The inaugural round of the Creventic 24H Proto Series took place on the 11th and 12th January 2017 and what an experience it was! Getting the opportunity to race at Dubai Autodrome in the G57-P2 was an amazing experience! The car was in its element at this track and was thoroughly enjoyable to drive.
It was definitely a weekend of what should have been! I started the weekend expecting to be driving the #52 Ginetta G57-P2 alongside James Winslow and John Corbett. Setup day passed and we looked good for the two days ahead of us. FP1 came around and I was out in the car first. I had only driven the circuit on Project Cars and the tyre compound was new to all teams. Unfortunately I only did 3 laps until the coolant temperature rocketed up, causing me to pit. This meant that the team had to change the engine which cost us all of the practise sessions (2 hours on track) because the schedule was so compressed.
Lawrence was kind enough to offer me a drive in the Graff #57 Ginetta G57-P2 car alongside himself and Mike Simpson, which I was very thankful for. I had a handful of laps in quailfying to get used to the track and race one was upon us.
Race One - P3
We managed to qualify second for race one meaning that I would be starting from the front row. I didn't have a seat made in time for the race which made the car a lot harder to drive in the Dubai heat. After the first lap I lost a position to Charlie Robertson in the #53 HHC Ginetta G57-P2. I had pressure from another car behind and was still trying to get fully up to speed with the track! I started to get into a rhythm and my times started to get faster and faster. I managed to maintain my position and gapped the car behind. I completed my one hour stint and handed over to Lawrence in P3. Lawrence did his hour and put in some quick and consistent times which resulted in us taking the lead. Mike then took over and with 30 minutes to go we had a comfortable lead. Braking into turn one the left-rear tyre exploded, taking with it a good portion of the rear bodywork. This meant that Mike had to limp the car back to the pits for an unscheduled pitstop. The Graff team worked quickly to get the car fixed to carry on and got us back out, but it cost us the overall lead of the race. We finished the race in P3 in class.
Race Two - DNF
The second race was very good for me. I had a seat made in the morning which made the car a lot easier to drive as I wasn't rattling around in the cockpit! I started P7 and got to speed straight away. Throughout my stint I put in consistent lap times and picked my way through the field. I managed to get us into P1 and built up a 10 second lead! I handed the car over to Lawrence who followed up with another great stint, maintaining and increasing our lead. Then a similar story happened; Mike took over the car. He did a handful of laps and going onto the back straight the driveshaft sheared, causing us not to finish the race. The puncture in race one must have weakened the driveshaft causing it to fail. This was a real blow for all of us as at this point we should have bagged 2 wins!
Race Three - P2
I was very determined to get a good result in the final race. Lawrence gave up his seat to Kuwaiti driver Khaled Al-Mudhaf. I started the race from P10 on the grid. Throughout my stint I struggled with the tyres. I was pushing much harder than in race two but couldn't seem to get more pace. I still managed to be consistent and handed the car to Khaled in P1 due to different pitstop times. Khaled then went to the fuel bay and there wasn't any fuel in the pump! As we were already low on fuel this meant that he had to limp round and come back into the pits again to refuel. Overall it cost us around 5 minutes which dropped us to 9th. Khaled held position and handed the car over to Mike for the final night stint. Straight after getting out of the car Khaled went straight to race control and managed to get us 3 minutes time compensation. Mike put in an amazing final stint with consistently fast laps and got us from P9 to P4, with the 3 minutes time compensation. This meant that we finished P2 in class. If we didn't lose time in the pitstop I believe that we could have won the final race.
Overall it was a good end to a frustrating weekend. It should have been 3 wins but we just didn't have luck on our side but thats endurance racing! Nevertheless a great experience and a really fun couple of days! Thanks to Lawrence for letting me drive alongside himself and Mike, and to Graff racing for running the car.