This is the second race I've been sharing the car with Mike and we're were racing at the huge Festival of Porsche co- hosted by Porsche UK, Porsche Club and Brands Hatch.
During the last race at Snetterton the front bumper broke so we decided to remove the splitter and rear wing and pull our old standard fit bumper out of the loft. It did need a bit of paint touch up to make it presentable. As a result we are now running in the SP2 max 200bhp/ton class which our power and weight has always been designed to come in under.
For the first time ever the paddock was empty as PCGB were all in the garages and a limited no. of championships racing, so space was plentiful.
Before qualifying we checked the drive shaft and exhaust manifold bolts just to be sure and repaired a front GT3 cooling duct which had been damaged on kerbs. We referred to our 2016 setup notes for roll bars and suspension (the last time pre aero I raced this circuit). And similarly for tyre pressures as it was a hot day reaching 26 degrees in the shade.
With a short lap and 25mins qualifying there was plenty of time for each driver to complete the mandatory 3 laps. I went early to the holding area so was first on track and got some clean-Ish laps in just over 10mins. It felt so slow but my time was 4th quickest at that point so I was pretty happy We pitted for driver change (more on that later) and Mike went out.
Immediately there was a red flag for a car in the gravel so he had to come back in. After 5 mins cars went out again only for Mike to find the coolant dropped by a Boxster and spun through the Surtees corner. Mike got going again and ran until the end of the session getting faster and building confidence each lap.
Our driver change was awful in qualifying and way over the 60s ideal minimum. So during the break we had needed to develop a better strategy and practice it. Many hands make light work - and they did. The incoming driver can only see 4 of the 6 belts due to the helmet and hans device restricting movement so one person is needed each side of the car to adjust, re-attach and pull tight the side and upper belts. One further adjusts tyre pressures and finally a time- keeper.
The car handling was on a knife edge with oversteer through paddock hill bend so we stiffened the front a click up on the dampers to counter this.
Lined up on the grid in P7 I felt confident with the clutch and getting away well. I did - but two cars in front were slow. I choose to go right but I got squeezed onto the grass loosing several places round paddock hill bend instead of gaining them.
It took 3 laps to get my rhythm back, confident with tyres and handling and to start reeling in the Porsches in front. I passed two quickly and it took 5 laps to catch the next two. All my passes were lined up through a higher line though paddock hill giving me over-speed into the druids hairpin.
Up to P6 I was flying and catching the car in front slowly but surely. Happy with the handling and our tyres were holding up in the heat, when I made a novice mistake - glancing at the clock just before turning through Surtees. Missing the turn point, I had to turn tighter to compensate and the rear said no! I slewed sideways into the grass, luckily not hitting anything. I got back on and headed for the pitlane - time for drive change.
Our pit stop was excellent - completed with a few seconds to spare with Mike taking over.
Exiting the pits my only thought was to make sure I didn’t make an early trip to the gravel trap in front of the crowd at the exit of Paddock Hill.
Low on confidence after my spin in qualifying I was quickly swallowed up by train of 8 or 9 faster cars that I did my best to find places to let by, keen to ensure I didn’t ruin other people’s races. Every time a car passed I tried to use them as a new reference point for corner speeds and braking points which helped to build my pace up, after few laps I could feel I was getting quicker. I could also see how much more confidence others had to push their cars to the grip limits compared to me.
I closed in on one car to make my first pass, biding my time until entering the main straight (and avoiding being distracted by a re-joining car who had been to the gravel trap). The chance to get several clear laps in then came and I pushed harder to find the grip limits, with the car beginning to twitch here and there to let me know I was starting to push my luck!
As the tyres began to struggle I was running wide round Clearways but avoided following others to the gravel and over the final few laps I was closing back in on a group of 3 cars that had passed me a few laps before, only for the chequered flag to drop.
Pleased I had got the car safely round I was left ruing the spin I had in qualifying that left me short on confidence …am sure I can go quicker next time and close the 4 second gap to Garry’s faster race pace.
Overall a great day of racing. It felt fantastic to have the car handling nicely, be fast on track and get some good over-takes done. Mike improved by a further 2 seconds a lap during the race and isn't far off the pace of the Boxster 2nd drivers.
Full onboard video: