Jul 2017

ELMS Red Bull Ring


Photo Copyright JMW Motorsport

A second place after a hectic round of the European Le Mans Series at the Red Bull Ring in Austria means we  have narrowed the gap to the championship leading TF Sport Aston Martin to six points at the halfway stage of the season.

After saying goodbye to the incredible JMW Ferrari 458 with the Monza win, it was my first run in the new 488 during FP1 and my first visit to the Red Bull Ring.There was a lot to take in, but at the end of my first run I was close to the pace, the 488 inspired great confidence and I really enjoyed the undulating nature of the track. I found more time as I settled in in FP2 and was looking forward to the race start after Jonny Cocker qualified in P4 during Saturday's qualifying session. My aim was to get to the sharp end of the GTE class in my opening stint but things didn't go to plan in an incident packed opening stint.

It was pretty chaotic at turn one on lap one with cars locking up all around. I was hit in the side and narrowly avoided Aaron Scott by going wide as I was helped on my way into the corner. On lap 2 into turn one, a United Autosports LMP3 car spun and in recovering put up a thick cloud of tyre smoke which I made my way carefully through but lost a place in the process and found myself in fifth place with a gap to the TF Sport Aston. I closed the gap and made my way past on lap 6 then set off after the second place battle between the no 51 Ferrari and 77 Porsche and shadowed them for a while as they battled. The Ferrari found a way past the Porsche and I followed suit on lap 23 in spite of being pushed wide at turn one by an LMP3 car - which seemed to be a theme of the day! At the Red Bull Ring particularly, some of the bronze drivers in LMP3 cars do a similar lap time to the GT cars but at different points of the track, so end up holding you up if you're behind them or dive bombing you on the brakes if they're behind you! I seemed to come across a lot of them during my first stint in particular.

While I was recovering and making my way through the GT field, Aaron Scott in the no 55 Ferrari was extending a sizeable gap in the lead. I closed the gap to the no 51 Ferrari and after being eased onto the grass on the run up the hill to turn 3 (for which the no 51 car was warned), moved up to second place with 10 minutes of my stint left. After chipping away at the lead for the remaining laps, I handed over to Rob Smith who drove a fantastic stint to bring the JMW Ferrari into the lead before handing over to Jonny Cocker. Jonny had a battle with Aaron Scott, the two Ferraris swapping positions for a while before a full course yellow meant a slightly early stop to hand back over to me for the final hour.

I came out of the pits with a lead of 6 seconds after a rapid pit stop by the JMW team who changed the two left hand side tyres and sent me on my way. Matt Griffin chipped away at the lead and with just over half an hour to go had closed the gap. After a few laps of ebb and flow through traffic, I left an LMP3 car room at turn 4, but he locked up and hit me in the right door, forcing me wide and the green Ferrari was through and away. I lost a bit of time in the incident with the P3 car and Matt had good pace, so I consolidated second place, keeping within the track limits to avoid a penalty and brought the car home.

The championship battle continues at the next round of the ELMS at Paul Ricard in France on 27 August.