Chris Yarwood who drove for the team in the 2017 Dubai 24hr hour race has quite clearly caught the endurance racing bug. So much so he drove with Vanquish Motorsport in the 2017 Silverstone 24hr race. Of course the team wanted an account of Chris’s and the team trials and tribulations at the event. So over to you Chris…..
Thanks Ian, and thanks for asking me to write this report, it was great to know ZRT were following us at Silverstone and pretty amazing that you were watching live feeds from the car in Dubai and South Africa. We were even checking the car based on your feedback from the videos!
I first met Vanquish when ZRT asked me to get more FWD experience prior to the Dubai race. One thing led to another and we ended up working together on Vanquish’s first attempt at a 24-hour race. Full of knowledge gained from Graham, Jonathan and Umair off I went to Silverstone…
Warm-up, drivers briefing and qualifying. The drivers briefing was a combination of welcome meeting and quick fire instructions telling us what we could do but more importantly what we could not do……
Practice and qualifying. There were 3 main objectives for the day, 1) get the drivers familiar with the car, 2) get the drivers familiar with the track layout and 3) get the team used to driver changes / tyre changes and refueling. Up until Friday morning we were a three driver team but at the last minute we were joined by JM Littman whose plan to drive a Cayman came unstuck when one of the other drivers put it in the wall in the warm up session. As we decided all his bad luck was probably behind him we welcomed JM to team Vanquish.
Our lap times in warm up and qualifying were where we hoped they would be but we decided that cycling four drivers through the seat was more important that one driver using the whole session to set a quick time (as some of the other teams did). Taking Ian’s advice that starting nearer the back in 24 hour races is the wiser move we settled for a place nearer the rear of the grid. As someone said “It’s unlike that we will lose by 20 yards at the end!”
Night practice was used to check the lights were pointing in the required direction and for the drivers to pick out night time reference points. The drivers were happy to see fluorescent marker cones and even cat’s eyes on the corners until we realized they were just stuck down and probably wouldn’t last ten laps!
The warm-up session was used to make sure no gremlins had struck the car overnight, they hadn’t so we were all set to take the start. The very experienced guys on the Vanquish pit wall, Alex and Dan, with F1, ELMS and over ten years of Le Mans experience between them set out a strategy and briefed the drivers.
I was asked to do the 1st stint in the race which I was proud to do but I was a little bit nervous. Actually, a lot nervous. I’d watched Umair do it in Dubai and thought what a tough job it was. Still, a small piece of solace was that with only 29 cars and the grid, the start would be less frenetic than at the Dubai 24hr race (90+ cars).
2 warm-up laps and then at 4pm it was go, go, go.
With a lot of similar cars on track the first part of the race was a little like a courteous sprint race. High pace and door to door driving. I was trying to be as cautious as a racer can be but came very close to hitting a spinning golf. A heart stopping moment that we didn’t need so early on.
The first stint settled down and was going fine until about 1 hour into the race when the car started to suffer from noise and vibrations on right hand corners. We tried to stay out but discussions with the pit wall concluded that I should box in two laps. Unfortunately, I only made 99% of those two laps before the front suspension let go 100 yards from the pit lane. Typical 24 hour luck.
The car was recovered and Harry and the team did a super quick drive shaft change and rebuilt the suspension. We were back on track.
Day soon rolled into night:
The car ran reliably into the night but more 24 hour luck struck when the door number board illumination failed. The organisers were very reasonable about it but told us we had to get it fixed at our next stop. Torches taped to the door wouldn’t do !
As the long night ticked away it looked like positions were starting to stabalise. Paul was setting super quick laps (and was actually told to slow down), whilst Simon delivered the requested consistent times. Three laps on the same 100th of a second ! We were running third with a small but safe margin back to forth but what seemed to be an unassailable gap to 2nd. We were counting positions and laps like a sprint race not one with 12 hours to go.
Sure enough everything changed and changed again. JM was hit from behind mid corner necessitating a shock and suspension arm change and then out of nowhere the class leading Cor Euser M3 suffered a differential failure.
Maybe we were in with a chance of a higher position. With all the chopping and changing we actually led the class for a while but as things settled we were back to third but with a small posibility of taking 2nd if everything fell our way…Then more trouble. More noise from the front suspension this time on the right and serious vibration.
The pit team diagnosed a drive shaft failure but a full investigation and change would have meant taking the floor off the car. We didn’t have the time!
So we pressed on with a mission to complete enough laps to take 2nd from the still stricken and pit bound Cor Euser car. Paul had run a long and solid session and I was asked to do the same, taking it very easy on the damaged parts. Fortunately a code 60 played to our advantage and we managed to tick away the 9 laps to second at a car saving 60kph. Alex said I was the best slow racing driver he had met, I think that was a compliment but I’m not entirely sure! We pitted again for more checks then sent Simon out to complete the race.
And so at 4pm the chequered flag was shown and Simon drove the car over the finish line. Let the celebrations begin.
Given it was the first 24 hour event for the team and two of the drivers, a “few” cold refreshing drinks were very much deserved. The champagne tasted great.
Many thanks to everyone at Vanquish motorsport for the incredibly hard work in every single area and off course thanks to ZRT for all the advice and support.
This endurance racing is most certainly a bug that has no cure, so until the next one……bed.