When you’ve driven at Le Mans and Goodwood in the same month, you know you’ve had a potentially fun period.
The Le Mans circuit played host to Round 7 of the Porsche Carrera Cup championship, as a support act to the main 24-hour race. I’d never even been to Le Mans before, and had heard great things. So, to have gone there for my first time and raced on the iconic circuit, was a cool experience. I can honestly say that I was not let down by the event. I talked it up as the ‘World Cup’ event of Motor Racing, and it lived up to the hype. As soon as we got to Le Mans, the first thing we did was to cycle the circuit. Half the circuit was still being used as the main road, so it was actually a bit scary cycling down a really busy main road, dodging in and out of traffic to try and work out how the chicanes worked. But thankfully, we made it round without any issues and I was able to view the 16km track first hand before practice.
When you're going to a new circuit before, and you know you've only got two practice sessions to learn the circuit, you have to do everything you can to get the small advantages before you get into the car. Cycling and walking the circuit gave me a really good insight into the size of the curbs, the type of rubber down on the ground, the level of cambers and also to start to pick out braking points and references on the circuits.
Wednesday I spent the day preparing, watching onboard videos of the circuit and talking to my JTR team boss Nick Tandy. Thursday was a practice and qualifying day all packed into one. Thankfully, I had a good day and learned the circuit and everything really fast. The car felt good from the first laps, and I was able to turn some good laps, going fastest in practice and qualifying 2nd on the grid, only 0.016 seconds off pole. My time to pole was basically who ate an extra kidney bean for lunch/who managed to squeeze out a quick fart on the lead up to the line.
I was not too unhappy with 2nd because it meant I could potentially have the run up the hill and I was effectively on British Carrera Cup pole position. There were over 60 cars on the grid, 20 from GB, 20 from France Carrera Cup and 20 from Belgium. One of the French drivers nicked pole position, but I was happy with my effort. The car felt great and I was pleased that we had made great progress with the balance and feeling. Being on effective British pole was an important step as well, because we've been making some good progress towards the front of the grid, especially in qualifying. So to see our efforts rewarded, was nice.
The race was a fun and close affair. My prediction about the start proved to be right - I took the lead up the hill and lead the field for that lap and then a safety car period. Unfortunately, I fell back to 4th place after struggling with a bit of straight line speed. Around Le Mans, the last thing you want is a car that suffers a bit in the straight line. We think we know now what the issue was for why we suffered on the straights. But, that didn’t help me at the time and I had to keep my head in the race and managed haul myself back up to 2nd place on the last lap and almost get the win. It was one of the best lap two laps Porsche Carrera Cup has seen, in mine and many others’ opinion. I was gutted to not have been able to win it, but ultimately I finished 2nd in front of 60 other cars and it made a British 1-2, as Dan Cammish, my GB nemesis took the win by 0.6 seconds.
The race itself was quite strange. I spoke to Dan after and we both admitted to not knowing it was actually the last lap. I think we all got quite lost in what lap it was due to the length nature of the circuit. It takes over 4 minutes to complete a lap, so the teams were sort of guessing how many laps you'd squeeze in 45 minutes, after all the yellow flags, safety cars and what not. So in the end, it was fairly lucky that I managed to get back up into 2nd as I drove in pure instinct - i.e I didn't plan to leave it until the last few corners to move into 2nd, it just happened!
I was fairly pleased with the whole weekend because we showed heart, we showed great pace and determination. We showed real progress with the speed of my JTR car, and we are getting on top of it all and I’m gelling well with the team. That’s all important stuff as we go into the second half of the season and look to start getting poles and wins from here on in.
Watch the highlights from the race above.
Goodwood was a bit of a bonus and happened at the end of a good month. I was invited by Porsche GB to drive some really iconic and famous racing cars up the hill across the weekend. I’d been to Goodwood a few times as a spectator, so it was going to be a great experience driving there.
Over the weekend, I got to drive the WSC 95 LMP1 car, the 1978 935 ‘Moby Dick’, the new Turbo S Exclusive, as well as the new Panamera Sport Turismo. In short, I had a whale of a time, if you’ll excuse the pun from the Moby Dick link. Not many drivers get to drive these historic and famous vehicles. All of which were symbolic for their time period, and still are all this time on. At one point, when I drove the 95 WSC LMP1, I was lined up behind Nick Tandy in his current Porsche LMP1, and ahead of Tom Kristensen in his Audi LMP1 from the early 2000s. How cool is that?! I felt like I’d snuck into the coolest racing party on the planet, and was just waiting for someone to tell me to leave.
It’s quite hard to not go bananas with the loud pedal, when you have some serious horse power on the edge of your race boot. But the sheer fact that nearly all the cars I drove were valued into their millions, reminded me I couldn’t go too hard. This was not a time to try and break the lap record and try and be a hero, especially as I was doing untimed runs. However, on my third and final run with the 95 WSC on Sunday, I lit the rear wheels up for what felt like half a mile off the line. I gave it some beans and drove as hard as anyone could, with millions of pounds at risk…
I was gutted not to get a run in the 962 Jacky Ickx car, but the clutch broke on the first run on Friday with another driver and they had to pull the car. However, that doesn’t take away from the absolute amazing experience it was to drive these stunning cars and an honour and privilege to have driven amongst some legends over the weekend. A huge thank you to Porsche GB for inviting me and letting me go wild-ish.
Next stop is Snetterton for the race season; and as we’ve just gone into the second half of the season, I feel it’s time to turn up the wick. If we want any chance of competing for this championship, for which I currently lie 3rd, then we’ll have to go for wins. All out attack!