After securing a debut podium finish for new team Paddock Motorsport at Donington Park back in April, confidence was high that more results would follow in GT Cup with the competitive McLaren 570S package. It was therefore no surprise to see 130R-supported driver Tom Rawlings and teammate Moh Ritson go one better at a sweltering Snetterton, bringing home the team’s first win in the GTH class on only their third weekend together. We caught up with Tom to get his reflection on an exciting weekend of GT racing, and how he and the team achieved what they hope will be the first of more wins in the series.
The morning warm up session consisted of both the qualification laps that I needed to do and a few laps for my team mate Moh Ritson. Moh took part in the qualifying session for Saturday, setting a best lap of 1:59.443 which was good enough for him to be P5 which is where he would start the sprint race.
Starting the sprint race with a slightly different setup to what he had in qualifying, Moh was able to make a place up to P4 at the start. A safety car period interrupted the stint but he managed to pass the #90 car through T1 a few corners before the SC boards came out. After the safety car, Moh was promoted to P2 after the Feathers motorsport #82 had a spin at T11, and managed to set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 2:00.524. This meant that we would be on pole for the pit stop race and had brought the car home in P2 for another sprint podium.
Later in the day I started the pit stop race from pole but lost a chunk of time and places on the opening lap due to a Lamborghini spinning right in front of me, only just managing to avoid crashing into him. However, I had blistering pace and the car felt really good so I pushed hard and was able to catch up to the cars ahead making several hard but fair overtakes. In the process of catching the cars ahead. I achieved a 2:00.816 which was comfortably the fastest lap of any sporting driver on track. At the time of the pit stop, I had managed to get back to P1 and pull a nine second lead ahead of the Greystone #23 car, which was now behind us.
In the pit stop both mechanics and ourselves did an excellent job to adhere to the minimum time of 78 seconds. Myself and Moh spent 78.9 seconds in the pit lane which was the third fastest pitstop in class and 0.6 seconds quicker than the Greystone #23. This difference proved to be crucial as Moh put in a very good stint to bring the car home in P1 but with the gap to the #23 Greystone car eroded and at the chequered flag down to just under 1 second.
But we had won our first race together and our first as a new team!
We'd had problems on Saturday with an ECS fault and it turned out the battery wasn’t performing properly; so having changed the battery, the car fire-up was significantly smoother. However, during the warm- up session, Moh reported that the ECS fault was back. I took over at the end of the session and all seemed normal in that the warnings on the dash had disappeared and the car felt really good. Despite this as a precautionary measure we had the McLaren engineers zero the yaw and steering angle sensors before qualifying. This delayed the start of my session but meant that the fault did not appear for the rest of the day. I was able to build on the cars qualifying performance from Saturday and in avoiding the kerb at T1, was able to gain 0.16 compared to Moh the previous day. Due to our earlier problem I only had enough time to get in two flying laps, but my best lap was still good enough for P3. This was an improvement on Saturday’s qualifying time but I knew I still had time in me as I had made a couple of mistakes on my flying lap.
I competed in the sprint race and the car felt absolutely on rails allowing me to push from the start and I had superb pace throughout. I was able to pass the two cars in front of me and grab the lead by the end of the first lap. Whilst lap times were somewhat inconsistent, ranging from a 2:00.016 to a 2:02.249 in the first few laps, I was quicker than those behind me and able to start to pull out a good lead.
Unfortunately, this pace meant getting held up by a Ginetta G55 in the GTA class that should have been substantially quicker than me. I managed to pass the car a few times but it was able to re-claim the position each time on the straights, despite this, by lap ten I had a three second gap to the #90 Balfe Motorsport car. Then, in an attempt to pass the Ginetta at T1, I went in too hot and spun off the track which cost me 20 seconds, dropped me to P10 and I ended up finishing P9. I was absolutely gutted not only for myself but for letting the team down. Really I should have held position as he wasn’t in our class, but I thought the guys in my class behind would be catching me up if I tried to hold back.
In the post-race debrief, both myself and the team discussed how we should have done a better job of recognising and understanding the situation. I should not have risked an overtake and my race engineer should have been explicit in instructing me to not take any risks with the GTA car. We as a team will learn from this mistake and move on. It is a shame because both the car and myself displayed incredible pace and setting the fastest lap of the race on lap nine. This means we start P1 in the Pit Stop Race, but we carry a 20 second success penalty into the race for winning the race on Saturday.
Moh started the race from pole position and was able to pull out a good gap to the cars behind trying to claw back some of the 20 second penalty, but incidents elsewhere in the field meant that the safety car was brought out on two separate occasions. One of these times was just as the GT4 pit stop window opened. We boxed under SC conditions as soon as the window opened, but the 20 second pit stop penalty that came as a result of winning the Saturday pit stop race, meant that we dropped back in the field to P10. A race lead with a gap of five seconds had been evaporated instantly!
I got into the car and was able to keep a good pace, however, I was now surrounded by pro drivers who were able to consistently lap in the high 1:59’s but I managed to hold my own and make up 3 places coming across the line in P7 within the GTH class, I was really pleased with my pace against the pro drivers as I was only 2 – 3/10ths off their pace.
So looking back on the weekend as a whole it was excellent. We managed two podiums, two pole positions and two fastest laps, and we also learnt a lot as a team to take in to the next race at Oulton Park on the 3rd July.
All photos courtesy of Jakob Ebrey