The Blancpain Endurance Cup tribe of 2017 made its way to Silverstone for Round 2 of this year’s series recent. A race weekend so valuable for me being my home circuit and of course the home race for Motul Team RJN.
Prior to race week I did a couple days on the simulator with my team mates. Myself and Matt Parry were pretty eager to get Matt Simmons on the sim, considering his route into the sport via the well-known Nissan GT Academy.
Hand on heart, it was probably the most intense gaming I think I’ll ever do! It was next level nerdy competition. I’m not going to call out who was quickest – but it ended with me walking out very chuffed.
As for teammates, I wanted to touch on this in my latest column before I go into the ins and outs of Silverstone. More and more young single seater drivers are crossing the pond into the GT world now.
For me, when I first moved over, I couldn’t help but want the best for me and I’ll be brutally honest, I wanted to be the quickest driver at all times in my rookie season. I’m not afraid of saying it, all the young drivers in the first season want that, you feel the need to because your literally unknown unless you won GP2 or whatever background you came from.
You feel like you’ve got it all to prove in five races. This year is different for me, I’m more understanding on the topic, I’ve got the right people around me and I’ve learned so much from the Blancpain GT Series.
As a trio in the #22 car, we are focused and honest with each other, talk about what we need and why some things didn’t work, there’s always a reason for why the result didn’t happen. This has been key to getting the most out of ourselves and enjoying being team mates together to maximise the weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, you need a level of competition internally to push all the drivers forward, but it’s a slightly different mindset where you’re not intimidated by your team mates being quicker than you at times, you respect what they’ve done and knuckle down on matching it for the greater good of the team, that’s part of the job now.
Silverstone all-in-all was pretty interesting. We had a secondary drivers briefing on Saturday after Free Practice 1. The reason being, driving standards from Misano and Monza was a concern for the organisers and it was felt in the room that they wanted to get some authority back and express their concerns which is fair enough.
Many drivers did however disagree with some comments made, a new rule that if a Pro collides with an Am driver, the pro will always get the penalty. A shame if it has to be so black and white because many of us feel each incident is different and we have the sophistication off many onboard and video references to make the correct judgement call rather than an unjustified decision.
One point I have to say is that some AMs are very aware of what is going on around them but others from time to time ignore blue flags and race absolutely anything in their way. That makes it difficult for us to manage traffic when we are fighting for position and fighting to overtake back markers so sometimes contact is made when circumstances become very difficult in the traffic.
None of us want to see the AMs disappear from the grid, we’re all behind Blancpain’s success and as a driver in the Pro category, but I want the AMs to be there, the championships back bone depends on it so we are just asking for fair co-operation and respect in our observations as experienced drivers.
As for us at Motul Team RJN, we had a bit of a frustrating weekend! In free practice we had no dramas, completing our test programmes successfully and ending the day with both cars inside the top 10 after Saturdays running.
Come Sunday morning for the Qualifying session, we had some rain in the morning which eventually dried up come Q1. I went out for Q2 for a five lap total run with three push laps, I only had one clear-ish lap on my final push and put it P8 before the red flag.
We had the pace in the car to be in the top 10 but opted to not go out once the session resumed. Lucas Ordonez ended that session in P1 so we knew there was potential in the car to put us somewhere in the fight for Q3, depending on traffic.
Matt Parry went out for us in the car #22 and did another blinding job, we sat inside the top 10 for almost all off the session until eventually finishing in P14. Yes, we did have traffic and Matt knew he could get a few more tenths out of it without the traffic, but it’s the same for absolutely everyone.
It was an unfortunate ending to the session for the car #23 with Alex Buncombe flying on his final push lap but got super unlucky with a red flag once he approached Brooklands. That left them in P22 and P14 for us in the #22 at the end of Qualifying.
For the race, myself and Lucas would do the start, same as Monza. I had strong drivers around me with Marco Cioci to my right and Guy Smith directly in front so knew I could race with trust at the start of the race, I felt relaxed lining up on the grid. I had no dramas in the opening few laps, Eduardo Mortara made contact with another car directly in front which gave me a couple positions through Maggots and Becketts.
I finished the opening lap in P10 and stayed there behind the Bentley and in-front of Stephane Ortelli in the Jag. The balance was good from the start, although the tyre pressures were high immediately so I tried to manage tyre degredation but I didn’t really have a choice I had to stay in touch with the Top 10.
After 30 minutes I started to really struggle with the rears on traction, I could barely slow it down in the low speed sections. I couldn’t get much mechanical grip out of the car compared to others around me.
We had a safety car which I was relieved to see to try and cool the pressures but it was for only one lap and now I had no gaps behind which left me vulnerable to losing a couple positions.
When it came to the pit stop cycle, there was another safety car but the #23 car had track position, plus we only had one pit box which meant I had to do a full lap whilst the leaders boxed, we lost so much time here which was a real shame considering we had the pace again to fight in the Top 10.
Matt Parry set some speedy times towards the end of his stint to reiterate the high performance levels of the GT-R around Silverstone, he finished his stint with a purple in sector one and generally one of the quickest cars out there for the entire stint.
The #23 car had a drive through late in the race for an over run in Chiyo’s stint which unfortunately took them out of the running for points too. All-in-all though, the weekend was filled with lots of pace and positives.
The Motul Team RJN crew worked tirelessly throughout the weekend and week building up to this event. They did a fantastic job and I want to say a big thank you to them. Next round will be at Paul Ricard, a very important race in preparation for the biggest event of the year in GT racing, the Spa 24-Hour in July.