I’ve been looking forward to the start of the Blancpain Endurance Series since the final race last season at Nurburgring 1000kms.
Not only because Monza is up there on my list favorites circuits, but for the new challenge of fighting in the Pro Cup category this year with the 2015 spec Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 alongside familiar team-mates in ‘Chiyo’ and ‘Wolfie’.
Running on Saturday went pretty well and we ran through our program without any issues. We all came out of the day feeling positive about the balance and pace of the car especially on used tires and high fuel which was encouraging going into the weekend.
With 59 cars on the grid it was always going to be tricky and crucial to find space for clear laps, but what a fantastic entry and for sure a grid that would provide some excellent racing for the fans and spectators – all credit to the SRO for great development of the Series.
On Sunday morning, Chiyo and Wolfie ran through the first two qualifying sessions and I took over for the run in Q3.
Unfortunately on my first run there was an accident for one of the Audis at Ascari which caused a red flag, never what you need when trying to maximize your new tires.
As expected, it was a super busy session on track and I posted a time that placed us 5th in Pro Class, 12th Overall.
The initial strategy for the race was to stay out of trouble through Turn 1! Fifty nine cars through that chicane was sure to be tough.
Wolfie took the start and did a great job avoiding any incident and working up to 8th overall before the first round of stops.
One of the bonnet stays had broken which meant loosing a little extra time through the stop to tape the bonnet down. We didn’t want to be losing the bonnet down one of Monza’s long straights!
Chiyo had a strong middle stint in the race and we were looking in good shape to be fighting for the podium when the car pitted for the final time and handing over to me.
Unfortunately just two laps into my stint we had an issue with a sensor and therefore lost the ABS and Traction Control. I had to adapt the way of driving the car to a bit of an ‘old school’ style – for sure it cost us some pace but it was a manageable situation.
There was then a big accident for one of the McLarens and a Bentley on the entry to Parabolica. I was pleased to hear that both drivers were unhurt and also that no marshals were involved as the car crashed very hard into the barrier right in front of them.
This safety car period ended up working hugely against us when one train of cars were waved past and we were the penultimate car in line – this cost us well over half a lap on our rivals ahead that we were chasing so effectively ended any challenge we could bring.
Whilst we were all very disappointed for a result to be compromised, I’ve come away from Monza taking plenty of positives about the competitiveness of the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 and feeling we have within the team.
I’ve been racing with RJN Motorsport guys for many seasons now and the atmosphere and relationships we have are just fantastic. I love driving the GT-R and am very much looking forward to the rest of the Blancpain Season.
In the meantime, I’m now heading off to the U.S. for a couple of days LMP testing with Nissan which will bring a different challenge before jumping back in the GT3 in a few weeks.