I experienced the strangest race weekend of my near 20-year racing career in the latest rounds of the GT Cup Championship at Brands Hatch at the beginning of May.
Having been deprived of a likely second-place at the wheel of the Brabham BT62 Competition in the closing stages of Saturday’s fifty minute race, my co-driver Paul Bailey and I scored a commanding and totally unexpected GTO category victory in Paul’s McLaren MP4-12C Can Am just 24 hours later!
We tested the Brabham on the Friday for the first time with a new engine installed after power issues in its previous race last summer. Paul finished eighth in the Brabham, second in the GTO class, in Race 1, but I pitted from second place with a matter of minutes remaining in the fifty minute Race 2 later that day with no power.
The SB Race Engineering team then made a 250-mile round trip overnight to collect the McLaren we used in the second half of last year’s GT Cup GTO title winning season, a car we placed second twice in the opening two rounds at Donington Park in April while awaiting delivery of engine components for the Brabham.
Paul started Race 4’s pit-stop race on wet tyres, the track wet/damp after light rain and handed over to me during the pit stop phase with twenty minutes to go. I resumed seventeenth but took the chequered flag fourteenth and importantly first in class to complete a bizarre weekend on a high.
To race two different cars, over a period of 48 hours, in the same championship, at the same event, felt very odd – especially to then get an unexpected class win!
When I took over the Brabham from Paul, the engine didn’t sound normal and it gradually lost power, so I pitted. Everyone was devasted as Brands was the first event with a new engine fitted to the Brabham.
The team collected the McLaren overnight and we informed the organisers of a change of car. The brake pads were the ones we used in races last month as Paul and the team hadn’t expected to race the McLaren again. We didn’t have any new wet tyres either so we were forced to use old ones. But on Sunday, unlike the previous day, the God’s shone down on us allowing us to take class victory.
Despite our retirement on the opening day, we’re now placed sixth overall in the championship standings and second in GTO. Next on the agenda was the Silverstone 500, the “blue riband” race in the British GT Championship. Having previously raced the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport with Valluga Racing’s MD Benji Hetherington in the opening BGT races, it was all change for the big one at Silverstone.
AL-2 Teknik UK, a specialised water treatment service provider based in my hometown of Thornhill near Dumfries, made it possible for my soon to be brother-in-law Matty Graham to join me in the Porsche. Peter Gronbjerg owns the company and sees motorsport as the perfect place to showcase its cutting edge environmental engineering solutions – after all motorsport is where tomorrow’s solutions are innovated, engineered and developed.
The Silverstone race was great and we achieved second in the GT4S category. I started the three-hour race from fourth in class and got the lead at the end of the first hour of racing. Matty, who is also racing in this year’s Porsche Carrera Cup GB, took over the car with just over an hour gone, resuming second in class. But he set a searing pace and re-took the class lead just after mid-distance.
I jumped back in briefly switching back to Matty with thirty minutes remaining who re-joined sixth in class. He was third at flag – demoted from second with just five minutes remaining but after time penalties had been applied from the previous races, we were classified second.
Looking back, for Matty and I to finish second in our first BGT together with the Valluga Porsche in the colours of AL-2 Teknik UK for the first time, was a massive achievement. I really enjoyed sharing the car with Matty, he is a delight to work with and a real talent behind the wheel.
The guys at Valluga did a great job for both of us: faultless pit-stops, great race strategy and giving us a strong and fast car. It was hard work and very hot in the car for my first stint, the air con wasn’t working. It was good fun but pretty exhausting.
I popped along to Brands to watch Matty race the Porsche again supporting the second BTCC of the year while away from racing, Emma and I had our engagement party which was a blast – what I can remember of it anyway! That, not surprisingly, took up a lot of my time in terms of planning etc but everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Come and say hi wherever we’re racing!