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A win against the odds

November 24, 2017

28th October 2017, Silverstone. The UK's Largest annual race is due to start in under an hour and we've lost 2 of our 4 cars in qualifying for this tough 6 hour. A few frantic team discussions and it's decided that we will drop down from a 5 to a 4 driver team, and switch one of our drivers into another car. We are now an all GT86 team with majority MR2 drivers. I will be starting the race and heading into the unknown with regards to our fuel situation - we don't know how long we can run for... so this stint will dictate the strategy for the rest of the race. 30mins in and it doesn't look good, we were hoping to stretch out to a 4-stinter; running for 1:20 each, but my fuel is already touching half, we're way under.

I come in on the 60min mark with us looking at a 6-stinter, but we've forgotten that the other car is running a longer final drive ratio. The next stint is 75mins, and the one after that by another driver in my car is 70mins by running at a slightly lower pace. The 4th stint is 75mins again which takes us just past the 4:30 mark. I go out with 60mins of fuel and 80mins left thinking can we stretch this out? Will there be a safety car period to fuel save?

5:00 into the race and while punching well above our class slipstreaming a 750 Formula car down the Wellington straight, its engine blows up. Before I can react there's oil all over the track in front of me, on my tyres and most worryingly, my windscreen. Anyone who's had oil on their windscreen will know how dangerous it can be, especially if the wipers are used, but there's too much for me to see so I have to take the risk and use the washers. No good. I use the radio to call in to the pits to prepare the other car as I do my best to make it round, blinded by the setting sun on my oil-smeared windscreen. Using the washers in a mix of high and low speed and while cornering I manage to get enough visibility back to make it round another lap but have to guess where the apexes are on the right-handers.

By the time I come round to the Wellington straight again and the chance to go in the pits, the oil dropped by the 750 Formula car has caused an inevitable pile up into Brooklands. Certain there would be a safety car I navigate my way round the incident and put my foot down to get round Copse ahead of the pace car - the difference between getting caught or not would be almost a lap, enough to lose/gain up to 10 places. As I come round Copse I see the safety car coming down the pit exit lane. I beat it by the skin of my teeth, before joining the snake and cleaning the screen more effectively at a lower speed.

Safety car period ends at 5:30, leaving 25-30mins of fuel and 30mins left. It's gonna be tight. Saving a bit more fuel we approach 10mins to go, with just under 10mins fuel. After some discussion by the team, the decision is made to do the pit-stop to not risk running out, and as there are yellow flags out so we will lose less time than usual.

Unfortunately the car goes out with an ABS fault. The driver comes straight back in and the team fix the problem as quick as possible, but the clock is ticking. The race has gone perfectly until the final 10mins. Memories of the Bathurst 6hr at Easter flooding back. We have lost 2 laps. Our hopes of winning fade away, but as we watch the results come in it turns out other teams also ran into issues. Total shock. We finished 4th overall and 1st in class!

We rush off to the presentation before it's even sunk in. What a day... we lost 2 cars in qualifying, we lost 1 driver, we had an oil covered windscreen and an ABS failure, but we dragged out a result against 70 other incredibly competetive teams in the UK's largest annual race.

 

 

 

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