Monza did not go according to plan but we were all looking to make sure there wasn’t a repeat of our first corner crash at Silverstone, the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
The first day of testing started on Friday with the Bronze test however the track was wet-but-drying which meant the session was mostly meaningless. Our priority was just to get our eye in and keep the car on the track which is what we did in the limited time we had.
Thankfully Saturday was dry and with only two hours of practice available to the teams we had to make sure we made careful use of it between three drivers.
Our car, a Ferrari 488 GT3 run by Kessel Racing, had already been tested at the track earlier in the week and we’d already made significant progress with setup.
As always in the AM category it’s important to make the car as drivable as possible for the gentlemen drivers in your team. In Free Practice we all agreed that the setup was perhaps a bit too oversteery and therefore risky for a race long stint. That being said I managed to place the car first in class and 30th overall on fairly used tires.
For Pre-Qualifying I was scheduled to start on a new set of rubber to do a qualifying simulation and things went well. Once again we ended up first in class, but more significantly we were in the top 15 when I handed over the car to my co-drivers for the remainder of the session.
Sunday arrived quickly and the first order of business was qualifying. Our aim was Pole Position in class and a top 30 place overall. My first flying lap was really good and out the gate we were on Pole Position. The following lap I was 2/10ths up in sector one but lost the rear under acceleration and aborted the lap. For a long time we were in the top 25 but in the final minutes of the session the Pro cars stuck on another set of new tires which resulted in us dropping down to 35th overall.
For the first time in my short GT career I was elected to start the race. The target was simple, build up as big a gap as possible to our competitors and hand over the car in one piece after my stint.
My start was perfect, avoiding contact through the high speed corners of sector 1 and eventually making up 6 places by the end of the first lap. From then on it was a battle with traffic as it proved quite difficult to overtake some of the Pro entries, despite being a few tenths quicker than the group I found myself in.
A particular highlight was defending my position from recent DTM race winner Jamie Green while still managing to find my way through the field and eventually climb as high as 22nd place.
Unfortunately my efforts were thwarted as a safety car was released just a few minutes before I was due to stop.
We tried to take advantage of the Safety Car period but our competitors were just as wise and they got the jump during the driver change.
From then on it was up to my AM co-drivers to try make up the difference but it proved too difficult as we crossed the line in second place by the end of the race.
Though we didn’t manage to win the race it was my first podium in the Blancpain Endurance Format. Having been fastest in every session, claiming pole, leading our class and setting the fastest lap I am very satisfied with how things went. I would consider this my best performance yet in GT racing which makes me even more excited for Zolder in two weeks times when I take part in the Blancpain Sprint Series in a 458 GT3.