Great pace in Portimao spoiled by a Puncture
A race that showed great promise, but was ultimately undone by a puncture!
Portimao was a case of what could have been… we had good pace, but with a couple of laps to go in my stint, the rear left tyre punctured causing a delay which cost us several places. Rodrigo and I also had a new teammate for this final round - Shaun Thong.
In qualifying, we once again went for just one run, on medium tyres. Everyone else went for 2 single lap runs on the softer compound tyre, so we lined up P10.
Rodrigo had a good start and was up to P6 when the safety car came out for a big crash for an LMP3 car on the start/finish straight. This would ultimately result in a red flag to clear up the debris and the race resumed with just under 3 hours left on the clock. Once the race got underway again, Rodrigo showed excellent pace, making up another place to come into the pits to hand over to me.
I emerged from the pits in P9 and immediately had Matt Griffin in the Spirit of Race Ferrari for company behind me for the whole of my stint who was closely followed by Sernagiotto in the Iron Lynx Ferrari. The pitstop cycle shook out and I was also catching the AF Corse Ferrari in P5 before it got a drive through for track limits, which was a real problem for drivers all weekend! We had good pace, and as the stint went on we got stronger, and I started pulling away from the Ferrari behind, as well as quickly closing down the Proton Porsche in front for P4. I only had 3 laps left to go in my stint and was under two seconds off P4 when I noticed the tyre pressure in my left rear was starting to go down. It happened at the worst possible place as I was just passing the pit entry so had to do a whole lap with it gradually going down. I pushed as hard as I could without damaging anything with a flat tyre, before it finally went completely flat with a couple of corners to go. The last turn at Portimao is a very fast right hander, so having no grip on the left rear wasn’t ideal! I managed to bring it back to the pits but we lost about 20-25 seconds.
Shaun jumped in for the final stint, and due to having to pit 2 laps early as a result of the puncture, we had to do some fuel saving in the final stint so were unable to challenge the cars in front and ended up P6. A frustrating end to what was a very promising race - we finished just over 24 seconds off a podium place, so definitely a case of what might have been!
It’s a shame to end the season with this result after a great run, but the positives are that we had the pace, my team mates did a great job and should have finished higher up had it not been for our unfortunate puncture.
As always, the JMW team did an amazing job, and it was a pleasure to be back with them for a whole season after 2017.
Onwards to 2022, whatever it may bring...