Two GT4 Races Complete – at last!

This weekend finally saw me complete races in the Cayman GT4 that I’ve trying to race in for nearly two years! A series of crashes had severely damaged the two cars my Canadian co-driver Fareed Ali owns so it was quite a relief to leave the Silverstone GP circuit on Saturday evening having completed two races, entirely unscathed – even though we didn’t get close to a podium.

I’d already had a chance to test the car after its most recent re-build as part of a shakedown day, accompanied by British young but talented LMP3 and GT driver Devon Modell, a week before. This was the first time I’d been in the car since preparation for the Creventic 24 Hour race earlier in the year and the car was now on different suspension. With both Fareed and I very much “gentlemen” drivers, the car was configured with Devon’s help to have a fairly neutral setup and I again found it very easy to drive, not showing any of the end-swapping tendancy that the Boxsters have. After three short sessions, I set a new personal lap record in the car around three seconds quicker than in warmup for the 24H.

Fareed took all of Friday (less time lost to numerous red flags) to test the car himself and with help from long-term Newbridge mechanic Marcus, together with Devon’s written notes (he was now racing in Asia), soon got back into the grove. After a long delay on the morning of race day, I then let Fareed take all of the 20-minute warmup session to maximise his time in the car.

Fareed took the car out on brand new Dunlops for four laps of qualifying and I managed the compulsory three before the flag dropped on the session, setting a time that put us a rather weedy 28th on a grid of 31. From the Britcar balance of performance system, we were classed with two other Caymans alongside two Aston Martin GT4s, three Ginetta G55s and a Porsche 997 Cup – so we knew that a sniff of a class podium would be unlikely.

Race 1 was to be 50 minutes and I was offered the first stint. My pace closely matched three of the lower order and we enjoyed a couple of great battles for the majority of my laps before being called in – in fact, both drivers later commented how much they’d enjoyed it, which I took as a great compliment on my driving. From 29 starters we finished a fairly respectable 21st, 6th in our very competitive class. I was quite please to learn from the TSL timesheets afterwards that I’d taken more than another second off my new lap record.

Race 2 took us properly into endurance territory with the final 2 hours of race time of the day and again I started the race. We were called early – unnecessarily as it turned out, leaving me to cook in the car in the assembly area for a good 20 minutes before we were released. The heat seemed to be getting to me this time and instead of improving on my times again, I was actually slower than race 1, posting my three fastest laps near my pitstop as I seemed to get a second wind. Fareed took over from me after taking on a single “dump churn” of finest Sunoco fuel and eventually took the flag 14th from 17 starters.

My thanks to Richard, Marcus and the guys at Newbridge who again fielded a faultless car – and Fareed and OCC LASIK Racing of course for letting me drive it!

Britcar race next at Brands Hatch in July but Fareed cannot make that race, so we’re currently looking for drivers who would like to ‘arrive and drive’ – please contact Newbridge if you’re interested.

My thanks to Gary Harman and Sean Mulcahy for the race photos.

Three Races at Snetterton

I completed three more races in a 924 in the BRSCC Toyo Tires Porsche Championship this weekend, albeit in a different car. Bernie Printy was present for his first races of the season and he was to run in the orange car I drove at Oulton Park. I was therefore moved to Philip Waters’ car from last season, while he drove his new-build left-hand-drive (only the second such car to ever run in the championship).

Family commitments meant I was unable to attend the Friday test session and although I had arrived at the circuit early enough to take advantage of the extra 40-minute test session the BRSCC had allowed, the car had ignition problems which were not cleared until just before qualifying.

I have raced Snetterton a few times before and its not a circuit I particularly like. It suits the more powerful Boxsters more, with its two long straights, but its length meant that us 924 drivers would likely only be lapped once.

I qualified a predictable 9th in class – second from last – in a car I’d never driven before that morning. It was well set up, though – this weekend being “spannered” by ex-924 champion Alastair Kirkham and his dad, the pair having driven all the way from Anglesey to look after the Moluto team of four cars. Team mate Bernie Printy was completely new to the circuit and put in a reasonable time to grab the slot next to me on the grid.

Race 1 and I finished third from last, beating Bernie by 1.6 seconds, plus a new driver in a Class B who had spun early in the race. Race 2 was spoilt by a bad start from me and I eventually took the flag 0.377 seconds behind Bernie – dead last. However, we were both much quicker than in Race 1, my lap time improved by a massive five seconds, posting a fastest lap of 2.13.808 as I chased Bernie in the final lap.

The final race of the weekend was our traditional reverse grid – so having finished last I was on class pole, next to the unforgiving concrete pit lane wall. I made a better start but still didn’t have enough pace and by turn 1 most of the field had passed me – some close enough to cause me to evade – so I was playing catchup again. I caught and passed Bernie at the same spot as in Race 1 (turn 1) and kept a bit of a gap until he started to slowly reel me in towards the end. By the flag he was 1.5 second back.

My next outing in the 924 will be at Castle Combe (a circuit I’ve never raced) on 15/16th July but before then I make my 2017 return to Britcar, partnering with Canadian owner/driver Fareed Ali in the Cayman GT4.

My thanks to AMPS UK Ltd for their continuing financial support this season; Alastair and his Dad for running the cars this weekend; Moluto Motorsport for the car; and Jon Elsey for doing our photos.

924 Debut at Oulton

Last Saturday saw my first race in a Porsche 924, at the circuit where I began my racing back in 2012 – Oulton Park. I hadn’t had an opportunity to even sit in the car before the Friday test day – and wasn’t able to arrive until early afternoon either – so that didn’t leave Clive and the team much time to get me fitted into the car. And as it turned out, the seat was too high – my head was against the roll cage and I couldn’t look down. We therefore lost the first 20-minute session while the guys hastily removed the seat runners to lower the seat but around 30mm. My first drive of the car, therefore, was in the final test session of the day and my luck was out again as that session was red flagged twice. I’d hardly had time to bed in the new Toyo R888 tyres and Mintex front pads!

Although there was another test session available on the Saturday morning, I decided to skip it and wait until qualifying. I wasn’t quite the slowest car – a race newbie in the shape of 924 Owners’ Club chairmain Andy Pritchard was behind me – but I was pretty unhappy with my performance – at least 6 seconds a lap off where I wanted to be.

After the very short test session and a piss-poor performance in qualifying, I was ready to throw in the towel Saturday morning, but an opportunity in Race 1 to chase and duel bumper-to-bumper with Hugh Peart (who finished overall third in Class C last year) saw my lap time drop by 3.1 seconds. Sadly Hugh was struck down by sickness during the race and had to retire.

I was able to have another race-within-a-race in Race 2, this time getting the jump on Peter Smith (one of the drivers returning to our grid after time away) at the start and then keeping ahead of him before he finally managed to get past me at The Avenue approaching Cascades bend. There wasn’t time to challenge him as the race was red flagged after 5 laps.

So after what turned out to be two very enjoyable races, I might not have taken home any silverware, but I do now have 27 championship points from finishing 9th and 10th in class and have raced another “bare bones” car along similar lines to the MR2s I’ve driven in the past.

Due to clashes with Britcar events, I’m only going to be able to race in five of the championship’s 8 rounds this year, but this (relatively) low cost way to go Porsche racing will add to my race experience – and especially to my car control – and will be in significant contrast to the Creventic 24 Hours of Silverstone that is my next outing.

My thanks to Clive and the Moluto Motorsport team for running the car; Mrs Phil Waters for sustainance; fellow Moluto drivers Philip and Ryan for advice; new PDA coordinator John Broadley for taking on and doing so well in the role; big Andy for clerking; the Oulton army of orange; and to my sponsor AMPS Ltd for their continuing support.

Silverstone 24 in GT4

I can now officially announce that I will again be racing in the Creventic 24 hours of Silverstone, but this time stepping up to a Porsche Cayman GT4. As one of a team of five drivers, we are entering in theory what is the fastest class, with a podium finish as our aim. My co-driver from two seasons in Britcar, and owner of the Cayman, Fareed Ali will be flying in from Toronto for his first race in the UK in quite a while. Alongside him will be one of the drivers who was part of the Rogue Motorsport team last year – albeit in the other car – JM Littman, who also has a lot of Porsche experience.

Alongside us three amateurs will be two young professional drivers. Firstly British rising star Devon Modell, who graduated from Clio Cup in 2013 to go on to the 24 hours in Dubai and British GT Championship the following year. And from Australia comes Aiden Read, the youngest of the team but one who has already seen success in the Asian Le Mans Series having posted a victory in his LMP2 debut in Malaysia.

More drivers will likely mean less time behind the wheel but the pace will be much faster and I anticipate the race to be far more of a challenge. Making life easier will be the car itself – which features a paddle-shift gearbox and superb brakes – plus upgraded suspension since I drove it last year. And I’m back with the team who started me racing back in 2011, locally-based Newbridge Motorsport.

To ease me back into the saddle, I’ll be racing a 924 at Oulton the weekend before – the circuit where I started my racing – the first race of my part-season in the BRSCC Porsche Championship.