There’s a strange trend in Europe for drivers and teams who lose championships. They call themselves “Vice Champions”. In other words… they finished second. If you look at the achievements page on my website you’ll see I’m guilty of it too. It has a nice ring to it. But the truth is it means you lost, and unfortunately I can add another “Vice Champion” line item to my CV, as we endured a pretty difficult end to our Pro-Am championship fight in the Blancpain GT World Challenge.
Heading into the final two rounds we basically had to win two of the four remaining races. We got off to a good start in Nurburgring by winning the first race and claiming a vital point for Pole Position in Race 2 (my first pole of the year, a big relief). But in Race 2 we got spun around in Turn 1 and ended the race in 4th place.
The fight wasn’t over though, if we claimed another Pole and two race wins in the final round we could still be champions. Rinat managed Pole Position for Race 1 and I was on track to do the same for Race 2 but a cockpit fire meant we didn’t have an ideal session… to say the least.
Race 1 was wet and we struggled for pace, finishing 4th, just behind the lead battle. Then in Race 2 we got taken out again by the same car/driver from Nurburgring. Championship over. We try again next year as Vice Champions.
Digging Deep and Recovering Quickly
Despite the disappointment there were some serious positives to take from the final two rounds: We were seriously fast, consistently mixing it in the top 10 overall.
This pace proved to be true a week later when we made a one off appearance in the Italian GT Championship. I claimed another pole position, beating some famous names… like Jacques Villeneuve, you may have heard of him, and in the race we executed a perfect strategy to take the class win and finish 3rd overall.
Operationally it was our smoothest weekend of the year and our pace was genuinely top drawer. This was a much needed result after the prior two weekends from hell.
Getting A Magic Call Up
I am incredibly proud to announce that I will be making my debut in the European Le Mans Series this weekend in the #60 Kessel Racing entry, driving a blue Ferrari 488 GTE.
We had a great test yesterday (Wednesday) where I got my first taste of a GT car with no ABS braking. I think I adapted relatively quickly, ending up as the fastest Ferrari driver in morning practice.
The plan this weekend is to bring the car home in one piece and do my best to support the #83 car, which consists of an all-woman line up. They have a real chance of finishing in the top two in the ELMS Championship, so we need to do whatever we can to help them achieve that.
Driving a Le Mans spec GT Car is a huuuuge deal for me and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity. Let’s hope we have a smooth race on Sunday.