With no testing available at Thruxton prior to the Britcar Endurance 2 hour race David and I decided to enter the GT and Production races on Saturday so he could familiarise himself with the fantastic fast sweeps of Thruxton having never seen the circuit before.
This meant a pretty packed programme and we kicked off at 0900 on Saturday with a 20-minute free practice session. David drove and began the process of learning the circuit.
Next up was qualifying and I was into it blind and feeling very excited to drive a GT3 at Thruxton for the first time. I knew it was going to be fast but was blown away with just how much speed I could carry at corners like Noble, Goodwood and Church. I still wanted to give as much in-car time to David so kept my running to a minimum.
Once the tyres were up to pressure I went for my first qualifying attempt. Only light brakes at maximum revs in 5th gear for Noble and Church!! With no previous experience in this sort of car here we were guessing at set up and it certainly felt good. I had a clear lap and posted a late 1 min 14-sec lap for P2. Going for another try I went into Church on the rev limiter in 5th gear with only a small lift and no brakes. It was absolutely glued to the track and I could really feel the aero working. This time a 1 min 14.508 gave us pole for the first race.
Race 1 I was out dragged to the first corner by the GT3 Lamborghini’s grunt. Still, I hung on in there and not long later he pitted with a problem. I streaked away in the lead and after an uneventful 30 minutes pitted to hand over to David. David shot out of the pits and still learning the track and coping with overpressured tyres, brought us home in an excellent P2 in class P3 overall.
Learning from the first race we adjusted tyre pressures for the second race and due to 2 cars not coming to the grid started on the front row. The lights went out and I slotted in behind the sister car through Allard corner. Then I kept it flat and drove around the outside at No Name Corner to power into the lead. Head down and with the car handling superbly I pushed the limits now taking Church Corner in 5th gear without braking! Reeling off the laps I posted a 1 min 13.8 for the fastest race lap and before I knew it was called into the pits. David gave his all posting faster and faster laps but the chasing car was catching and just pipped us on the last lap. So another excellent result with P1 in class and P2 overall with the fastest lap.
Sunday brought even more sunshine and the temperature was soaring. Thinking of tyres we readjusted as much as we dared to bear in mind the abrasive surface and the huge loads generated in the fast sweeping corners. Free practice was another opportunity for David to increase his knowledge of the circuit. This put me back into qualifying for my first laps of the day. There seemed to be more grip or maybe I was feeling braver. Now Noble was almost flat in 5th and Church almost flat in 6th!! Things were hotting up and there was a real battle for pole with the Lamborghini.
He went faster, I replied and so on. I was frustrated by traffic at the peak of the tyre performance so thought I had lost my chance as the team had called me in to hand over to David. Time was running out but I managed one last lap which went well and gave us a 1 min 13.031 at 116.3 mph average speed. Pole was ours or so we thought! I handed it over to David but the Lamborghini had done a late and fast driver change and on the last lap pipped us for pole with no time to respond!! Still a great fun qualifying and a front-row start boded well.
Race time came and the temperature was high. Tyre management was going to be crucial but we had no info as to what lap time we should aim at. Going flat out was not an option as I had a 72-minute stint. The lights went out and I slotted in behind the Lambo. I was not going to fight it but aimed to keep a 2-second gap and just shadow him. This worked well at first but after around 40 minutes it was clear even this pace was too fast.
Easing off as I still had 32 minutes to go I went into full tyre protection mode. This again worked well. Every other car we were competing with had long gone to the pits so we were a lap in the lead and circulating well. I was told 2 laps to the pit stop but on going through Village the left rear punctured and I was in a wild sideways slide at full speed in 5th gear. I radioed the team and headed for the pits.
We had gambled on the tyres and it had pretty well paid off barring one lap. Considering the temperature and high corner loading they had performed ahead of expectation and we were in a good position. New tyres and David was on his way. Then disaster and he was back in the pits with a dashboard warning. The team did a top job to trace it very quickly and David was on his way again. However, we had lost 5 laps in the pits so a result was looking distant. Pushing hard to the finish and with a bit of luck due to another car’s failure, we came home P3 in class for another podium and our 5th trophy of the weekend.
What a roller coaster ride it was at Thruxton and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who has not been there.
Many thanks to David and the team for another epic weekend.
The next stop is Croft where we will again compete in the GT and Production races and the 3-hour Britcar Endurance race