It's over for another year, the clocks have gone back, the nights draw in and here come 4 months of not knowing what to do at the weekend. At least it finished on a high with a long trip to Brands Hatch for the annual Britcar into the night race and an impressive race win for NGMSport and their 14 year old Mosler.
The race was held on the short Indy circuit which always strikes me as an odd choice for a 3 hour endurance race but if it was good enough for DTM it's probably good enough for us. I should probably mention at this point that I do a lot of work for NGMSport and over the years have photographed them, videoed them, run their PR and acted as general gopher and breakfast chef when a big rebuild catches them short handed.
This weekend we had two races, on Saturday was the 50 minute Britcar Production and GT race which acted as a nice warm up for the main event on Sunday. The race started in darkness, the weather was awful and apart from the first couple of laps, I spent most of the 50 minutes in the garage watching live timing, posting Facebook updates and shooting the teams mandatory pit stop.
All in all it was a good warm up for the whole team. The drivers, Javier Morcillo and Manuel Cintrano, took second place just behind Jonny Mowlem and Bonamy Grimes in their Ferrari 458 Challenge. The car was still in one piece with no issues and with no deadline to worry about it was off to the hotel for a bite to eat and a leisurely sort through of the few pictures I'd taken.
Manuel seemed pretty happy with the result.
The main event was to come on Sunday, 3 hours of 55 second laps, in the dark and with slower traffic all around. Javier started from P2 but was gifted P1 when the pole sitting Audi R8 LMS visited the Clearways gravel trap on the warm up lap. Taking full advantage, the Spaniard disappeared into the Kent sunset building a good lead ready to hand over to gentleman driver, Manuel.
This isn't meant to be a race report so I'll cut to the last 45 minutes of the race. Javier was doing a second stint the idea being that he can push like hell to drag the car up the field. However, following a great stint from Manuel, and the Audi having to recover from it's pre-race off, Javier emerged leading the race and with an 11 second gap back to the Audi. The maths was done on the pitwall and he didn't need to try too hard because at the current pace it would be the final lap before the Audi caught up.
In racing it's never that simple and 12 minutes from the end a coming together with a slower car saw the gap down to half a second and a possibly damaged car to nurse home. The next 12 laps were the longest any of us have ever witnessed. Javier driving out of his skin whilst complaining the handling was shot by a possible flat tyre. "The car's fine, keep pushing", was the response from the pitwall whilst the Audi now loomed large in the Mosler's mirror.
With an epic display of defensive driving punctuated by an occasional love tap between the two cars as they negotiated the tight Druids hairpin, Javier muscled the Mosler home less than half a second ahead of the Audi. The whoops of joy coming over the radio from the cockpit were genuine relief and elation following a real fight to get the car home and were matched by the team on the pitwall.
In the middle of all this I was busy live streaming on Facebook to a worldwide audience of, well it doesn't matter. It's in these moments you have to step back a little from the team, become the outsider and capture quietly and dispassionately the drama unfolding around you.
It was only when the car came back from parc firme that we noticed that there may have been a slight problem with the car and maybe Javier wasn't exagerating about the handling issues.