Dutch GT Zandvoort
Chasing the eventual winner before a delayed pit stop
A last minute drive in the Dutch GT Championship was a nice surprise! Ginetta asked me to drive my regular British GT car run by Team WFR, so it was off to Zandvoort for the weekend. The Dutch GT Championship is only for GT4 cars and is a very competitive, high profile series in Holland with some top drivers and cars from BMW, Nissan, Chevrolet (Camaro and Corvette) Lotus and Aston Martin. We were there in time for two sessions of testing on Friday - the day started off very windy and wet. We went out for the first session in the wet but were called in after a few laps as the car was too loud. After a delay, we were allowed out again by which time the track had a dry line, so we managed one flying lap on very cold slicks! Session two was dry but we had brake issues with bad “knock off” meaning I was having to pump the brake pedal constantly to build up pressure - not ideal for a quick circuit like Zandvoort. The track is very “old school” with different surfaces, different grip levels, undulating, bumpy and with some very quick stuff out the back of the circuit - fantastic!
Saturday morning was extremely wet - it reminded me of the first round at British GT at Oulton Park! There were two qualifying sessions, each twenty minutes, which set grids for the two “sprint” races, separated by a ten minute gap. I tried to follow some of the locals to find the wet lines but the spray was too bad to see anything, so concentrated on working it out myself. By the end of session two I was up to eighth and going quicker every lap - I felt there was much more to come.
Immediately after qualifying the sun came out so the track was bone dry for race one. By the first corner it was obvious that this what not the sort of GT racing I’m used to - lots of muscular driving and panel bashing! After a few laps I found myself part of a hectic five car battle including the two championship contenders. As we headed down the long straight past the pits towards the Tarzan Hairpin three abreast, the championship leaders had a major coming together right in front of me, resulting in a huge impact against the pit wall for the Corvette. Someone in the pits was injured and the Team WFR pit board went flying down the pit straight - luckily, Karl who was holding it was fine. A safety car period followed which is how it finished, with a fourth placed finish for me. A good start, all things considered.
Race two was on Sunday morning and the weather was sunny and looking stable for the day. Unfortunately, just after half distance I coasted back to the pits with no drive - the diff mount had cracked and there was a bit of peripheral damage as well. The Team WFR guys managed to find a welding rig courtesy of a Czech team in the pits next to us and had the car fixed and back together in time for the feature race of 50 minutes. I made a good start and was running in P5 in the opening laps. I started to catch the group of cars in front and spent a couple of laps being held up behind the eventual winner before they pitted for their driver changes. I pitted on the next lap and the guys found an issue related to the earlier problem. This delayed me by about 20 seconds so I came out of the pits in P7. I tried to pass the BMW in front of me and was eased towards the grass as I came up the inside into the fast right out the back of the circuit. I backed off and was passed by a Nissan that had been immediately behind me, who then made a move up the inside of the BMW - they touched and went off into the gravel, making my life easier, and I could set off after the giant Chevy Camaro in front of me. I closed it down and passed it after a few laps and was running in P4 with a gap to the front three. I crossed the line in P4, 18 seconds behind a podium. I thought if only we hadn’t had a delay at the pitstop, it could have been different - but then it was! Two of the cars ahead of me failed scrutineering and I was classified 2nd. Race pace was very good in the long race and I was the quickest car on the track at times. Considering the limited dry running we had, I think we showed the Dutch GT regulars what the G50 could do. It was a great experience and thanks to Ginetta for asking me to do it and, as ever, the Team WFR guys for a top job.