It’s been a long year in the Blancpain Endurance Series, riddled with unfortunate luck out of our control.
After leaving Spa empty handed we have been looking forward to a change of scenery with the opportunity to racing in a round of the Blancpain Sprint Series with Kessel Racing at the Hungaroring F1 track.
We were going to be competing in the AM class with Stephen Earle, our one team mate from the Endurance Series, with a simple target: Win both the Qualifying and Main Races.
Hungaroring is a track I’ve only experienced on Playstation so I was looking forward to driving on it for the first time in real life.
From the get-go we were on the pace, ending Free Practice 1 in 16th place overall on relatively old tyres. Free Practice 2 went even better when a new tyre run placed us in the top 10 overall and P1 in class.
Come Saturday and a potential top 10 in Qualifying was on the cards. Unfortunately with 34 cars on the circuit, the traffic on both runs meant we were unable to put in a clean lap on the new tyres. As a result we would be starting way down in 31st on the grid.
My start in the Qualifying race was good, quickly claiming 3 positions and eventually battling with the BMW pro-driver, and Spa 24 winner, Philip Eng. By the time we came to pit I had moved us up into the top 20 (and P1 in class) on a track which is notoriously difficult to pass on.
However shortly after our stop we were handed a drive through penalty as a result of me supposedly exceeding track limits – which after reviewing the video footage with the officials, was an excessive penalty. This meant we lost the lead in our class but after serving the drive through, Stephen started closing on the leader quickly.
Then just two laps later, another penalty was handed to us for speeding in the pit lane during the first drive through! As a result we dropped down to 3rd in class and while we were on the podium it was not what we wanted. We had to do better.
Sunday proved to be our day. Stephen started the race and got us up into 2nd place. After the pitstop I got in the car and battled hard with the class leading #55 AF Corse Ferrari, eventually squeezing passed up the inside in turn 1.
Once through my focus was to build a decent gap to P2 during which time I set the fastest overall first sector of the race, proving our pace with the right car is good enough to fight for a top overall position.
We ended up winning our class a lap ahead of the AF Corsa car in P2 and finishing P24 overall. It was a great weekend and also a massive relief to finish on the top step of the podium after so many missed opportunities earlier this year!
A big thanks to Kessel Ferrari, Alan Macdonald, Giacomo Paccini and my co-driver ‘The Doc’!