The post race celebrations for the RAM Racing team, winners of the inaugural 24 Hours of Paul Ricard must have seemed a world away from the dark post Le Mans days of 2014 where it looked likely that the team would shut their doors permanently.
It’s been less than a year since news finally broke of the premature cessation of the team’s two car FIA WEC GTE effort and whilst Team Principal Dan Shufflebottom had hopes of continuing in some regard at that point it was certainy a hope rather than an expectation.
Fast forward a year and the team is running Mercedes SLS AMG GT3s in the full Creventic 24H Series and the British GT Championship too.
RAM’s #30 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 with drivers Thomas Jäger, Tom Onslow-Cole, Adam Christodoulou, and Paul White completed 586 laps of the 5.842 kilometre circuit to take the with a classy display, though it was far from a walkover thanks, in the main, to a stoic display from the #7 Porsche GT3 R HB Racing Team Herberth of Nicolas Armindo, Daniel Allemann, Herbert Handlos, Lukas Schreier and Alfred Renauer.
Whilst RAM held the upper hand throughout after claiming pole position at the head of the 58 car field the lead continued to move to and from with different pit stop strategies in place between the Mercedes and Porsche.
Ultimately RAM managed their rubber better, pulled out an advantage and, with the final hour looming, could afford to relax just a little when the #7 Porsche stopped briefly out on the circuit with a temporary electrical glitch.
It was Ram’s first win in the 24H Series after some strong showings earlier this year and the first for the team since their successful ELMS campaign with the GTE Ferraris in 2013.
Third place was taken by the #2 HP Racing Mercedes (Bleekemolen / Kofler / Tilke / Renger / Proczyk) and fourth by the #4 Scuderia Praha Ferrari. It was a good comeback for both as they collided on the first lap of the race, requiring repairs and losing time as a result.
The all-Porsche 997 class was won by French team Ruffier Racing in the #17 991 Cup Drivers Paul Lafargue, Dimitri Enjalbert, Gabriel Abergel, and Patrice Lafargue put in a flawless performance. Second in 997 was the #55 Crubilé Sport 991 (Collard / Perrodo / Mezard / Crubilé) and third was the #77 GDL Racing 991 Cup (Vignali / Terrail / Lim / Iossifidis).
The SP2 class consists of specially prepared endurance cars and was won by the #92 MARC Cars Australia MARC Focus V8. It was driven by James Kaye, Jeff Smith, Peter Leemhuis and Hadrian Morrall. The #93 MARC Cars Australia MARC Mazda 3 V8 was second (Camilleri / B. Niall / Harvey / M. Niall) and the #159 Red Camel-Jordans MARC Mazda 3 V8 third (Nearn / Farmer / R. Breukers / I. Breukers)
The A3T class for turbocharged touring cars was taken by the #208 Peugeot 208 GTi of French entrant Team Altran driven by Steven Palette, Guillaume Roman, Gaetan Bischoff and Gonzalo de Andres. Second in A3T was the #98 NKKP Racing Seat Leon Cup Racer (van den Berge / Hilders / Bessem) and third was he #95 Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing Seat Leon Cup Racer (N. Moutran / S. Moutran / R. Moutran / Quaife).
The SP3 class consists mostly of GT4 spec cars and was won by the Italian entered #206 Nova Race Ginetta G50 driven by Fredrik Blomstedt, Andrea Barenghi, Carlo Mantori and Philippe Cimadomo. Second in SP3 was the #200 Nova Race Ginetta G55 (Fletcher / Magnoni / Ferri) and third the #170 Speedworks Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 (Modell / Liquorish / Gilbert / Hughes).
The German based #67 Team Securtal Sorg Rennsport won the all BMW M235i Racing CUP1 class after a three-way fight. The drivers were Gunther Felix, Nicolas Griebner, Thomas Muller, Daniel Sorg, and Michael Steffny. Second was #79 (Bonk Motorsport, Bonk / Burghardt / Dumont / Faber / Chkondali) and third #70 (Mission Possible, Dreszer / G. Steffny / Niedertscheider / Gaitzenauer / Engljähringer).
The small touring car category, A2, was won by the #112 Presenza Racing Team Switzerland Renault Clio. It was piloted by Luigi Stanco, Michel Schaap, Christian Dijkhof, Sarah Toniutti and Stefan Tanner. Renault Clios also finished second and third in class. They were, respectively, #122, Autosport GP (Carreras / Nicoud / Mollon / Hurgon / Zaffini), and #126, Team Sally Racing (Sally Pedersen / Obel / Christensen / Marcussen / Jepsen).
The larger touring car category, A5, became a battle for survival with the #75 Hofor Racing BMW E46 M3 just managing to finish. Bernd Küpper, Chantal Kroll, Martin Kroll, Siarhei Paulavets and Fabrice Reicher were the drivers.The #83 Cor Euser Racing BMW M3 was second with Prewitt, O’Reilly, Miller, Briody, and Rice.The #146 Saxon Motorsport BMW 135d GTR was third (J. Morrow / N. Morrow / T. Barrow / S. Allpass)
There were no major incidents, clear warm weather throughout and eight brief Code 60 neutralisations to collect stranded cars and scattered debris. The race was run under clear and warm skies.
Dan Shufflebottom: “What a race! We had times when it looked in the bag and times when it looked like it was unreachable but all along we knew that second place was not an option.
“The team did a fantastic job. They didn’t miss a beat and, even when challenged, they remained cool and adapted the strategy to give us the strongest chance of winning. We should really be proud for the work we did to get us to this point. The race is 24 hours but that is just a small part of what you need to do to win. We believe strongly that preparation is key and that is what gave us the edge this weekend.
“The Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 is an incredible 24-hour machine and we’ve had fantastic customer service from AMG throughout the weekend. That certainly gave us an advantage and we’re very grateful to the whole team.”
Thomas Jäger: “I’m very happy. It was a tough race and it was very close in the end but, there were no mistakes, the car was very reliable and it was a deserved result for the team.”
Adam Christodoulou: “The whole weekend has been really good. I had a great feeling after qualifying with how strong the car was. The pitstops were faultless and the drivers really good. We had a plan and we stuck to it and got the result that the team wanted.”
Tom Onslow-Cole: “Getting a 24-hour race win is a fantastic achievement and one that takes 100 per cent perfection from the entire team. RAM Racing always operates with the utmost professionalism and impresses me more every time I drive with them. I want to thank them for this fantastic result and I hope its the first of many victories for us as a team.”
Paul White: “Tom and I have put an awful lot of effort into our collective driving and are pleased to see this come to fruition alongside RAM Racing, which is a fantastic team with impeccable standards. We are a strong pairing and I think we have some great results to come.”