The car may have run almost problem-free on its way to victory in the Britcar 24 Hours, but the birth of the team that took the top step of the podium was far less straight forward. More light was cast on the story behind the formation of the team, as well as the passage of the race, by Witt Gamski, one of the drivers of the MJC Limited.
“I received a telephone call from Keith [Robinson – Gamski's regular driver partner] on the morning of Tuesday 21st September advising me that I will receive another telephone call from John Gaw,” he says. “An hour or so later John calls, asking me if we want to enter the Britcar 24hr race which was to take place in ten days time! Well, at first my reply was no, not enough time to prepare among other things. By the end of that same day, we decided to go for it.”
The reaction from the rest of team was not so positive as Witt relates; “panic stations, Neil Cooke threatened to leave the country, Darren Handley just went silent, Peter Livesey just smiled and shouted 'yes’”, the mechanic's the lone voice of support.
However, Cristiano Michelotto, whose company is responsible for building most of Ferrari's race cars, gave perhaps the most apt assessment of what Witt and the team were trying to achieve. “[He] told us we are absolutely crazy, although he said ‘I love crazy’,” says Gamski.
“His strict advise to our crew was ‘stop talking and get to work on the car!’,” he continues. “They did just that and the car was ready for the Thursday 30th September testing. And, very importantly, we had to postpone Agis' (Gamski's wife) mum's birthday party after all the arrangements were made. Luckily, they are both great fans and I didn’t get into trouble!”
Once the four drivers – Gamski, Robinson, Gaw and Phil Dryburgh (all “not having a clue what they had just started”) – united at Silverstone on the Thursday before the race the chaos of preparation gave way to the order of a team ready for their first 24 race.
“John and Phil had never driven the 430GT2 before,” Gamski explains. “But by the end of the day, they were very comfortable behind the wheel and showing very good times, to be honest far better than any of us expected with such a short time behind the wheel, in not very nice track conditions.”
“[The] race started, I was the usual starter. From this moment, all the nerves, anxiety, panic and everything else were forgotten. The race was the only thing on my mind.”
“I think we were at around 11pm or so and all this began to dawn on me. My God, this is going to be one of the hardest tasks I have ever been involved in and at my age, not easy!”
Through the night the hastily assembled team outlasted their Class 1 rivals – needing only three litres of olid and a new windscreen wiper blade by way of repairs throughout the race/ By the early hours they were fighting for the lead with the Jet Alliance Porsche.
“This became a 16 hour sprint race, unbelievable. We decided that Keith and John were the ones to be able to take the fight to the Porsche to the finish albeit second place looked more and more of a reality. Don’t forget we had suffered two 1 lap penalties. Together with their professional drivers and crew the Jet Alliance team are not new to this game. The Porsche was also prepared beautifully.”
“JetAlliance were copying all our moves, pit stops, tyres. However, they didn’t realise that we were doing the same, keeping a close eye on their tactics. The final hour of the race was amazing, John got ahead and kept the Porsche a controlled distance behind, right up to the chequered flag.”
“What a finish, a 24hr race with GT cars decided by 55 seconds.”