side and narrowly avoided Aaron Scott by going wide as I was helped on my way into the corner. On lap 2 into turn one, a United Autosports LMP3 car spun and in recovering put up a thick cloud of tyre smoke which I made my way carefully through but lost a place in the process and found myself in fifth place with a gap to the TF Sport Aston. I closed the gap and made my way past on lap 6 then set off after the second place battle between the no 51 Ferrari and 77 Porsche and shadowed them for a while as they battled. The Ferrari found a way past the Porsche and I followed suit on lap 23 in spite of being pushed wide at turn one by an LMP3 car - which seemed to be a theme of the day! At the Red Bull Ring particularly, some of the bronze drivers in LMP3 cars do a similar lap time to the GT cars but at different points of the track, so end up holding you up if you're behind them or dive bombing you on the brakes if they're behind you! I seemed to come across a lot of them during my first stint in particular.

While I was recovering and making my way through the GT field, Aaron Scott in the no 55 Ferrari was extending a sizeable gap in the lead. I closed the gap to the no 51 Ferrari and after being eased onto the grass on the run up the hill to turn 3 (for which the no 51 car was warned), moved up to second place with 10 minutes of my stint left. After chipping away at the lead for the remaining laps, I handed over to Rob Smith who drove a fantastic stint to bring the JMW Ferrari into the lead before handing over to Jonny Cocker. Jonny had a battle with Aaron Scott, the two Ferraris swapping positions for a while before a full course yellow meant a slightly early stop to hand back over to me for the final hour.

I came out of the pits with a lead of 6 seconds after a rapid pit stop by the JMW team who changed the two left hand side tyres and sent me on my way. Matt Griffin chipped away at the lead and with just over half an hour to go had closed the gap. After a few laps of ebb and flow through traffic, I left an LMP3 car room at turn 4, but he locked up and hit me in the right door, forcing me wide and the green Ferrari was through and away. I lost a bit of time in the incident with the P3 car and Matt had good pace, so I consolidated second place, keeping within the track limits to avoid a penalty and brought the car home.

The championship battle continues at the next round of the ELMS at Paul Ricard in France on 27 August.

ELMS Monza


Photo Copyright JMW Motorsport

A win at Monza in its final race against the new generation GTE cars was a fantastic send off for the six year old JMW Ferrari 458 GTE Italia and it was fantastic to be part of the car's illustrious history. Although it was going to be tough to compete with the other cars' one lap pace, the car felt good on long runs and the pace was a lot closer than it had been at Silverstone. As expected the one lap pace in qualifying was going to be a way off as the newer cars generate more heat in the tyres straight away and can "turn them on" better than our 458 but Jonny did well to qualify ahead of one of the Aston Martins.

I started the race and after a fairly chaotic first few laps had worked my way up to third place after 5 laps. A full course yellow after 20 minutes allowed us to stop for a splash of fuel, allowing me to go deeper into the race. The Porsche and both Aston Martins elected to stay out, so I had to get by them again. I passed the TF Sport car out of the first chicane and the Beechdean car after a "switch back" out of the Parabolica, then concentrated on being consistent for the rest of the stint and handed over to Rob Smith from third place. He did a great job, working his way up to second place before taking the lead as the Duncan Cameron Ferrari 488 hit a technical issue.

Rob handed over to Jonny Cocker with an hour and 45 minutes of the race to go and he did a great job holding onto the lead while being chased down by Nicki Thiim who was charging hard in the TF Sport Aston. Jonny handed the car back to me with a lead of about 20 seconds and 50 minutes of the race to run. A few laps later Euan Hankey took the car over from Thiim and maintained the relentless pace of the Aston. I worked on being consistent and driving to a lap time that I thought would be enough to stay in the lead to the end and crossed the line with a comfortable margin. I kept an eye out for the Aston's headlights in the mirrors, but couldn't see them, so knew I was OK. It was a fantastic job by the whole team and to win at Monza in a Ferrari in my first race there is very special! The next round of the ELMS is at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in July with JMW's new Ferrari 488 - a new track to me and a new car - can't wait!

ELMS Silverstone


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.