David Bartrum's Blog
11th September 2013
Zandvoort for British GT was one of the most enjoyable race weekends I've had for a long time. From the atmosphere, the racing, the evening entertainment to the trip there and back, it was great.
It had that unknown feel as we'd not been there as a team before and the drivers hadn't raced there. So we wondered what we were getting ourselves into. But we went over there with an open mind. The car was good in free practice and the drivers came back and said the right things. Of course we still had the same old weight issue.
On Friday we had a bit of an issue. Mr Caine is not a driver who infringes, but inadvertently he missed a red flag. It was a genuine mistake. But Bernard Cottrell was feeling completely merciless and hit Michael with a 250 Euro fine and five grid places. I looked at him and thought: 'this is only Friday'. They were right, he missed the red flag, but Michael has never had a penalty or a fine or anything before in British GT.
We put our point, but it didn't get us anywhere and it stood. I thought it was quite unfair. That's one of the harshest penalties used and we're already penalised to death. So we went into qualifying knowing we had that grid penalty, but qualifying went our way. We sat there ready for qualifying and Ricky Martino and I were looking at the weather and thought it was going to rain.
So we got everything ready early, we got Ahmad in the car, got the tyres hot and we had it absolutely perfect. As they waved the green flag, the car was ready to go. We told Ahmad to get his head down, do a fast out lap and then a flier. I looked at the pit road as Ahmad pulled out, and everyone else was sitting there. A couple of cars went with him, including Mr Ashburn who was celebrating his 66th birthday.
Ahmad went for a flier and put in a time good enough for pole. As he went across the line to finish the lap, the rain came down. We had a bit of luck, and that's how we've managed to score points and win races this year. The rain neutralises the weight penalty.
We were over the moon with that. It then dried out very quickly and Michael went out and qualified 16th, which became 21st with the grid penalty and down among the backmarkers and GT4 cars. That was difficult.
We then had a race on Saturday afternoon and we were starting from pole. We were still quite worried about it, given the weight on our car, but Ahmad went out and did a really good job. Just as he started to break away, there was a big accident involving Rick Parfitt Junior who was no longer 'rocking all over the world' like his dad. He rocked all over the barrier. Luckily he was okay.
So Ahmad sat there behind the safety car for quite a long time and it looked like the pit window would open during the safety car. We were to-ing and fro-ing on the radio about what to do and we thought Ahmad would come into the pit straight just as the pit window opened. As it happened, we called a different tactic and we called it right.
As Ahmad crossed the line, four or five behind him the pit window did open. The cars who thought they could get into the pits slowed down, and so we sent Ahmad to do a flier. As they were all backing each other up trying to hit the window, we went green. The first four cars went flat out and we pulled out time because the rest were holding back. They all came into the pits in a bunch looking for their pit box, while we had a clean lap and as we came in, they were all going out. But there was nothing in our way.
We came in, the boys were magnificent, we did a quick stop and driver change and went out on 61 seconds: 60 is the limit. So the stop was absolutely brilliant and Michael went out in the lead and got stuck in.
But we were up against the weight and we could see two cars coming: Dan Brown in the BMW and Rob Barff in the Ferrari, both handy racers. Dan reeled Michael in and I told Michael over the radio that he was going to have some pressure. Dan set about battling with Michael and had one stab but missed it and ran wide. But while he was doing that, the Ferrari arrived and it was a really good battle.
I have to say that Michael drove brilliantly and drove the widest Porsche you have ever seen. In the meantime, two more arrived, so we now had five cars but good old Maximum the Porsche was doing his thing and they battled away for 10 minutes. He did it and held them off: it was really, really good. That was the car's first outright win because when we won at Snetterton, it was when Trackspeed was disqualified. So Zandvoort was a special win, especially at a circuit where we didn't know what to expect.
It was our eighth points' score out of eight and we enjoyed it. Everyone was happy and we went back to the hotel then went out and had a jolly nice evening in Zandvoort. We toasted the car and the drivers and went back the next morning ready for the second race.
Sunday was much harder work for the drivers. Michael started and got up as far as he could as quickly as he could. Ahmad then took over and battled away and we went from 21st to ninth. That doesn't sound a great result, bit it gave us two points when we really needed them and it gave us our ninth score from nine races. We're the only team still to do it.
I think there are six cars that can win the title at the last round and we are 10 points behind the leader. Last year there were six cars that could win it, and we were 10 points behind the leader going into the final round. I think it will be a difficult task for us this year as we are carrying the weight and I think the quality of the field is up on last year.
The Aston will be quick, the BMWs will be quick and we're in the middle in the heaviest Porsche in the world. But sitting a little way behind, licking his lips is Nick Tandy. This Pro-Am British GT Championship could actually be won by a works Porsche driver, because Nick is on a different total to his co-driver, Mr Ashburn.
Donington is a two-hour race. We want to win the title again, but we're not going in with the expectation of last year. We're realistic about the weight and the odds are against us and I'm looking forward to it immensely. It should be a cracking race.
The team has been really, really good this year. The pit stops have been spot on, the car preparation has been first class and our engineer Ricky Martino has done a fantastic job. He understands that car so well. We'd love to go to Donington and win the championship: let's see if we can do it.