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."