The importance of being sporting1st December 2015
The penultimate round at Shanghai was tricky at the start as it was so wet. It’s always a challenge to take the start in those conditions, but it’s also a lot of fun. The trouble was, though, that the Balance of Performance (BoP) situation was the same as it was at the previous round in Fuji. All we could do was try to minimise any mistakes in the hope of taking advantage of other people’s slip ups, but we were still a lap down on the winning car by the end of the six hours.
The great thing about WEC is that we race across the world and I’ve said before how much I enjoy experiencing different cultures. China is so different to Europe, but that’s part of the charm for me. Our hotel served fairly Western food so I liked to go up the road to find something more traditional. It’s good to do that and experience a different way of life.
Next up for us was Bahrain and we were very happy to find out that BoP was back to its pre-Le Mans settings, which meant we could race!
I’m going to get up on my soapbox a little now because something happened in qualifying that shouldn’t have. Both drivers have to do a lap time and with Bahrain being very hard on tyres we chose to just use one set for qualifying. The first driver gets new tyres, completes the minimum running, then hands over to the other driver, keeping the same tyres on.
Jonny (Adam) got baulked by someone on his lap, which probably cost him half a second and then the same thing happened to me. A very experienced driver on his out lap just making sure he was in the way. The thing I find frustrating is that we can all do that but we choose not to. If someone is on a fast lap and you are on your out lap you should get out of the way. It’s a sporting matter. Of course there are blue flags but in qualifying it’s too little too late. You only need to lose a tenth and it’s game over.
I did go and have a chat with the driver afterwards. Normally I don’t bother as it can be a fairly pointless exercise but Nicki (Thiim) told me that he had also been held up by the same driver. He apologised, but it shouldn’t happen in the first place.
The race start went well. We knew, though, that we would have to be clever on strategy and ready to make the most of any Full Course Yellows (FCY). Before these were introduced we used to get a warning a few laps before it was our turn to drive so we could get our helmets and gloves on. These days you are ready to rock and roll at least 20 minutes before the other guy is due to pit.
The race went pretty much to plan. We had all the normal dramas with traffic, usually created by the more inexperienced LMP2 drivers who are fighting for last place in their class and messing up the GT battle right behind them. As the race went on there was a final FCY, which a few of the teams used as an opportunity to pit. We didn’t and that meant we didn’t need a ‘splash and dash’ at the end. At that point we knew that the last podium place would be a fight between us in #97 and the guys in the #95 Aston Martin.
My engineer came on the radio and said the #95 was going to come out of the pits either just ahead of me or just behind me. As I joined the start-finish straight I got a glimpse of #95 leaving its box, but then I knew nothing as he was behind the pit wall. He popped out just ahead of me, which meant that the run down to the turn-four hairpin was fairly hectic. I knew I had to make my move there and I must confess there may have been a little bit of rubbin’ but I slipped past and got that podium finish.
It was so good to finish the WEC season like that. It has been a pretty tough year but we’ll bounce back. I tested the 2016-spec Vantage GTE in Bahrain the day after the race and I was pleased with the back-to-back results so I’m hoping that 2016 will be a vintage year in WEC.