Inside Line- Spa 24 Hour with Richard Lyons
It is such an amazing experience to take part in the worlds biggest GT race! The result wasn’t what we had in mind, but we gave it everything and we were looking good to challenge for a podium place.
The weekends action started early on Tuesday when I arrived at the circuit to meet the renowned Belgium team, WRT. From that point on it was full on, from meeting the 100+ team members, learning team procedures, to administrations checks. Wednesday was more or less a media day which was consisted of a few photo sessions and the Parade was the real highlight of the day. Our race car set off from Spa circuit along the road to Spa town, and along the route thousands of fans lined the roads capturing all the action. Upon arriving in the town centre the whole place was taken over by GT3 cars parked up around the casino area. We then had a few hours meeting the public and fans, followed by our drivers briefing in the theatre within the casino. From there we went back to the circuit for some Audi group pics on Eau Rouge. Thursday was the first chance for me to get some laps and it really only was a handful of laps. With 4 drivers in our #3 R8 it meant I couldn’t get the laps I would have hoped for. I was on the back foot from the start as I was the least experienced driver on this particular circuit by a big margin.
Before Qualifying I got around 10 laps to acclimatise and I was relatively confident that I could be on pace with the top 20 (they were separated by 0.4 Seconds!!)
Qualifying came and I had my first chance on new tires. Straight away the grip was so much better, but with 62 cars on track it was impossible for me to find a clear lap. Unfortunately this left me with a disappointing crack at the whip, my team mate then had a go and he didn’t get a clear run either, so we ended up starting down in 46th, albeit 1.5 secs away from pole.
Race day actually came round quite fast even though we had been at the circuit for 4 days already. Im not going to lie, I was quite anxious before the start of the race even though I wasn’t the starting driver. I think all drivers were much the same, just hoping they could get through the night and see the sunrise with out any trouble. Josh Caygill our AM driver put his hand up for the start and he did a great job staying out of trouble and maintaining our positon over his 2 hr stint. Jono Venter was next in and showed great speed and was as quick as the top 20 cars, also along the way managing to picking off a few! Unfortunately a misunderstanding with track limits cost us 2 drive through penalties and losing us around 1 and half laps… It was finally my turn behind the wheel and we were just outside the top 40 at the start of my stint and around P10 in class. My goal was to bring it back in one piece and get to grips with racing wheel to wheel with so many GT3 cars. I have very limited experience in night time driving but I was in for the sunset to night stint, I can now tell you its dark out there in the forest! I managed quite well and within a few laps I was already picking up positions. Driving at night is a totally different game from the day, all your braking points are lost in the dark and the dust and dirt that gets kicked up seems impossible to see through. In to my second hour I had settled in and was able to keep pace with the leading cars while feeling more comfortable. By the end of my 2 hr stint we were inside the top 25 overall and top 6 in class. I learnt so much in that 2 hour stint and knew that I would be able to now push much more in my next stint at sunrise.
Niki was next up and he had been quick in night qualifying, I knew he would do a good job which he did and kept us firmly in the mix. Josh was in again for a stint then Jono was back in. Unfortunately things unravelled quickly, already the race was full of attrition with around 20 cars out at this stage. Jono and a Mercedes got tangled on the exit of the famous Blanchimont Corner, and that effectively ended our race.
To be honest I was gutted we didn’t get the chance to see the chequered flag but once you drive in this race you know its a big acheivement to get to the end. So much happens that if luck is not on your side, things will bite you no matter what you do.
I was proud of all the efforts of our team and everyone gave their all, right till the end. I hope I’m back next year to have another go!”