Oct 2017

European Le Mans Series GTE Champion 2017

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2017 European Le Mans Series GTE Drivers Champion with Rob Smith and JMW Motorsport.

ELMS Portimao

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It was a frantic last round but together with Rob Smith and JMW Motorsport we secured the ELMS GTE title. We went into the last round of the championship just one point behind the leading TF Sport Aston Martin, and with the number 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari also in contention, it wasn't going to be easy as the GTE class is so competitive with factory drivers in all of the other cars.

We spent the free practice sessions tweaking the setup of the car and Will Stevens did a great job to put the car second on the grid in class. Unfortunately, three LMP3 cars qualified between our Ferrari and the number 55 Ferrari in pole position which would make for an interesting twisty opening half of the lap at Portimao. I started the race and, after getting alongside the pole sitting Ferrari into turn one and then again on the uphill turn four, a spinning LMP3 car split the pack. I was inside Aaron Scott's Ferrari when an LMP3 car spun immediately in front of us at the top of the blind left hand turn four - Aaron went right and I dived left of it but the nose of the spinning car made contact with my right rear. It was quite an impact and after gathering it all up I had dropped to the back of the field. After taking time to check that all was OK with the car, I headed off after the field and was quickly ahead of the Beechdean Aston Martin then crucially, passed the championship leading Aston on lap five.

After five laps I caught the number 51 Ferrari and although I was quicker, I didn't want to take any chances and was looking for a clean pass. After following closely and moving around in his mirrors, on lap 19, the pressure took its toll and he spun directly in front of me - I jinked left and just managed to miss him! This incident led to a full course yellow during which the JMW guys installed Rob Smith for the second stint. He rejoined in third behind the class leading Porsche and number 55 Spirit of Race car and did a fantastic job to close down the second place Ferrari so that at the end of his stint the two cars entered the pitlane line astern for the handover to Will Stevens. The JMW guys showed their class and turned the car around so that it exited the pits in front of the green number 55 Ferrari.

The two Ferraris ran nose to tail, moving past the leading Porsche to occupy the top two spots until a full course yellow intervened once more. The Spirit of Race team took the opportunity to top up with fuel but shortly afterwards slowed and pitted with a technical issue resulting in retirement. Our mission was now to finish ahead of the number 90 TF Sport Aston Martin to take the championship. I was back in the car with just over an hour to go to bring it to the finish. I didn't feel the job was done yet when I got in the car and with what happened to JMW last year, we needed to finish ahead of the Aston at all costs. With a healthy lead over the TF Sport car, I adopted cruise mode and concentrated on keeping well within track limits and gave the prototypes plenty of room! I let the Proton Porsche by into the lead and was so pleased and relieved to cross the line and clinch the championship for JMW. It's been a real team effort this year and it's an honour to be part of JMW Motorsport.