The biggest win of my life!

The biggest win of my life!

The prestigious Silverstone 500, the biggest race of the season.

A three hour marathon that always ends up feeling like a very long sprint race, where every single lap counts! Unlike Snetterton, where the stop-start nature of the circuit didn’t suit our car, Silverstone, with its fast flowing curves is somewhere the Bentley feels at home.
In FP1 and FP2 we ran a heavy fuelled car on old tyres, but even so, the car felt great in the fast corners. We knew when we added new tyres we’d have a great car for the weekend…as long as the rain held off, which for the last two years it hadn’t!
Qualifying was dry and I flew to the top of the time sheets and qualified as fastest ‘am’ driver. I was pipped into second by the Silver-graded pro in the Macmillan Aston. (I fail to understand why a pro is allowed to qualify against ‘ams’ but ho hum!) Seb then went out and we narrowly missed out on pole position by 0.09 of a second! We were happy with a front row slot and to have qualified as fastest pro/am pairing.
On race day I was greeted by bright sunshine out of my motorhome window - perfect weather! It was great to see so many people come to see British GT. The police even had to clear the pit lane walkabout as it was so rammed and we were told to stop signing posters so that they could keep to the schedule. There was a huge crowd around the Bentley Pit garage - I cannot thank the fans enough for their amazing support this year, they are like extra members of the team!
On the warm up lap I concentrated on getting heat into the tyres to try and jump the Aston Martin off the lights. We also had a trump card up our sleeve. The night before, our engineer Richard explained a strategy he had been working on, to run the car light with shorter stints and gain a speed advantage on new tyres. With this in mind we rumbled round the last corner on to the main straight and my eyes were glued to the lights. The moment they went off I was on the throttle and caught the Aston napping, enabling me to get to the first corner ahead. I settled into a good rhythm and set about building a gap and by the time I came into the pits 37 minutes later, there was nearly 7 seconds between us.
Seb took over with a light car and new tyres and went out against the bronze-rated drivers who were only midway through their stints. We were taking up to 3 seconds a lap, so when he pitted, our lead was up to 36 seconds. I went back out on track against the pros, who by then mostly had worn their tyres so I was equalling their laps times and at some points was the fastest on track. It was all going so well….until I encountered Mark Farmer’s TF Sport Aston. 
As I got closer he was given blue flags, which mean ‘allow a faster car to pass’. We were lapping Mark, so I wasn’t prepared when he turned in and made contact as I pulled alongside in the braking zone of Stowe Corner. He spun and I was unscathed except for a broken aerodynamic wing and the car felt good, so I carried on. To my relief the stewards saw I was not at fault and I brought the Bentley into finish, 54 seconds in the lead.
Seb rejoined knowing that we had a huge lead and drove a clever and measured last stint, crossing the line 1 minute and 3 seconds ahead of the field…a perfect race!
I have to admit the tears started to flow as I remembered my father being at this race last year, standing behind the fence and giving me a huge smile and a thumbs up. I knew that he would have loved to have seen this, so as Seb crossed the finish line, I celebrated by pointing up to the sky and shouting ‘this one’s for you dad’.
I was awarded Blancpain driver of the weekend and Seb and I won the hugely coveted RAC trophy. To have won such an amazing race is something I will cherish forever, and nothing short of a dream come true for both Seb and I.
We are now only 4 points off the championship lead and must now harness this momentum and take it forward to the iconic Spa circuit. We’re all fired up to get another good result there…it’s all to play for.
Rick x

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Posted 16 June 2017 by Louise Page

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