The first round of the World GT Championship had a lot riding on it - everyone wanting to get off to the best start for their season. We would have three 20-minute races ahead of us around Circuit de Catalunya - a personal favourite, despite its tricky nature in GT3 machinery. I joined all the admins in expecting people to play it safe, and drive cautiously to make sure they were as high up the board as possible come the end of the night.
In Practice I was down in the mid-20s, not really able to squeeze much pace out of the CQR Club with Pete Newman Media R8 LMS. My rivals around me were the usual crowd from previous seasons, so I wasn't feeling downhearted, and being in the ProAm category - the middle of three classes this season - I was expecting to be anywhere from 20th to 40th.
Qualifying soon came around and I felt like the car was safe, but fast. After taking the usual precautions to avoid people slowing drastically to get clear space on track, I managed to tuck in a bit of slipstream from Tom Jacobs' Mercedes AMG, and secure 16th on the 54-car grid - right in amongst some of the Pros, and 2nd in ProAm behind Simon Underhill. He'd been near the top of the class for the last few seasons though so it was to be expected.
Race 1 started off in probably one of the worst ways possible for me - no I wasn't involved in a crash - it was actually my overly-cautious avoidance of them that dropped me way down the order. Contact between Daines and Blackhall going into the hairpin scared the vorsprung durch technik out of me, and I bailed, opting to go on the Moto GP loop and avoid Blackhall's stricken BMW Z4.
As I rejoined I got a shove in the rear from an unsuspecting car - whether it was my bad or not, I'm not sure, as I was off the racing line. Either way I was back in the middle of the pack - probably around 30th - and ready to fight my way back up! Then we got two corners further down the line and I bailed again! An optimistic dive down the inside, making it three-wide into the final chicane was enough to initiate a large NOPE on my part, and I bailed again, but this time had to sit and wait for the whole field to go past, as to not risk being hit by someone jumping in the pits.
Eventually I got back going and crossed the line at the end of Lap 1 in 51st place - not exactly where I expected to be so early on, after a promising Qualifying session. I kept my head down and cracked on, picking off a few backmarkers over the course of the race, and thanks to a couple of other incidents and "freebies" I finished in 36th. I wasn't in with a chance of being drawn near the front of the grid for Race 2, so I had to just push on from there.
Race 2 was one of the most straightforward races I've ever had in the World GT Championship - started 36th, kept my nose clean all the way through, stayed positive and managed to finish 22nd after a couple of little errors on my way up the order. I was well in with a chance of starting Race 3 near the front, so had to keep my chin up and just record some more consistent points finishes.
I got quite lucky with the reverse grid and would line up 8th for the start. I always prefer starting races with cars ahead of me, as I find that I'm much better at following cars than leading, so I can get into a groove and try to spot opportunities. My first few laps went quite well, gaining a couple of positions on some slower guys, and keeping my head straight. By the end of Lap 1, I had managed to get to 6th. Craig Jones and John Roberts were the initial cars ahead - I was past them and into 4th by the end of Lap 5.
I let my teammate Christian Rose through, as he's incredibly quick and had a chance at getting 2nd - race leader Nicol Foggie had driven off into the distance at this point. I was then left chasing Tom Jacobs and John Aguis for 3rd and 4th. On Lap 9, Tom moved slightly under braking and we made slight contact - this was enough to put Tom wide at the hairpin, but luckily he didn't lose much from it.
Josh Thompson and Ross Macfarlane came through on the penultimate lap as I made a mistake going up the hill, so now I needed to get past John Aguis who'd been held up - we were battling for 5th place, and top ProAm. I went for a move down the inside of Turn 5, but missed the apex and hit the side of John's Mercedes. We discussed it afterwards and agreed it was 50/50 - he said he didn't give enough room, but I wasn't making the apex. We cleared the air and had a laugh afterwards.
I crossed the line in 12th at the end - not really where I was hoping to be after such a strong race up front, but you make these mistakes and learn from them for next time. As a result, I sit 11th in the ProAm Championship, 17 points off the leaders, so while I'm not up where I'd like to be, I'm not too far away either. Next week's Endurance Race at Bathurst is going to be a very crucial one for us to score points, so I'll just need to maintain my same mindset and get some numbers on the board in ProAm.