When the opportunity arose to drive with Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The fact that it was in Spain racing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was an added bonus! With the goal this year to build our endurance racing experience, this provided another great opportunity to clock some miles and in a very impressive piece of machinery!
Arriving at the track on Thursday, we went through the process of scrutineering as our gear was checked, the car was inspected and we met our crew for the first time.
I also had my first chance to jump in the car. It was a tight fit and with the massive V10 over my shoulders, there’s not a whole lot of visibility out the back!
Dave and I took the time to check out the rest of the field and this was the first time we’d ever seen a BMW 1 Series look like this! They weren’t mucking around with that widebody!
We didn’t get a chance to drive the car on Thursday, but it was a great opportunity to spend time getting to know my fellow drivers as we learnt about the car and the track
Friday was an exciting morning, knowing I would have my first chance to get behind the wheel.
Dave an I spent time studying the layout and, getting my seating position in the car right and making sure I was as ready as I could be to put the car around the track for the first time.
On track, the Lamborghini was everything I hoped it could be. It was fast, powerful with precise steering and pulled up hard under brakes. It was the complete package and an exciting car to drive. It was also a car that wouldn’t reward mistakes, if you pushed it the wrong way, it would be sure to kick back. I took some time getting settled into a rhythm before really laying into it to put down some quick times.
Once I hit my stride however, the car was equally rewarding and this reflected in the times, as we qualified P4 overall, putting us on the second row of the grid for the start of the race. Our team was the fastest in final practice and we had topped the timesheets in this last session.
During the break, the drivers reviewed the data together to get the most out of the Lamborghini.
Qualifying ran into the night with a second session and I had already done my stint. The night had closed in but there were flashes of lightning on the horizon and the wind was picking up.
Out of nowhere, we heard a “tink”, followed by another “tink”… then all hell broke loose. The hail came belting down forcing the cars off the track due to the dangerous conditions. It was a sight to behold as the hail piled up in front of us. It was a dramatic end to the night, but brought a pleasant chill to the evening after a very warm day.
With the race starting at midday, we were able to get to the track at the morning and begin our preparation.
There was nervous tension in the air, but luckily we kept ourselves nice and busy with photo opportunities!
With the team starting in P4, we were hopeful of a good result, as we had put ourselves in a great position for the start of the
race. At midday the field took off. It was a rolling start, so with a lap completed, we came hammering down the main straight and all hell broke loose as we hit turn one and cars jostled for positions.
Starting the race was Fredy Barth with a double stint and he had us in a great position by the time he came in for a driver change. The heat of the day and in the car wreaked havoc on Fredy in the first session and we changed the plans to single stints based on the condition he came back in after that first session! The heat in the car was extreme and was really taking its toll.
Second behind the wheel was Mikko Eskelinen with a single stint, then it was my chance to get behind the wheel.
The guys weren’t kidding about the heat, it was like a furnace in the car and at the end of that first session when I was standing in the fueling station, my hands felt like they were on fire in my gloves. When I finally got back to the pit bay and got my helmet off, the guys commented that I looked like a beetroot! It was one of those times where I was thankful for my hydration preparation and management and all the support I get from Shotz!
It was the end of the 4th hour when I got out of the car and and was advised we were now in third outright. The pitstop dropped us back in the order, but we fought back again with JC and Fredy behind the wheel. At precisely 6:15pm, we were struck down by a failed valve in the gearbox, that resulted in the car having to be removed from the track by tow truck. It took an hour and a half to fix the issue, but we were able to get back out on track.
The tough part was that we had now dropped right back in the field to P45, putting a real dint in our efforts for an outright place on the podium.
Mikko took the first night stint and I jumped back in at 8.45pm. Going for a double stint, I really wanted to help us claw back some of the lead that had been lost due to the part failure. We were in P36 when I got in and by the end of my stint, we had moved back up to 22nd outright when I got out of the car at 10.45pm.
With our friends from Kessel Racing right next door, they were kind enough to offer the services of their support team, so we headed over for a massage to relieve some of the aches. We camped out in the transporter to get some precious shut eye, as they had a few camp stretchers for us to lay down on. We slept from midnight to 2.45 in the truck, really embracing the glamour of international racing!
While we were asleep, word came through about some slight contact resulting in minor damage and some lost time for repairs.
At 3.15am, we were ready to get back in the car, however Mikko was behind the wheel and going strong, so he made the call to stay out and double stint and with a big push from the team, we find ourselves back from the brink in 12th outright.
At 4.00am it was time to get back in the car, and I managed to push us back into the top 10. but then we faced a brake issue, that burnt more time in the pits, pushing us back to 22nd place. Back out on track and ready to fight again, a Code 60 was called over the radio at 4.30am costing us valuable time as the restricted pace continued through until 5.10am. I pulled us up a few more spots, but was then out of the car at 6.00am. At 7.30am JC swapped out to Fredy and he manoeuvred us back into P16 and at 9.00am we had clawed back an additional place putting us in P15.
At 10am, thoroughly exhausted, I was back in the car for my final push, going out on new rubber for the first time, I made the most of it and really dug in.
Out of the car for the final stint with JC bringing it home, we were exhausted, delirious, but jumping with excitement as the clock ticked down and we finished the race in P14.
The relief and excitement carried over to the presentation ceremony.
We may not have been on the podium, but I can tell you we were still the happiest blokes on pit lane! Ingo Leipert and the team did an amazing job and it was a real pleasure to race with such a professional team.
Barcelona was an incredible track to race and we managed to find some time to check out the local sights of this beautiful city. I assure you, we’ll be coming back to Barcelona!