Hey guys! I’m very much looking forward to sharing the inside scoop from the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team camp with you this season. We certainly got off to a great start at Silverstone last weekend…
As a racing driver it doesn’t get much more special than racing at your home race and for myself, racing at Silverstone in front of a British crowd is only second to the Le Mans 24 Hours. So you can imagine my delight when my evergreen team mate Andy Priaulx and I qualified on pole! Andy put in an absolutely phenomenal lap and I backed him up with the average of our best laps coming out 8 tenths clear of the pack! Anyone who saw Ford Performance’s excellent highlights video on social media will have seen my delight at the pole, picking up Andy like a scene out of Dirty Dancing once I was back in the garage!
Andy would start the race and lead from the front with Stefan Mucke in the sister #66 car having a great start moving up from fourth to second for a Ford 1-2. Andy set a searing pace for the first ten minutes but then came on the radio to report he really was driving the doors off the Ford GT as the passenger door was opening and closing around the lap. Even more alarming than that was a tyre deflation sending us into the pits for repairs to the door and one new tyre, completely throwing us off strategy and down to last place.
At times like this you have to keep telling yourself it’s a long race and we can get back into it but with WEC races so pure with Full-Course Yellows and such high level opposition, it was hard to think at that time we’d be anything more than a supporting role to the #66.
After two hours Andy pitted and Pipo Derani, our third driver for Silverstone, Spa and Le Mans jumped in for his first competitive laps in the GT. Pipo is a great guy. Not only super fast but a good team player and we’ve known each other since our British F3 days in 2011. He drove a really solid stint in mixed conditions and made no mistakes. It was hard for him, having only had a few days testing in GT car. I was in exactly the same position as him last year and its not easy making your GT debut at this level and he will only get stronger before Le Mans.
Pipo is a great guy. Not only super fast but a good team player and we’ve known each other since our British F3 days in 2011.
With about two hours 40 minutes to go I was in the truck office talking about fuel saving techniques with Andy. We get on so well and have struck up a fantastic partnership and share absolutely everything. I’m learning a lot from Andy and I’m very lucky to be team mates with him at this stage of my career. Suddenly on the radio David “Wilks” Wilcock says to Pipo “Full-Course Yellow”.
I did my best Usain Bolt impression out of the office and ran into the the garage. The next minute or so was fairly frantic after Wilks immediately confirmed the plan that I was starting my stints early. As I was pulling my jacket off and trying to do my suit up at the same time, our team physio John Camilleri was sorting out my helmet. It was about 45 minutes earlier than I expected to be in the car and I was still due to have something more to eat so there I was chewing down half a Twix bar as I was doing my helmet up! Not the sports nutritionist’s dream!
In the car with a new set of tyres and I only did a couple of laps before the safety car was out for Jose Maria Lopez’s big shunt at Copse. As soon as I saw the SC symbol light up on our on board marshalling system, I knew I had a chance to win this race for the team. When the track went green I was involved in a really good scrap with Fred Makowiecki and James Calado in a three car train.
I tried to be aggressive but also look after the tyres and I did a nice dummy on the exit of Stowe, faking right before diving down the inside into the Club chicane. I then caught the Ferrari and to be fair to James he didn’t defend me too hard and I passed him into Stowe. We then did the overcut on our sister car to take the lead and from there I just had to keep my cool and build up a gap.
I did my best Usain Bolt impression out of the office and ran into the the garage
You hear sports people talk about being in the zone and this was really the case for me during my whole 2.5 stints. It was so quiet inside the cockpit (hard to believe when you’re sat just in front of a thumping V6!) but I drove my absolute heart out and I was delighted to see I topped the averages by quite a margin after the race! I just counted the laps down one by one, “no mercy” I was saying to myself.
On the last lap I just soaked it all up to cross the line by 15 seconds and complete the perfect weekend of pole, win and fastest lap for the #67. I was totally finished in the podium room, but all the pre season training had paid off.
I was smiling when I went to bed and the smile was still there when I woke up the next morning. We’re leading the, now officially recognised, FIA World Endurance GT Championship!