So guys, my 2022 season is now well and truly underway as is my life away from the racetrack – more of that later! My year in competition began with the GT Cup Championship a few weeks ago at Donington Park and I enjoyed getting back out in the McLaren MP4-12C Can Am again. We had to use the McLaren at times last season and to be honest, we weren’t super competitive as the car is almost 10-years-old now.
But the car’s owner, Paul Bailey and I, had some great fun, and it was good to score two, second place finishes to get our GTO title defence off to a solid start. I’d done no testing in the McLaren prior to the race weekend. Paul did a good job in the first pit-stop race before I took over and I enjoyed coming through the traffic and having a bit of fun.
The second race was a little less straightforward having to make a late pit-stop with a sensor failure but the SB Race Engineering team did a great job getting me back into the race and everything came good in the end enabling us to collect more valuable points.
Since my last column, an exciting opportunity arose for me to return to the GT4 category of the British GT Championship eight years after I claimed the title. I’m sharing a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport with Valluga Concierge team-owner Benji Hetherington.
I won the 2014 British GT4 “crown” after scoring six podiums, including three wins, from eight races driving an Aston Martin and prior to the opening BGT weekend over Easter, the last time I’d raced a GT4 race car was six years ago at the Gulf 12 Hours in in Abu Dhabi.
I love the British GT Championship and the GT4 category is very competitive this year. I had no real expectations heading to Oulton Park as my first on-track experience of the new four-litre, mid-engined Porsche was going to be in the opening practice session for the first two BGT rounds.
It wasn’t an ideal scenario but just something we had to accept and I looked forward to the challenge. I’d previously driven a Porsche Cayman GT4 Sprint Challenge car but the RS model has more power and additional aero. There’s actually only a handful of these new Porsches in the UK and I believe only 25 worldwide and so it’s very, very rare car.
Benji is the owner/founder of Valluga who I raced with for the last three rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB last year. He has a wealth of experience, including being a Porsche Carrera Cup GB Scholarship winner in 2011.
It was good fun racing in British GT again and I was ultimately very happy to claim third and fourth places in the opening two races. Our pace will improve with more experience in the car which in turn will make us more competitive. We actually led at one stage but with our limited mileage and up against our more established rivals, we had to be content with a podium.
The series organisers have a difficult job trying to equalize the ‘Balance of Performance’ and get all of the different manufacturer’s cars on a level playing field. But we, unsurprisingly, feel that we need a bit of a break concerning the 100kg of ballast we were forced to carry combined with a raised ride height, the latter making things pretty difficult under braking especially.
I’m doing a lot of coaching with clients which I enjoy massively in between racing but not only has the past few weeks been very busy on-track, but it’s been pretty hectic on a personal level too. I’m getting engaged next month, to Emma, who I met back in my karting days when she was supporting her brother, Matthew, and there’s also a baby on the way so it’s all very exciting in my personal life. So currently I’m spending a lot of time in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area where Emma is from, my current base in Brackley, and at my parents in Thornhill near Dumfries while also looking for a new house up north.
Even when I’ve got a rare weekend off, I can often be found at a racetrack somewhere. For example, I went to the opening British Touring Car Championship weekend at Donington Park recently. I made the trip to support my future brother-in-law, Matthew, who is racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB. It was a good weekend as Mattie won Race 2.
Now I’m back fully focussed for the next GT Cup weekend when, fingers firmly crossed, Paul and I will be back out in the Brabham BT62 Competition after getting some necessary engine components from Australia. We gave the Brabham an initial shakedown at Snetterton last week and we’ll test again on the Brands Indy circuit on Friday prior to racing on the GP circuit over weekend. Come and say hi if you’re at Brands…