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GT CUP Donington 28 April 2013
Donington GT Cup - 28th/29th April 2013
We were accepted as a late entry for GT Cup literally a day before the race weekend. This put us on the back foot somewhat, but we modified the car to the GT Cup regulations as quickly as possible, and headed for Donington.It was a tight squeeze in the garages, but Fred at Tracksport kindly made room for us with Kevin Riley's Mosler. Theres some irony in there somewhere!
The 40 minute testing session was dry, and we had good pace straight away, setting a time 4th overall on very old tyres. We made a few adjustments, and the car was spot on.We noticed that we were not listed in a class on the timing screen, checked with GT Cup and were assured that we were in the GTC class.Into qualifying, and despite knowing full well that rain was imminent, managed to be last on the track, and missed the dry spot, and found ourselves only sixth. The rain came down, so we put the wets on and used it as a wet test. The car was blinding, we were fastest in the wet through the whole session, with ease. This was good to know.
Race 1 - Saturday afternoon, and it was obviously going to be wet. We started in sixth, and was quickly up to third by the third corner. Got to McLeans to be presented with a rotated Derek Johnston is his 458 GT3 car pointing in the wrong direction in the middle of the track! Mercifully he wasn't collected by anybody. I then had to get past a Porsche Cup car that was being driven seriously defensively, which seemed a bit pointless on the first laps of a 40 minute race. After a few laps I had to go around the outside of him at Redgate. It was tight, and he touched me, but amazingly, he flew off to the infield in a long spin, and apart from a nice wheel mark on my right door, we were unscathed.
I then set about catching the very rapid young Alex Martin in his standard 458 Challenge car. I was eating into him at 2 seconds a lap, and was on him pretty quick. He defended well, and we had a moment side by side on the exit of Coppice where he was sideways for about 3 seconds onto the straight. Impressive stuff. He held me off, just as the safety car came out. We tooled around for quite a time, and the pit window was about to open for the mandatory pit stops. Talking to Luke on the radio, we elected to stay out, and with that, the lights went out on the safety car and we were off. I quickly passed Alex whilst a bunch of cars, including the 3rd placed 458 GT3 of John Dhillon had pitted.
John rejoined the track just in front of me as I started my new lap. He tried to fend me off, but I got alongside him on the outside of Coppice. He got a tank slapper on and we touched, but I made it through, and pulled away. In no time at all, I had to do my mandatory pit stop. I was apprehensive as wasn't quite sure where John would end up, but as I came out again, I was in front and romped home to a win by 16 seconds. It was a really, really good win. Our Challenge car had beaten the whole field, including 3 GT3 cars. I couldn't have asked for more.Sadly, afterwards, my car was protested, saying that it shouldn't have been in the GTC class. My car was impounded, and we were all left hanging until about 9pm when i was allowed my car back, but with various bits and bobs sealed by the scrutineers.
On Sunday morning we met up with the Clerk of the Course. The suggestion was that, as in the hurry we had managed to not get all the technical changes to my car to GT Cup, that in fact my entry was invalid! Well, I can pretty much guess that 80% of the grid was in the same situation as me, however the fact was that a protest had been made against me. It was my cock up, and a technicality, but although I had questioned repeatedly which class I was going to be in, it wasnt sorted on the day. More than 50% of the grid in GTC (all 458's) had modifications to their cars, including rear wings, splitters, brakes etc etc, but the fact was that my entry hadn't been supported by the documents required. I was in a pickle, and felt somewhat aggrieved, but bottom line was we were in the wrong. Various suggestions were made and we finally agreed agreed on a compromise where I kept the win and points from GTC, and then moved to GTO for Sunday. FF Corse were asked to withdraw their protest, which they considerately did. Of course this now meant that FF Corse had me out of the class, and they duly went off to have a good weekend, whilst I now faced the GT3 cars in the dry, on rather more unequal terms.
Race 2 started, and Derek shot off down the road to win by 26 seconds in a 25 minute race. I had a fairly lonely race to second overall and in class. Not much to say about that. I was now in the big boys class!Race 3, I started second, and had a brief battle with a Porsche at the first corner, and Derek again steadily pulled away. We had made a few subtle roll bar changes to my car and it was a lot better, and Derek's rate of progress was not quite as rapid. With a 10 second lead, he dived past some back markers into Redgate, and span off to the infield. I hadn't spotted this, but as I crested the Craner Curves and could see the circuit below me, but no Derek? Luke came over on the radio, "You are P1". OK, where was Derek? He had rejoined and was closing me down at 2 seconds a lap, so I pushed like hell to get to the finish of the race in front of him, which I did by just under 3 seconds. Another lap or two and it would have got very interesting!
On the last lap, I wasn't 100% sure that the flag would be out, so to keep as much advantage as possible I passed a Ginetta on the dirt on the exit to the chicane, which was all rather dramatic. Thankfully the flag was out, and we won again! It was 'an interesting weekend' all in all, but it has shown that the modifications we have made to the car are working extremely well!
A good bonus was that my sons and Grandson Ewan made it to the podium after cheering me on at Redgate.