Pic: Jakob Ebrey
A promising weekend of British GT at Spa Francorchamp ended in disappointment when contact in the closing minutes of the two hour race, while running fourth, ended my and Andrew Jarman’s race. The weekend started well in Free Practice 1 when I was sixth quickest. I have raced at Spa once before in 2013 in the twenty four hour race and not been back since, so was happy to get up to speed so quickly. I was then second quickest in FP2, so was looking forward to qualifying. I unfortunately came across traffic mid corner on the second half of the lap on all of my laps during qualifying which meant my time wasn't representative of where our pace was. Andrew was also held up, so we were really pleased to qualify in P5 with our combined times.
Race day was unusually warm and sunny for the Ardennes region of Belgium and ambient temperatures were due to be in the region of 27 degrees for the race. The early laps of the race saw Andrew running in eighth place as traffic played its part in him moving up and down the order. He was having issues with an inconsistent long brake pedal, most likely a result of the unusually hot temperatures, which made it very difficult to drive close to the limit. In a section of the race punctuated by two safety cars, the pit window opened while the safety car was out for the second time. Andrew pitted immediately, and I was in sixth as I rejoined. The safety car pulled in almost immediately and I found the brake issue was making it difficult to push - as soon as I got up to speed I noticed the brake pedal was going longer than usual and was therefore inconsistent. I had to adapt and manage the problem which meant I wasn’t able to make progress as quickly as I had hoped, but I was still closing on the fourth placed Aston Martin Brussels car. I passed the Belgian Aston Martin on lap 21 and was slowly closing in on Michael Meadows in the Leonard Aston Martin and a podium position looked possible. Throughout my stint I was being shadowed by Lewis Plato in the RAM Racing Mercedes Benz and the gap yo-yoed around the one second mark as we made our way through the GT4 traffic. I thought I had him covered for pace as I was quicker in the second sector, but with about 15 minutes to go, when a GT4 car held me up in the middle of the quick Blanchimont corner, we were suddenly nose to tail. The Merc is very quick in a straight line and it towed up alongside me down the long Kemmel straight. We were side by side at the apex of Les Combes, with me on the inside and on the kerb and it looked to me as though he didn’t see me, as he turned in on his normal racing line and we made wheel to wheel contact. I managed to get the car back very slowly with two punctures, but the damage was too bad to continue. I really thought a podium was a possibility here, if we’d had a clean run without any issues, but at least we know we’re at the sharp end now and can build on that going on to Brands Hatch. Thanks to the TF Sport guys for a great job all weekend - a good result can't be far away!