Pepe Massot headed into 2014 as one of the most hotly tipped drivers for success on the BTCC support package, as he prepared to embark on a title challenge in his second season in the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup after taking race wins during his maiden campaign.
His partnership with reigning Supercup champions JHR Developments certainly didn’t produce the results expected though, with various problems leaving Massot seventh in the standings after the first four weekends, with just one win to his name.
The troubles led to him making a move across to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB with Parr Motorsport, a switch that yielded two Pro-Am1 class wins and a maiden outright podium finish on his debut weekend at Croft.
The Checkered Flag sat down with Pepe at Snetterton to talk about his season so far, and in this first part of the interview, the Spaniard discusses the problems he faced in the Ginetta’s and why he decided to leave the series.
TCF: Thanks for talking to us Pepe. It’s fair to say your Ginetta campaign didn’t go to plan, what happened?
PM: “I started the season really focused, I had prepared well over the winter after last season, which had started well but then we had some up and downs with some changes of team, and I was really confident for 2014 in the Ginettas.
“We qualified second at Brands and in the opening race I got a mega start, pole-man [Andrew] Watson got lots of wheelspin and they said I jumped the start. I actually didn’t though, which they told me after, and we kept leading the race as we wanted to contest it in the office, but they showed me the black flag.
“It was one of those things, but then in race two the master cylinder in the front brake broke so I went off and finished down the order again. I battled to fifth in race three though, which was good in the circumstances.
“We went to Donington confident and topped practice, then I set the pole time in qualifying but three seconds before I crossed the line they brought out the red flag so it didn’t count. I came second in race one, the second race was soaking wet and we led the whole race and won, but then in the final race I said the track was for slicks, the team went for wets and I was massively struggling at the back on the drying track.
“At Thruxton we struggled, in qualifying we destroyed new tyres within two laps. This meant we used old used tyres for the first two races and the pace was okay. For race three we had new tyres after following the gamble Tom [Ingram – 2013 champion] did last year in saving tyres from the first two meetings for Thruxton, but again within two laps they were destroyed and we didn’t know what was happening.
“After that I was at the workshop every day to help work out what was going wrong, as we didn’t know why it was and we didn’t have a team-mate to compare data with. We found that we had the car too soft for Thruxton and we had too much grip in the fast corners overloading the tyres.
“Oulton Park was a nightmare though, we didn’t complete a lap in qualifying as the car just stopped. I would shut the car down, start it again but then two or three corners later it would stop again. In the race, I came from the back to fifth or so and it happened again, and then again in the second race. After that I knew it was over.”
TCF: There were high hopes for your partnership with JHR Developments, after your respective successes last season, is it a case that things just didn’t click between you and the team?
PM: “I think we were very good last year, being seventeen years old, in my first season, taking two wins and nine podiums. It wasn’t the ideal, but it was good overall with the low mileage of testing and team changes we had and everything.
“The expectations were huge for me and the team, but it was nothing unrealistic. It was something that if I did my job and the team did theirs, it should have been that way, but everything just didn’t work out.
“It wasn’t really the fault of the team, I wouldn’t blame them about it. It was one of those things and everything just came together against us at the same time. It wasn’t because we weren’t fast enough or something like that, it was just the circumstances came at the moments they shouldn’t have.”
TCF: You made the decision to switch from the Ginetta’s to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB in between Oulton Park and Croft, how did that move come about?
PM: “At the end of Oulton, my Dad was so disappointed and we thought about stopping racing for the rest of the season. For me as a driver, it would be tough to stop as it’s what I love, but the racing has become such a big part of my Dad and my family’s life, they live it and it would really hurt them if I stopped.
“We had to make a decision at that point and I didn’t think that Ginetta’s was the right way to keep going for us, it would have been spending money for nothing. Things might have got better, we might have got some more wins, but when we started the season we said we had to have an immaculate season, go all in and get pole positions, race wins, fastest laps, so people could look at it and go: this was the guy of this year, like Tom last season. I was capable of that, but it didn’t go my way.
“Parr Motorsport have been interested in me since 2012 when I was in the Ginetta Juniors, but I’d always heard that the Porsche Carrera Cup was expensive. The team had a spare car in the workshop, it was better for them to do a good deal with me and get it on track, so we spoke between Oulton and Croft and got an agreement.
“I thought when I was telling my sponsors that we were stopping Ginettas, that they would pull out, but they understood the situation and actually helped me out a little bit more to get me into the Porsche’s and we signed the deal for Croft.
“I’m gutted with how my time in Ginetta’s has ended, I think that the other drivers on the grid respected me as a good driver and I would have loved to have won that championship.”
In part two of the interview, Pepe talks about his transition into the Porsche’s and his hopes for the remainder of the 2014 season. Keep an eye on site for it this weekend.