It’s always nice to race at a track after the Formula 1 has been there. You arrive to shiny garages, freshly painted curbs and in some cases fresh tarmac.
In Monza we seemed to be pitting in the same box that Haas F1 used, as their logos were still on the floor of the pit box. Cool.
After our 2nd in Silverstone and 1st in Nurburgring I was ready and focused on another podium finish in Monza.
Practice was great and I was really enjoying driving around the track. I have no idea why drivers say it’s boring, yes there are only a few corners, but if you miss your braking point by just 2m you are slow. Few other tracks require such precision to be fast. Throw in the fact that I was racing in a Ferrari at the Cathedral of Speed…
I absolutely love it.
Race 1 didn’t go so well, Rinat was fighting his way up from 18th on the grid (gearbox issue in Qualifying) but got taken out going into Ascari, the final chicane on the track. It wasn’t his fault, another driver decided Rinat was invisible and just turned into him, but it still frustrated me as I was looking forward to jumping in the car for the second stint and going after a top 3 finish in Pro-Am. No matter, we still had Sunday.
This time I was in for Qualifying and managed to put our Ferrari 7th on the grid, missing out on a top 3 start by just over 1/10th of a second. I honestly can’t think of where I could have gone quicker on the lap but you always want more and I was a bit irritated to not at least be in the top 5 (though 5th place was only 0.04s ahead).
My opening stint was incredibly enjoyable, with epic battles, a ton of overtaking, grass cutting and door banging. After handing the car over to Rinat we were first in class with a comfortable lead, all we needed to do was bring the car home.
However much to my horror we were handed a 10s penalty for a jump start! The reason I was so shocked was because I lost places at the start and therefore couldn’t understand how I jumped anything… except maybe a shark. I immediately ran to the stewards of the race to protest the decision but to no avail, the decision was final.
In the end the penalty cost us the win and a top 5 finish. Despite crossing the line in 1st we were listed as 8th in class.
Took me a few days to get over that one.
Coaching a Champion
At least I had a Blancpain race to focus on next. This time I was coaching and not driving.
It was my responsibility to help my 2017 team mate, Stephen Earle, win the 2018 GT Sports Club Championship. In the middle of the season he was a whopping 25 points behind the leader but through some brilliant driving he had managed to close it down to just 7 points going into the final round of the series.
In order for him to win the Championship he had to win both races which he managed to do in style with Pole Position, two fastest laps and two race wins. There were moments during the weekend when I was more tense than him but he was such a Pro and took it in his stride. It’s an incredible achievement for a 67 year old! Yes you read that right, sixty seven.
His never-give-up attitude is a massive inspiration for me.
My Final Race of the Season
Next weekend I head to Barcelona for the final round of the GT Open Championship.
Despite having lead a lot of GT Open races I only have one podium to my name and I need to fix that. I’ll be driving with Rinat again and we will be doing a lot of testing during the week to prepare.
Barcelona is where I won the Blancpain Endurance Championship last year, so it’s definitely a track I enjoy, but the level in GT Open is very high and I’m a bit worried the Mercedes AMG GT3 will dominate again. I’m going to do everything I can to stop that from happening.
After this round I am not sure what is left on the calendar except for a small possibility of racing in December in the Abu Dhabi 12 Hour. So… I need to make sure I savour next week’s event as much as possible!