2020 Dubai 24 Hours
My first race of 2020 was back to one of my favourite race from last season, the Dubai 24 Hours. As it's the only flyaway car race I've ever competed in, this event is always one I really look forward to, especially this year where I'd be returning with to race the BMW M4 I started the season in. My teammates for the race were two very extremely experienced Amercian drivers in Daren Jorgensen and Breett Strom. They had a vast amount of experience in endurance races and in the M4 so our lineup was looking like we would be able to fight at the front during the race.
As testing progressed, the three of us worked hard on our race setup and found a balance that we were happy with. As rain was expected for the race, it was worth finding a setup that'd be stable enough if there was a rainstorm mid-stint.
As Thursday rolled around, I was elected to qualify the car and under overcast skies, I rolled out of the pitlane to put in as fast a lap as I could amongst the other pro drivers and some of the fastest GT drivers in the world. The car was understeering a bit which made pushing the car a bit tricky but generally my fastest lap was ok, not amazing but to end qualifying P3 in class was no bad result, being the fastest of the 2 cars the team, Century Motorsport entered for the race. We could definitely race from there.
Friday. Race day. It rained overnight and the track was wet for morning warm up but it had dried up for the start of the race. Brett was set to start the car and made a decent start, moving immediately into P2 before settling into a rhythm for his first 90 minute stint of the race. He kept the car clean and handed over to Daren in a solid 4th place. At this stage in the race, position is irrelevant on the most part so the most important thing was that the car was undamaged, which it was. Daren's stint was next and he also kept the car safe but due to misfortune with Code 60s and a little spin later on in the stint Daren brought the car in to hand over to me at nightfall to take the car into the darkness in P6 in class, a lap down on our class leaders. So, my first taste of the 2020 Dubai 24 hours got underway and I settled into an early rhythm, chasing down the cars ahead. 15 minutes in and a Code60 was thrown, limiting all cars on track to 60Km/h. Whilst the Code60 was out, it began to rain, and due to the slow pace, I couldn't keep any temperature in the tyres and the track became really slippery. Whilst most other cars pitted for wet tyres, I elected to stay out and tiptoe around on slicks to avoid potentially wasting 3 minutes by pitting for wets, because if the rain stopped, the track would dry quickly and the wet runners would have to pit again for slicks, so I rolled the strategical dice and soldiered on into the night. Sure enough, an hour into my stint the rain stopped and my times became competitive again and by the time I was called to pit to put Brett back in the car, I'd taken our car from a lap down to leading our class. What a stint!
From there, Brett set about defending our class lead. but the weather was deteriorating and a Code60 was thrown due to the amount of standing water on the circuit. The team made the decision to pit under the Code60 and I would get back in the car. When I left the pits the track conditions were so bad, that parts of the track were completely flooded and sure enough, half a lap later the race was suspended after 7 and a half hours, and due to our pitstop we'd lost the lead and had fallen to P2.
Whilst the circuit staff set about draining the circuit, or attempting to, I got a couple hours of sleep before waking up to the news that the race wouldn't be restarted, and we'd finished in 2nd place despite leading it a lap before the red flag. It felt disappointing in the moment to come so close to victory. However, all in perspective the team and I had all done a really good job in the race and to have our #430 car finish P2 and the sister, #429 car to finish P3, we can't be upset about that.
As always, thank you to the team. They did a great job this weekend and the car was bulletproof during the race. Also, a thanks has to go out to my teammtes, Daren and Brett did a really strong job in setting the car up, and keeping it in good condition in their stints. Finally, a massive thanks to all my sponsors, especially my main sponsors Cambridge & Counties Bank and Classic Car Finance. Their help and support is so important to me and it's really really appreciated.
Well, there's no more racing on the horizon just yet, but my 2020 calendar and drive are in the works and I can't wait to get back out on track soon!