Following his second place finish at the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai last weekend, Ram Racing’s Tom Onslow-Cole is hoping that the season-opening race will be a precursor for a successful 2015.
The former BTCC driver partnered Adam Christodoulou, Cheerag Arya and AMG factory driver Thomas Jäger in a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 entered by sportscar racing returnees Ram Racing.
Despite having little experience in the Ram Mercedes, Onslow-Cole was quick to exhibit his pace. In the first qualifying session the 27 year old recorded a 1.59.995 laptime that was the second best time of any of the 12 Mercedes entries.
Team-mate Jäger then qualified the car fourth in the second timed session.
“Our aim was to qualify inside the top five,” said Onslow-Cole. “Of course, in a 24 hour race qualifying isn’t that important but, the further back you are, the more chance there is of being involved in an incident as you work up the pack.”
“There are so many skills you need to hone to be good at 24 hour racing,” he added. “Being able to do a fast lap isn’t enough. You need to master traffic management, driving in the dark, tyre and fuel management and much more.”
Despite starting from fourth, Ram Racing were pegged back in the first few hours of the race by a transponder issue. Once the issue had been fixed Onslow-Cole assumed driving duties from Jäger and efficiently advanced through the field to bring the team back from 22nd to 11th overall.
After a trouble-free night time run Onslow-Cole returned to the wheel for his third stint at 5am. With Ram Racing in contention for overall honours, it was a case of consistently matching the leading A6-Pro cars.
“Throughout my stints I got faster and faster,” commented Onslow-Cole. ”I was pleased with my driving throughout the race. It was a new car to me and I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes so I pushed harder and worked up gradually. By the third stint I felt I had a good handle on the car as I consistently recorded lap times that closed us to the leader.”
By 11am Ram Racing were up to second, giving Onslow-Cole the chance to close in on the leading #2 Black Falcon Mercedes during his final stint. The team stayed in second to the end, with the positive result clearly rubbing off on the British-based team’s new driver.
“I really enjoyed the race,” he concluded. “Of course, the goal was the race win, but second place is still great. Without the issue at the start, who knows what could have happened… But then again there are probably many teams saying that!”
“I did my first ever endurance race here in Dubai 24 Hours so it is a place I have great memories of. I can’t wait to come back next year and go one step higher up the podium. I have some great races planned in the meantime and I’m excited that 2015 is underway.”