It’s race day and the rain has come. Luckily we have a brief warm-up session to get a handle of the car in the wet, it is our first time running the car in the wet and John’s first time in an LMP car in the wet, unfortunately it is not a good start, John spins at the top of Eau Rouge hitting the right side of the car into the tyre barrier. He gets the car back to the pits but we have damaged front and rear bodywork s well as bending a trackrod, the team set to work to check the car, replace the damaged parts and build up new spares.
The rain persists as we take to the grid for the start of the pre race proceedings but the forecast says it will dry out later in the race, this always leaves tricky decisions to be made on car set-up and the required brake and engine cooling blanking, get it wrong and you will lose time in the pits making a correction.
The race starts with John driving and although the rain has stopped the track is still very wet and the spray hangs in the trees that surround the Spa circuit, John makes a clean start but yields to the Oak of Pla on lap 1. After a few laps John finds his groove and starts closing back in on Pla, he pulls up to the back of the Oak and makes an opportune pass as they are both delayed by a slower car. John stretches out a good lead as the track starts to dry and other cars struggle to control tyre wear and temperatures, we manage to stretch the stint long enough for the track to have the beginnings of a dry line, we switch to a cut slick tyre which allows the tyre to generate heat quicker as it moves around. John maintains the lead and is setting the fastest lap times in class when the JRM LMP1 car hits him going into the bus stop chicane, the car is turned around and we lose around 15 seconds while John turns the car around. Looking out from the pit wall the damage seems minimal but at the next fuel stop it is clear that we have more to worry about, there is a large hole in the underfloor and sidepod, we have also lost the water radiator blanking so the car is running too cool, at this stage of the race there is nothing we can do other than keep going. At the next stop John hands to Tor who after just a few laps settles into an impressive pace keeping us at the head of the field but closely followed by the Jota car, then there is a safety car which comes out just ahead of Tor costing us around 10 seconds, then on the re-start Tor gets jumped by the Jota car demoting us to second place. After two stints Tor hands over to Robbie who is tasked with chasing down the lead car, he duly does this but we are uncertain of the stop strategy Jota are on. As the race draws on it is obvious it is going to be very close on fuel – since the early incident with the JRM car we have been suffering with cool engine temperatures and increased drag from the damaged bodywork dropping the fuel efficiency, with just a couple of laps to go we can pray for the safety car no longer and decide to relinquish the lead to ensure a second place finish but first of the WEC cars. Robbie rejoins the track and tries to catch the Jota car but the tyre performance has dropped away and we don’t have enough laps, when the flag drops we are just six seconds behind the leader, a great effort. We now lead the World Endurance Championship LMP2 class and head for the biggest race of the season the Le Mans 24 Hours.« back to race reports